Bansuri exponent Shri Rakesh Chaurasia’s collaborative album “As We Speak” has been nominated for the Grammy Awards this year. It is a special collaboration which brings his genius on the Bansuri, Ustad Zakir Hussain on the tabla and multiple Grammy award winners Bela Fleck on the Banjo and Edgar Meyer on the Bass. The album has been nominated in three different categories: Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, Best Instrumental Composition for “Motion”, Best Global Music Performance for “Pashto.”
More about As We Speak from Bela Fleck's website: “When we are performing on stage, in composing mode or creating mode, we are basically having a conversation,” says renowned tabla player, Zakir Hussain, of his bandmates, banjo legend Béla Fleck, the great double bassist Edgar Meyer, and bansuri player Rakesh Chaurasia. “So the music emerges as we speak.”
The quartet’s latest 3x Grammy nominated album As We Speak (Thirty Tigers) not only showcases the group’s breathtaking abilities as instrumentalists, but underscores the wide range of influences at their command. Across a dozen songs, the quartet glides easily between the cerebral complexity of Indian rhythm and the gut-level groove of a funky bass line, sounding equally at home with the rigors of raga.
A new project from perception shattering musicians Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer, and Rakesh Chaurasia, As We Speak brings together their unique takes on Indian and Western Classical music, Jazz and Bluegrass. Weaving a sonic tapestry of banjo, tabla, double bass, and bansuri, these artists convene to make some of the most soulful, fascinating and undefinable music found in today’s world.
CSP is privileged to speak to Vidwan Rakesh Chaurasia on this new album and what it means to Indian music:
What does a Grammy award mean for Indian music?
A Grammy nomination is a very big honour for any musician! To have been nominated for this award as an Indian Classical musician is a very humbling feeling. To represent our rich traditional art form on the world stage, collaborating with world renowned maestros from different genres and syncing it up all to create an entire new album is a great feeling. There have been many Indian artists who have been recipients of this award and getting another three nominations just goes on to show the kind of value our Indian music holds on the world stage. Hope this also inspires more and more people to create amazing music and showcase our depth to the world!!
As We Speak is a collaboration between world renowned musicians Padma Vibhushan Ustad Zakir Hussain on the Tabla, multiple Grammy award winners Bela Fleck on the Banjo and Edgar Meyer on the Bass, and myself on the Indian Bansuri.
How does the Indian flute bring melody and depth to modern music?
The Indian bamboo flute also known as the Bansuri is one of the closest instruments to the human voice/vocal form of music - meaning any music that is sung can be reproduced on the flute to the closest possible degree. It gives us the space and depth to play our traditional classical music and also the scope to incorporate other genres of music like folk, jazz etc. The adaptability of the bamboo flute to blend in seamlessly with every form of music /many different instruments is its unique feature.
In your recent tours abroad which artists have you found it interesting to engage with musically?
I have been fortunate enough to work with amazing musicians across the world.
It's been one of my best experiences to work with our very own Padma Vibhushan Ustad Zakir Hussain ji on the tabla. I have grown up watching Ustad ji performing with my guru and uncle Padma Vibhushan Hariprasad Chaurasia ji and to be able to collaborate with him has been a dream come true!
Bela Fleck is a multiple Grammy award winning Banjo maestro. An acclaimed virtuoso, he is an innovative and technically proficient pioneer and ambassador of the banjo, playing music from bluegrass, jazz, classical, rock and various world music genres.
Edgar Meyer is also a multiple Grammy award winning American Bassist and composer. His styles include classical, bluegrass, newgrass, and jazz.
To be able to collaborate with these amazing musicians from different genres, adapting to the genres and coming out with this album has been a very fruitful and satisfying experience for me.
How can Indian raga music become popular among new western audiences?
Indian Raga/Classical Music has been widely appreciated and acclaimed across the world for a very very long time! Legendary musicians like Bharat Ratna Pandit Ravi Shankar ji, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia ji, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma ji, Ustad Allah Rakha ji and many many more have taken our Indian music to Western shores and beyond! The younger generation venerates these legends and there are also a lot of people who come and learn Indian classical arts. I have been touring the world for quite some time now and I find a great amount of interest for our music in the younger Western generation. The fact that music is also a part of the curriculum in their schools also helps in the way that they are also pretty informed audiences! Sticking to the core values of our music while also exploring different dimensions also helps in getting new audiences for our music!
As an artist what attracted you most to collaborate with international artists?
The very aspect of knowing about different genres of music, incorporating it on the Bansuri, finding a middle ground in playing those pieces is reason enough to get attracted and inspired to collaborate with different artists! Keeping the sanctity intact for each of our genres yet going beyond the realm in playing the music of the other genre is a very special experience. In this album there has been an influence of many genres of music all seamlessly blending in to give way to our album 'As We Speak' !