Lalon's music, among other themes, revolves around self-examination, tantric meditation, guru bhakti (devotion to guru) and humanism. The human body occupies a central place in the Baul ideology.
Play with other people every day and look for opportunities to play in public whenever you can — that’s the advice of famous US-based Jazz maestro Ari Roland to upcoming musicians seeking to reach out to people with their music.
Talking on the sidelines of the ‘New York meets Kolkata’ concert organised by the US Consulate here, the famous double bass player of the Ari Roland Jazz Quartet said the onus is on the musicians to reach out to society with all their positive energy to let people feel the magic of their creations.
“Play with other people every day so that you can find if your colleagues are at your same level or if they are better than you. Also try for places to play in public for seven or six days a week. If one can do so, the positive energy of music would no longer be limited to the practice sessions. Jazz has always been about uniting different people,” Roland said.
“Instead of waiting for society to welcome musicians, our energy as musicians has to be so strong that it would get people around us united. And maybe then society would accept our music better,” he said while answering a question on the relevance of Jazz amid the growing popularity of pop and dance music around the world.
Roland, who collaborated with a bunch of Bengali folk musicians (Bauls), highly rated their form of music and said he felt the two genres of music easily complement each other.
“They are great musicians. But, most importantly, what they want to achieve in music is close to what we want to achieve in Jazz. It is not just about the notes and rhythm but also your inner feelings. I loved their music,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of collaborative ventures between the two forms, he said, “It is possible. Their music has a song with a particular melody and rhythm, but there is also a scope for a lot of improvisation. It is same with Jazz too,” said the musician, who spent a part of his childhood in Mumbai and Delhi.
Roland also played along with his band members at the recently concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad and said they would love to come back to play in India as he feels the country, with all its diversity, provides a perfect backdrop for Jazz.
“Jazz is about having different influences. India has that same quality historically. To me it feels like a perfect place to play jazz. Jazz is a melting pot of socio-cultural identities. The same is true about India. It has very strong identities and cultural achievements,” he noted.
New York-born Roland, who started playing bass as early as 12, said he and a few of his band members have been performing for the last 34 years.
The rest of the members of the New York-based Jazz quartet, including Zaid Nasser who plays saxophone, guitarist Pasquale Grasso and the drummer Keith Balla, looked equally excited after playing with their Indian counterparts in the concert.
“I heard the tradition of Baul music is more than 500 years old. The message in their song is about finding peace within yourself… it is very powerful. Also the musicians who are creating music for people in this region for generations are a great inspiration for us as musicians,” Balla said.
“All facets of India fascinate me. The culture, the food and the music for sure, because that’s what we are experiencing the most. During jamming with the local musicians they asked me to be free and improvise. That’s really all I needed to hear, that’s what we do in Jazz, we improvise,” said Nasser, the saxophonist.
When asked about the importance of original covers in today’s music, Roland said while originals are great, if one can bring out his originality and uniqueness while singing the classics, that is equally good.
“I can tell you, some most important jazz musicians wrote many original songs, but there are also Jazz singers like Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins, who wrote almost no songs themselves. However, every time they played a classic song, they made it so original and unique. That’s the point,” he added.