During the first two years, the band played a gig at the Blue Frog(Mumbai) and other places, but they couldn't focus on putting down any material. | Photo/Suryarshi Mitra
Rajeev Raja, an advertising professional-turned full-time-musician based in Bangalore and founder of the Rajeev Raja Combine wanted to find an organic sound. His musical motive was to avoid paying “lip-service” to fusion. He says, “The word fusion has been so misrepresented, misused, and abused. The minute you say fusion, you’re getting into a space which everyone has already defined. I don’t have one side of my head as Western and one side that’s Indian —it exists together. I speak English, Malayalam, Tamil and I listen to Indian classical music, jazz and Latin music. And all of this comes out as an expression that’s really me.”
Raja wanted to compose melodies which came through effortlessly. “The melodies fit in both Western and Indian expressions. It’s this expression in our music that gets the title track the name Cosmic Chant. The song has elements of Flamenco, Samba and Indian classical,” he explains. The album was produced by the band. “We had to do it on a low budget, because we decided to do it without a music label. We did all our recordings from 10 in the night to 6 in the morning, because we got a discount at the studio. Otherwise it would have been way too expensive for us,” he says.
Rajeev used to play a small, Chinese mouth organ during his college days. He realised that the mouth organ was limiting his expression. A friend gifted him a bamboo flute. “I listened to jazz and got influenced by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and more. Flautists Hubert Laws, Jeremy Steig, Dave Valentine, Herbie Mann, influenced me. There was no one to teach me the silver flute. I learnt by listening to these great masters, trying to play like them and learn their chops. And who can forget Hariprasad Chaurasia, I’ve learnt so much from him,” he exclaims. The band features an eclectic group of musicians with Hitesh Dhutia on guitars, JD on bass, Chandana Bala on Carnatic vocals, Vaibhav Wavikar on drums and Vinayak Netke on the tabla. “They’re all passionate about their music. We create music very instinctively and it’s a spontaneous process. Vaibhav, only 23 years old, is a very talented musician and has managed to gel with us. Now we’re just going to focus on making more music together,” he adds.
During the first two years, the band played a gig at Blue Frog (Mumbai) and other places, but they couldn’t really focus on putting down any material. However, the last two years have seen a flurry of activities and the band since the releasing of Cosmic Chant. “When you put down an album, that’s when it becomes very meaningful. You’ve created a body of work. There could be a lot of thoughts in your head. Suddenly all those ideas crystallize and come together, and there’s something tangible that you can identify as your the sound of the band,” Rajeev muses. Raja describes his music as “organic, straight from the heart, and simple.”