Ranjit Barot is the only indian rated among the top 100 Drummers in the world by Drum Magazine, on the threshold of his latest concert 'Transcendence' with the ambassador of Kanjira Banglore Amrit, we take a download of the conversation with the event organizer Rajshekar Srinivasan on the Drums, concept of the event and his tribute to Buddy Rich.
Hailing from a traditional classical music family, why did you chose a western instrument, the drums?
It’s as much a mystery to me as anyone else. I was surrounded by Tabla’s, Sitar, vocals and of course, dance. Maybe going to a western school and being exposed to rock music, then taking part in an impromptu music competition and winning had something to do with it. Till that competition I had never played the drum set. Once the performance got over, I knew this was something special that had me out and would be a big part of my life in all the years to come.
What are his experiences with the Jazz world?
I was inducted into the world of jazz by Maestro Louiz Banks, the legendary jazz pianist. I’m 1980 I performed with him as a part of the Jazz Yatra sextet, featuring jazz musicians as well as Carnatic musicians. This was most fortuitous as I was exposed to improvisational jazz music and Carnatic music simultaneously. We performed at the Jazz Yatra in 1980 and in 1981 toured Europe with the band. This was a huge learning experience for me. Having grown up in India playing an instrument that I didn’t have much educational access too, the tour allowed to watch some of the greatest drummers in the world, thus giving me a glimpse into what the possibilities were in regards to this magnificent instrument we call the drum set.
How is the taal based Indian system of percussion unique from western drumming ?
The north and south taal system is a highly revolved rhythmic system, unparalleled in its beauty, poetry and complexity. While odd time meters and even complex interpretations of rhythm have found their way into western classical music and in the works of the late Frank Zappa, a visionary contemporary composer, the drum set still relies on a more symmetrical approach in some aspects of rhythm. Mind you, drummers like Virgil Donati have stretched the boundaries of what is possible on the drum set, and there are many drummers worldwide who are master jazz players, deeply schooled in the art of improvisation, who play within a frame work and yet are unpredictable. I must mention that the number of drummers gravitating to the Indian system of rhythm are growing exponentially day by day.
Something about Buddy Rich and how he has inspired you as a drummer?
He was the greatest drummer of his time. He had technique and imagination, the two key ingredients at being a great musician. He exploded on the scene, at a time when things were a little more conservative as far as the instrument went. In contrast he was full of musical bluster and a full throttle approach to music and his instrument. This is something I identify with deeply. You eventually play like who you are. All your attributes, deficiencies and aspirations are revealed when you truly surrender to the moment and your instrument. It’s like a veil is removed and what you are and what you play merge. The sound you create is you. Buddy had that ability in spades.
How different is this tribute going to be from other collaborations you have been associated with?
Well, you try and tip your hat to the master and put yourself in a place where you try and tap into the spirit of who you’re paying tribute to. Therefore every tribute is special and different.
Have you been able to get your percussion expertise and virtuosity into the main stream Bollywood.
Absolutely. I’ve rarely pretended to be anything but who I am on my instrument, no matter what the context may have been.
Who have been your favorite musicians especially percussion artists across the globe?
There are too many to list here. Basically, every drummer before and me those I’ve yet hear are my gurus.
What are your thoughts on Bangalore Amrit?
I witnessed Amrit ji when he performed at Ustad Zakir Hussain’s commemorative concert for his father’s, the late Ustad Allarakha, barsi. He was a part of Vidhwan Karaikudi Mani ji’s ensemble and I was just blown away with his playing. The dexterity, clarity of thought were astounding. He is an amazing player, human being and I think it is fitting that he pay his is the one to pay respects to the late Vidhwan Hari Shankar ji. I am deeply honoured to be sharing the stage with him.
Do you think such collaborations should be encouraged by sponsors more often?
Located in a former mill, the Mumbai outpost of the US chain of resto-bars has a mixed reputation among the city's musicians. In the first couple of years after opening, in 2006, indie rock acts were often asked to include a stipulated number of cover songs in their set lists. These days, Hard Rock Café, which hosts gigs every Tuesday and Thursday night, sticks mostly to cover bands, with a couple of dates a month spared for indie groups. Skip these gigs, and come here only for the ticketed events, when one of the seating areas is cleared to make room for a larger stage, for performances by Indian indie icons (folk-fusion veterans Indian Ocean, electro-rock superstars Pentagram), international chart toppers (Wyclef Jean, Jay Sean) or club-packing DJs (Bob Sinclair, Paul van Dyk). Be warned, though: the waiters break into a synchronised jig every time the Village People's "YMCA" comes on.
Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, + 91 22 2438 2888, Hardrockindiablog.com. Open daily noon-1.30am. Performance times and entrance fees vary