Prem Jashua and his Music
“My music is not my achievement but simply a gift that I received and I just pass it on. I feel more like a gardener. When you receive a fruit from a gardener, can he claim he has created the fruit? No, a gardener only prepares the soil, puts the seed, waters the tree... the fruits are just a gift.”
-- Prem Joshua
Prem Joshua: enhancing the inner being with his music.
Prem Joshua is a musician who has been deeply influenced by the East, its music, its landscape and its ever-shining spiritual light. It was Ravi Shankar who cast the first musical spell on Prem Joshua when he was a youth of 16. It had such a mesmerising effect on him as a German rocker that he was irresistibly drawn to the subcontinent. He learnt classical sitar from Ustad Usman Khan and also imbibed the spiritual wisdom from his Guru Osho.
The Daily Star's interviewed the enigmatic musician.
Q. You have been labelled the new "Guru of fusion" by an Indian newspaper. How do you see the divide between the East and the West? Do you feel it is only a political division as music shows that the East and the West are already wedded?
As the East is absorbing Western technologies, the West is embracing Eastern wisdom, such as meditation, yoga, ayurveda, zen, sufism... no wonder music is also fusing and moving towards new horizons. World music is one of the cultural heralds towards the possibilities of a better world. The world has never been in a more dangerous situation than today - but also chances to really move on in history towards a more human, grown up and better world have never been bigger. It is only the old minds of our politicians in power, filled with greed and fear that want to stop and cling to the old ways, but the new is unavoidable!
Q. How do you define the relationship between a great musical tradition and the individual artist?
Great traditions are always kept alive by two elements: on one side by the dedicated and skilled conservationists - and on the other side, and maybe more importantly, the daring and experimenting musicians who move on and break the rules and are ready to go into fusion, and beyond.
Q. Do you think Hindustani classical music would be where it is now without fusing with Persian traditions in the times of the Mughul emperors?
Today all the pundits claim it is so pure, but in fact it is clearly fusion music created by daring young musicians of those days.
Q. Which one, out of all the instruments you play, is your favourite?
It is hard to tell which is my most favourite instrument, the sitar, the flute, the saxophone or just singing. I guess the moment I play an instrument it becomes my favourite! And sitar, I play the most. It is like a whole orchestra!
Q. You seem to be in love with oriental myths and symbols. Do they work as a backdrop against which you compose? Which mythical symbol inspires you the most?
The East especially India has created the science of the inner. You can call it meditation, it is the science of the vastness of silence. This science has brought forth all the great spiritual masters, from the sufi saints in Turkey over the mystics of India to the zen masters of Japan. In these traditions silence is considered the highest form of music, the ultimate music. These masters have planted the seeds for our classical music as they were looking for ways to convey the deep joys of inner silence. What a beautiful approach towards music! But in fact what a responsibility for the musician! It means that your music doesn't depend on your skills alone. It depends also on your own spiritual growth, on your inner silence and light.
Q. Would you like to tell us something about your musical odes to the Moon? “Ode to the Moon” seems to be a recurrent theme in your music.
Simple! Just go for a walk on a beautiful full moon night. Doesn't it make you sing? Doesn't it give you joy? Always remember: the best things in life are all for free! In fact, I shold be calling all my songs: Ode to the Moon, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...
Q. During your composition/performance do you stick to the allotted time-frames (prohar as they are called in Sanskrit/Bangla) for each of these ragas? Do you feel each raga can yield its complete flavour only when it is performed at a certain time of the day/night?
In my concerts I cannot stick to these allotted time frames. If there is a beautiful composition in "Ahir Bhairav" I will also play it in the night. But my music is very international and it is morning somewhere else on this beautiful planet! One should observe but one should also never be too serious in life.
Q. You call your "inner music" Silence -- do you feel that even your music is a fall from that pristine state of Silence? "When the archer is perfected, he throws away his bow and arrow" --goes the story as told by your beloved Guru Osho. Do you feel the same way?
Yes. But I would never "throw" my sitar. I would respectfully put it in its case.
Q. Does your musical journey take you to any particular destination or is it always a "musical path without a goal"? "No path but the goal" was the starting point of your journey, your home chord, as it were. Does it still hold true? Or has it altered in any way?
It all depends on the initial inspiration for a new song. tion a gift; my songs are not a "planned" mind creation but rather an explosive mix of silence, dedication and passion.
This inspiration will decide which direction the song will take. I consider inspiration a gift; my songs are not a "planned" mind creation but rather an explosive mix of silence, dedication and passion.
|Bonding the East and the West, Prem Joshua looks for music in the elemental forces of Nature.
Q. Do you want to share with us any particularly memorable moment/event in your vast exploration, your tours of the world?
Last night I heard a cuckoo sing in a tree. It was the most beautiful music I have heard! How can I ever get close to his music? Musicians easily tend to believe that they are so great because some people are listening to them. But this cuckoo just sang into the silence of the night! One day we are all gone and nobody cares who we were! Great!
Q. Have you had musical performances where you, along with your fellow musicians and the audience, felt you guys almost raised the elements -- the monsoon rain, for example, or a fearsome storm?
It happened several times that we had sudden thunderstorms coming up on a clear night after playing a monsoon raga in concert. It could be coincidence but who knows.
Q. Which one of your albums do you like the most?
My favourite album is always the one I am currently working on. I put all my love and passion into it. When it is ready I am happy but and get I let go, then ready for something new. I still love my last two releases, “Ahir” and “Taranga”. They have just been released in India.
Q. About your field and environment recordings are all of them done by you or your band members? And speaking of band members, could you tell us the names of your current band members?
I do my own field recordings.
My current band members are:
Raul Sengupta from Kolkata/India on tabla, kajon, congas, bongos, darbukka and percussion
Sat Fukuda from Tokyo/Japan on bass
Chintan Relenberg from Munich/Germany on keyboards, loops, vocals, tabla
Prem Joshua on sitar, bamboo flutes, vocals, sporano sax, dilruba
Q. You have been a "German rocker" too. Who are your favourite western bands?
I owe deep respect to such rock bands like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple for their raw but extremely creative and fresh sound also love jazz musicians like John McLaughlin (with Shakti) and Miles Davis.
Q. Would you like to give any message to your fans worldwide, especially for the young generation of musicians who are inspired by your gift for fusion?
Never compromise in your life. If you see a way of rather following your inner voice and passion, go for your passion and inner truth. Never compromise out of fear or for the sake of living a safe (but boring) life! It will be much harder but in the end much more rewarding in every sense. Even if you fail - at least you can say with dignity: OK, I have tried and failed, but this feels much better than living a life as a sheep. In fact I will try even more"!
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2006