Picture by Khushi Garnaik
Picture by Khushi Garnaik

Musician Aman Mahajan's solo piano album explores the ideas of home in various raagas

The tracks were composed at different time periods in cities like Boston, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

Having worked on themes like minimalism and mathematics in his musical project Heads and Tales earlier, artiste Aman Mahajan has released his solo piano album, Refuge, recently. This is the composer’s first release comprising just his original music, some of which was written more than a decade ago. “What better format to put my first completely original release than as a piano album? My previous releases have all been collaborative projects. This album is like a scrapbook of themes from my journey so far, and my experiments with ideas over the years,” he shares.

Although created through an intensely personal process, the music deals with issues like the human condition, with an aim to resonate with listeners across the globe. The 10-track album bears distinct traces of jazz, Indian Classical, folk and European music, among others. For instance, the second track, The Ten Thousand Questions, juxtaposes the Western jazz concept of John Coltrane (American saxophonist) against an Eastern enigmatic modal section. “To sum it up, this is a collection of pieces that originated at the piano, travelling across continents on various collaborations, meeting a multitude of musicians and audiences along the way, only to return to the piano in this avatar,” adds Aman. 

Album artwork
Album artwork

Exploring the idea of home, Aman quotes Buddha — You are your own Refuge; who else could be the refuge?, and says, “It is a reflective set of musical themes exploring ideas of home and paying homage to inward journeys. The music was composed from 2005, along with similar themes of personal incidents and how we relate to the world around us. I’ve always been interested in understanding how we can live in peace with ourselves and with each other, and how to live — as individuals and societies. This is interesting at a time when the country is polarised over the proposed citizenship laws. Some of that study and experimentation is documented in these pieces.”

Beginning with Where is it?, the track sets an introspective tone in the form of a cyclic chant. More Than You Know is an ode to Boston — a celebration of learning, independence, and homes away from home — and perfectly blends together fragments of Raag Desh and gospel music. “Vande Mataram meets The Star-Spangled Banner,” Aman points out. The tracks were composed at different time periods in cities like Boston, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Apart from the reprised version of Where is It?, the album also offers a melodious set of songs, contemplating different ideas with a mix of influences. The seventh song, Leifmotif, for instance, introduces Raag Yaman (heptatonic Indian classical raagas) to multi-tonic systems, settling into a brief modal melody. Ending with a warm piece with lifting melody Sun Dance, Aman does justice to each of the themes and instruments (think saxophone, tabla, duduk, bamboo flute and acoustic bass) offering a striking fusion of musical approaches. 

Available on amanmahajan.bandcamp.com.

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