'Every Time We Play, It is New and Different'
Music and food go together and for the world famous duo of Iain Ballamy and Thomas Stronen, who are a big part of the success of FOOD (Jazz band), the food here, especially the south Indian cuisine with its mind-boggling varieties, has floored them. Under its soothing influence, they produced the best World Music that was appreciated by one and all, even the conservative audiences.
In Bangalore for the 10-day-Sontakke Global Music 2013 Festival, they performed on six platforms, the Jagriti Theatre, the Octavium Academy, Opus Creek, B Flat, the Gayana Samaja and Take 5. Enchanting fans and musicians, the Jazz stars said it was a great experience being part of the festival that had brought all forms of music across multiple genres on to one platform and thereby, celebrating the universal joy of music.
A sublime experience for Bangaloreans, this is the first time they saw and heard the FOOD stars playing the saxophone, the drums and progressive electronic jazz in tune with Indian melodies and interacting with many an Indian musician at workshops.
“Just listen, don’t try to analyse or even try to understand our kind of music, you have to experience it,” say Iain Ballamy and Thomas Stronen, the internationally renowned stars of Jazz and World Music from Britain and Norway. They are both here in Bangalore to take listeners on a musical voyage that is different and soulful, and one has to immerse in the sounds and strains of this kind of music to enjoy it. Trying out something new and always experimenting, they never ever practise with another before a concert. Both of them have been together for 15 years and have come out with seven records with two of them from the prestigious ECM company.
Donning the FOOD avatar, the duo usually invite guests to perform along with them. The guests are selected either by accident or by recommendation. They have played in different parts of the world with different guests and with different melodies and rhythms but their favourite places are India, Japan and Italy.
Relating an episode with their guest Prakash Sontakke at Bergen, Norway, Stronen says, “In 2010, he arrived in freezing temperatures in a T-shirt with his slide guitar lost in transit which later arrived in two pieces. We first got him a jacket and an instrument and later managed to mend the broken guitar. We were at a workshop, explaining to the students at Bergen while at Oslo, all three of us were inspired to play, following one another. We never practise before a concert, our performance is impromptu, totally improvised, matching the mood and the occasion,” he elaborates. Apart from drumming, the deep and big electronic sound that is produced by samplers is a major attraction and to this, Stronen says, “Suiting the mood, I try to create that which is different, maybe the sound of a bell but it is usually re-visiting sounds of life and after all, the electronics are part of the drumming.”
FOOD is a big part of them and Iain Bellamy, the quieter of the duo who has composed lot of music: Classical and Jazz, opera and films and is part of BBC Philharmonic Orchestra says he has tremendously enjoyed the variety of music in India. He has been here twice on concert tours and explains that this time it has been different as people have started showing interest and learned to enjoy their music.
“Listening to our improvisations, they used to be interested but nonplussed and were totally surprised as they had never heard it before,” says Bellamy and adds, “With lot more Indo-Western collaborations, they are opening up a bit and unlike earlier times when Indian classical musicians were bound by rules and traditions, now we have entered an era when the collaboration is prompted from the Indian side. String or vocal, our music is open, non-planned with no lyrics or compositions and improvised suiting the occasion.”
While renowned classical and world music artiste, Prakash Sontakke explains, “Music comes from the heart and even if people do not understand, they like it a lot and enjoy the experience. Their performances and interactions on six different platforms in Bangalore has been a big success and it shows how people have started following world music.”
Summing up their experiences during concerts, Stronen says, “Concerts are different from recording for a CD and if people request us to play from these, we wouldn’t be able to do it. We just recognise the concept and tune and try to play it but it would be again improvised as our music happens at the moment and changes every moment.” Adding to it, Bellamy concludes, “We produce great music together, it is challenging at times with different guests but we have been together all these years to make music as well as earn our livelihood. We hope more people will open up to such kind of music in the coming days.”