Nobody likes hanging around on LinkedIn, so here’s my CV – what I’ve done, what I’m doing now, and what I’d like to do in the future. Contact me here.
George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher. I loosely focus on jazz, rhythm, and global improvisation, drawing on my varied study of guitar, tabla, and santoor (Himalayan dulcimer) in India and the UK. Above all I aim to enthuse fellow musical searchers, connecting new textures and abstract interrelations to the human voices, cultures, and passions behind them – while constantly learning myself.
Global music: My ongoing lesson series for Guitar World (Beyond the Repertoire) seeks out fresh fretboard perspectives through studying the ideas of other cultures. I’ve worked closely with Darbar as an Indian classical musicologist (Living Traditions), and written freelance for The Wire, Jazzwise, Ragatip, and elsewhere, covering subjects from Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell to West African drumming and animal rhythmic cognition.
Teaching: Alongside this I give tuition around South London – a passion which informs all the rest of my work. Recent classes have included a 23-student primary school guitar club, a secondary Special Educational Needs group working with MIDI & DAW production, and week-long courses for groups of 5 to 10-year-olds. I also take private students of all ages, and give occasional masterclasses on guitar, improv, etc.
Research: Projects from the past year include the World of Tuning (multimedia Guitar World collaboration), Living Traditions (a 21-article collection for Darbar), and John Coltrane’s ‘Scales of India’ (solving the mystery of his handwritten raga notes). I’m currently writing a Hindustani Raga Index, covering the theory, history, mythology, etc of 40 North Indian forms. Also see Up to 11, my in-depth Spinal Tap analysis (Apr 1st).
Beyond music: I’m interested in systemic activism towards a fairer world. Previously I worked to raise philanthropic funds for GiveDirectly‘s basic income programs in East Africa, and also to promote ‘workplace activism’ – the idea that you can use your private-sector job to push for radical change. I co-ordinated a volunteer team here, speaking about our work at UCL, Harvard, and elsewhere. Before this I was a corporate risk consultant for four years, fortunately escaping with my imagination largely intact.
Listen: No Kanjira, a collab with Indo-jazz sax master Jesse Bannister (2018):
—As of 2020 I live in South London, playing guitar, tabla, sitar, santoor, hand percussion, and fretless bass (a recent addition). Alongside writing and teaching I record and perform with open-minded collaborators, and release music as Rāga Junglism – loosely fusing jazz, jungle, and funk with ideas from India and around the world (No Kanjira). Recent gigs have included a jazz club, a Hindu Temple, and a friend’s wedding proposal.
—Started guitar aged 14 under jazz master Guy Harrup, and built up performance experience around the pubs of the South West with a Stratocaster and a steel-string acoustic. Grade 8 aged 17, won both guitar classes at the 2010 Mid-Somerset Festival. Teenage highlights included winning a school competition, occasional busking in Bath, and (briefly) jamming with Tommy Emmanuel backstage in Bristol.
—Aged 19 I moved to North India to study under sitar maestro Pandit Shivnath Mishra, living at his gurukul academy by the Ganges in Varanasi. I received instruction in sitar, tabla, and Hindustani music theory, learning in the traditional ear-based manner. Since returning I’ve also picked up the santoor (Himalayan dulcimer), having self-taught it for the past few years, as well as learning the core components of South Indian Carnatic music.
—Past session work has included a BBC2 wildlife soundtrack (The Great British Year), imitating Nick Drake’s fingerpicking for a folk album, and playing tabla for an ambient house producer. I’ve gigged widely around Bristol, and have recently been the sonic guinea pig for my friend Mark Claydon’s incredible ‘groove engine’ – an intricate neural network that generates curious new rhythms by ‘shattering’ what you play into it…
- Listen to my sounds
—I got into writing as a natural outgrowth of discussing music with friends and students (…and also for free press tickets). Now it’s a dedicated, full-time obsession: see my full list of 200+ written pieces, spanning Sufi fusion and sitar mythology to Saharan harps and transglobal flute stereotypes. I seek to give direct voice to musicians from the cultures I cover, rather than just writing ‘about’ their traditions from the outside.
