|the-south-asian.com DECEMBER 2001|
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DECEMBER 2001 Contents
The Music of Prem Joshua
His latest album 'Dance of Shakti' was released this year.
I discovered Prem Joshua at the Sackler Gallery Shop of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. The album of the day at the Sackler shop was 'Mudra' - the haunting notes of his music made me sleep-walk to the counter and pick up three CDs - two for friends - I wanted them to experience his music as well! We have not stopped listening to the album - and it is 2001 now!
Joshua was first drawn towards Indian music when he heard Ravi Shankar on vinyl. On the flip side was George Harrison's 'Concert for Bangladesh'. That record may have determined the future course of Joshua's inner vocation.
The track you are listening to is 'Lahore Connection' - from the album 'Mudra'. Joshua explains the story behind the title of the track. He was living with friends in Pune, who, one day, discovered an old Surbahar in their attic, something they had brought along when they left Lahore at the time of partition in 1947. This melodious instrument had remained in the attic for 50 years - until Joshua came along and played the Surbahar in this particular piece and called it the 'Lahore Connection'.
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Prem Joshua is a pioneer in thefield of World Music, exploring and creating a new synthesis in music beyond the borders of East and West. Drawing inspiration from the deep wells of eastern music traditions, Joshua has never lost touch with the pulse of contemporary western music.
Over the years he has continued to refine his unique and distinctivesound--from meditative acoustic music to very danceable, highly energetic compositions with modern grooves and strong ethnic rhythms and melodies from ancient Asia. His creative musical blend has brought him recognition by critics, music lovers and the press throughout the East and West. In India he is celebrated as the new "guru of fusion."
With his music Prem Joshua has toured all over the world, givingconcerts in Malaysia, Israel, India and the whole of Europe. He is now based in Italy.
ABOUT PREM JOSHUA:
Born to a musical family in Germany he began learning the flute at the age of five and became a fine flautist when still a child. As a teenager he started learning electric guitar and saxophones. His practicing Rock and Jazz could not only be heard in his own house.
Some of his neighbours (classical music teachers!) still haven't forgiven him to this day! Nevertheless he was soon performing in various Rock, Jazz and Fusion bands to a more appreciative audience, always searching for new ways of expressing and expanding his music.
This musical "discontent" combined with his spiritual seeking led him to an interest in India. He remembers hearing Indian music for the first time at 16 on a record called CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH, a live recording of a festival with George Harrison and many other famous Rock names from that time. One side of the 3-vinyl record set was a performance on sitar by Ravi Shankar:
"I had never heard anything like this before," Joshua recalls. "This
was beyond my musical grasp and experience but was something of
such immense beauty and depth. It felt unfamiliar and
mysterious--yet at the same time like a remembrance of something I
knew very well."
In the late seventies, at the young age of 18 he knew only one thing: what he DIDN'T want to do! He left home and high school and ended all his career plans to go overland from Europe to India and join the "hippie tribe" in an attempt to find out what he really wanted.
On his first three overland trips to the East he travelled throughout countries like Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He became deeply involved with traditional oriental folk music, playing live with and learning from local musicians everywhere. "I loved the roots of this music and felt an immediate connection that I missed so much in Central European folk," he says.
When he reached India he had a sensation of knowing it; it felt like coming home! Along with the feeling of familiarity there seemed to be an inexplicable vibe of at-ease-ness in this country of mysteries, contradictions, colours and smells. One of his first actions in India was to buy a sitar in Delhi for the price of what you pay for it's strings today. What he didn't know then is that playing this instrument would become a main part of his life. And coming home to India was only the "outer" part of his journey. On his travels he came across the enlightened mystic, Osho. In the presence of this man with a long white beard, eyes as deep as the ocean and a strong sense of humour, he got in touch with the art of the "inner music" --silence: "This was really coming home! For the following years I did nothing but be with this man, meditate and play, play, play music. Here I found the musical and spiritual nourishment and satisfaction that I had been looking for. I started playing with musicians from all over the world and learning from some of India's finest teachers, among them Maestro Ustad Usman Khan, who became my sitar mentor."
ABOUT JOSHUA'S MUSIC
Years later in the early nineties when Osho left the body Joshua returned to the West. He and his music had totally changed--it was time to share the overflow. Together with African harp player, Ravi, he formed his first recording and concert project, the band "Terra Incognita." They released two albums on the New Earth record label in 1991-92: NO GOAL BUT THE PATH and TRIBAL GATHERING.
Over the next four years, four more albums with the same record label were released but now under Joshua's name: TALES OF A DANCING RIVER, HAMSAFAR, DESERT VISIONS, and SECRET OF THE WIND. The music became favored among lovers of World Music as Joshua's unique way of playing the bamboo flute and sitar in the context of a "world sound" became easily recognizable.
From "Terra Incognita" the band "Hamsafar" was born. "Hamsafar" had a clearly more danceable approach. In 1997 Joshua recorded one album, LIFEPRINTS, with Hamsafar, which was released by Re Nudo, Italy, and was followed by tours in Europe.
In 1998 he released MUDRA on his own label. Together with Dutch keyboardist, Maneesh de Moor, he created an unusual new sound by merging elements of Trance Music with the acoustic and more melodious flavors of Indian instruments. The album became a favorite in the World Music and Asian Underground scene.
This was followed by SKY KISSES EARTH his most successful album to date.
His latest album 'Dance of Shakti' was released this year.
(Text , photo - Courtesy Prem Joshua)
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