Star-studded music album Unbounded reflects the legacy of Western and Indian classical music
Sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee’s new album Unbounded promises to appeal to the greater diaspora across the globe
It took just 10 minutes of a conference call for Mumbai-based sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee to breathe life into a star-studded musical album Unbounded (Abaad). He roped in noted musicians from India, the USA and the UK, and in a single call the album was finalised. Set to release today on the UK based online imprint Sufiscore, which has over four million subscribers, the six song album is spirited and brings together six different music forms including jazz, folk, Latin, country, Sufi, western and Hindustani classical music.
Reflecting Purbayan’s mastery of Indian classical music and his inclination towards jazz and his inquisitive approach to music of all kinds, Unbounded promises to appeal to the greater diaspora across the globe. And joining him in this endeavor are banjo pioneer Béla Fleck, keyboardist Jordan Rudess, guitarist Pat Metheny, drummer Antonio Sanchez; Snarky Puppy bassist and acclaimed jazz clarinetist Anat Cohen. Among the eminent Indian musicians featured in the album are Ustad Zakir Hussain (tabla), V Selvaganesh (kanjira) and Shankar Mahadevan (vocals).
“The first step was to identify a good fit for each genre from India, and then I had to think of the master who could best synergise with that genre. For instance, Béla Fleck (country jazz) with Indian folk, Jordan Rudess (prog-rock) with Sufi and so on,” Purbayan explains and adds that each song enfolds the ideas and personalities of all the collaborators.
Opening the album with Shanmukhapriya (The Mystic) we hear an exploration of the devotional element of Carnatic music in a post-modern Latin jazz soundscape steered by the keyboards, mandolin, guitar and the subtle textural effect of the strings. The second rendition Khula Asmaan (Firmament) is a combination of keyboards and electric bass with percussion, drum, guitar and flute. This interesting version inspired by the traditions of Sufi Islam depicts a cross between a classical bandish and a Sufi kalam. Expect soulful rhythms with a stunning degree of cohesion between blues and Rajasthani folk paired with piano, banjo, guitar and sitar. It is sheer poetry to the ears listening to the finale song New Beginnings, juxtaposed with saxophone and drums.
As much as the chemistry of being in the same room is often irreplaceable, often the most innovative kind of art is born out of the greatest challenges. “We were impeded by geography but greatly inspired and aided by technology. Perhaps the gumption of putting a Mame Khan (Rajasthani folk singer) in the backdrop of Béla Fleck’s harmonic changes stemmed from the fact that we were tethered by technology and the possibilities were limitless,” explains the sitar maestro.
Is this the future of classical music? “The colliding of artistic cultures is the only way forward for the survival and flourishing of the art form,” Purbayan says in conclusion.
Unbounded (Abaad) releases worldwide on September 11 on Sufiscore.