Saturday, October 15, 2005

Unsung Maverick - Prem Joshua.

One year ago, i was watching NDTV news after having dinner. As the bulletin was about to finish, they showed a newsbit about the release of a new album "YATRI" by Prem Joshua. At the first glance, i was curoius because the man there appeared to be a foreigner but was playing Sitar. And the pieces he played were amazing. It did (infact he did..) register in my brain.

15 days later, i was at sangeet sagar, secunderabad. Again, for the nth time, i was in the same position of breaking the resolution(everytime i enter a music/book shoppe, i resolve that i wouldnt buy anything..but eventually..i could never come out empty-handed..). By sheer trial, i bought Prem Joshua's "Secret of The Wind". And when i played it at home, i liked it immensely. I was more surprised/shocked because Prem Joshua is a foreigner and his compositions have their roots in Hindustani Classical Music.

Background : A german( i think..) by origin, he was an instrumentalist with many jazz/rock-bands. After his teens, he began to search for his own spiritual & musical roots. By sheer chance, one day, He came across a Record of Pt.Ravi Shankar's sitar concert and the next thing on his mind was Destination India. Since then, he's been in India, studying/performing Indian Classical music. Learnt sitar under Ustad Usman Khan. There were Occassions when Pt.Ravi Shankar himself graced Joshua's concerts and blessed him. He plays a variety of instruments like Sitar, Saxophones, Bamboo Flutes, Santoor, Harp, Dilruba and few percussion instruments. He is into spirituality & meditation. Dedicates all albums to Osho.

Later on , i bought another album " Mudra", which had lounge music feel. Then, One evening, i went to Music world. i found 2 albums by Joshua there,each costing 95 bucks. unfortunately, i had only 100 bucks in my pocket though i wanted both the tapes.after much dilemma, i choose one and landed at the counter to pay the bill. there i saw a poster which read , " Special Offer- Buy 2 Music-today albums..for the price of one" ( i told u right..when it comes to good music...i have been fortunate ..). i ran across the showroom and got the other one too. Both the albums " Desert Visions" & "Humsafar" were fantastic. Later on i bought his other albums " Tales of A Dancing River", " Sky kisses the Earth"(lounge music again), " Water Down The Ganges" , and got "Yatri" burnt on CD.

After listening to all his compositions, i still cannot understand why he is not that famous among the fusion artists. Though he is quite popular in the north, people down south hardly know him or his compositions.Though many composers have liberally lifted( or cut-copy-pasted) some of his tracks,( The sitar piece in "hare krishna" song from Mani Sharma's Okkadu is pasted from a joshua's is not even a lift..but it is copy-paste..) many of his albums lie unsold here in hyderabad. i could procure eight albums of Joshua. And the remaining ones and unavailable here.

Though he draws the roots from Hindustani Classical Music, Fusion is his style. And in few albums, he ventured into Lounge/Trance kind of music (sky kisses earth/mudra/dance of shakti etc..,.). i would love to buy his entire collection (CDs..not even Tapes) because he has got his own unique style...of composition..and even his own unique sound, which is marvellous. i would rate him far ahead of Indian Ocean and i wont be surprised if anyday, he collaborates with Shakti (Zakir Hussain, McLaughin & co. ).

I have just noticed that a couple of his albums are hosted by MIO. I would suggest the very first album i heard "Secret of The Wind". The compositions which enthralled me are : New Kafi, East Wind(chalanaata), Kites, From Across The Water, etc.,. just play on while u r working or relaxing..and i am sure u too will start buying his music...just like me. And mind you, he being a foreigner could compose(and even Play) these fantastic albums, while the youth today in our country swoon to 3rd rate remixes. Thats our shame.


Padmasani said...

Aakarsh, very intereting info. I two jass saxaphone players as my students and both were Germans and amazing talent. Yes Germans are achievers.

We shall buy the cds when we go next to Music World or Land Mark.

Aakarsh said...

The fusion albums which i suggest are :

1. Secret of the Wind.
2.Desert Visions.
4.Water down the Ganges.
5.Tales of a Dancing river.

His lounge music albums are : Dakini Lounge, Dance of Shakti, Mudra & Sky kisses Earth.these albums have lot of synthesizer stuff, so can be played only for certain mood( Buddha Bar kind).

Also, beware, there are albums like Prem Joshua Remixed, which, in my opinion should be avoided.