—Freelance articles have appeared in The Wire, Jazzwise, MusicRadar, Ragatip, JazzFM, and elsewhere, including interviews, features, reviews, explainers, and more. To sample, try out: What is it about drummers? (rock mythology vs. tales of the tabla), Glancing Backwards, Moving Forwards (John McLaughlin review), and ‘Moonstruck’: Raag Chandranandan (what does its curious inception tale reveal about the nature of raga?).
—Since 2018 I’ve worked closely with Darbar, a world-leading Indian arts charity, to expand global public engagement with Indian classical music. My book-length collection, Living Traditions, explores how music with ancient roots continues to innovate in the modern world. I’ve also written 150+ artist bios, press releases, social media posts, and concert programmes for Barbican, Southbank, and Sadler’s Wells, as well as editing a historical series by author and linguist Jameela Siddiqi.
—In 2020 I’ve been focusing on a few in-depth written and research projects. I write about South Asian creative cultures for Ragatip, a new, forward-looking arts publication, and publish globally-focused lessons in Guitar World, as well as expanding the World of Tuning, seeking to reimagine the entire role of the process. I’m currently finishing off John Coltrane’s ‘Scales of India’, analysing his handwritten raga notes, and working on an open-ended Hindustani Raga Index. More to follow!
- Read my writing: article list
Teaching is a long-term passion – I believe learning music should be:
- Empowering: Attitude vastly outweighs talent – I aim to ‘teach students to teach themselves’ in a relaxed, fun environment
- Personal: We’ll focus on the music students like, and on how to individualise the learning process and broader musical path
- Efficient: Every guitarist can become exhilarated by their pace of learning – I’ll help unlock the methods that work best
—I’ve taught music for over a decade, spanning all ages and abilities, including schools, masterclasses, and many private students. Recent experience includes a 23-student primary school guitar club, a secondary Special Educational Needs group working with MIDI & electronic production, and week-long courses for 5 to 10-year-olds. I also give occasional masterclasses on rhythm and Indian classical. Enhanced DBS.
—I draw on my study of how music is taught around the world, including my research as an instructor for Guitar World (see ‘Beyond the Repertoire‘ lesson series). I’m always seeking out fresh perspectives on how to learn effectively, spanning biomechanics to cognitive science, and take inspiration from the ear-based methods of my sitar guru in India as well as the habits of London’s jazz musicians. Also see my World of Tuning project.
- Learn from me: tuition page
Activism & More
—Beyond music I’m interested in systemic activism for a fairer world. I’ve worked with forward-thinking development charities such as GiveDirectly, raising philanthropic funds for their basic income program in East Africa, and also sought to promote ‘workplace activism’ – the idea that you can use your private-sector job to push for radical change. I led a volunteer team in this area, eventually presenting our work at UCL and Harvard, and will soon publish a handbook of what we’ve learned (available on request).
—In 2018 I appeared in Bullshit Jobs, David Graeber’s anthropological take on the rise of meaningless employment under late capitalism. For this I drew heavily from my four-year stint as a Risk Consultant for Deloitte – a great first-hand look at the innards of the private sector, but thank god I’ve escaped those grey mundanities now. Clients ranged from multinational banks and government bodies to local charities, and I even rose to be the ‘Green Champion’ (environmental rep) for the SW region.
—I have a Geographical Sciences BSc. from Bristol, and am fascinated by geopolitical prediction, once placing 57th in the world in a GJP ‘superforecasting’ challenge. Outside all this I love cycling, coffee, meditation, aimlessly reading, wandering around London with headphones on, and being an armchair fan of football, rugby, boxing, and MMA. In the future I wish to work on projects of genuine meaning and value, wherever I might find them.
Contact me with questions, ideas, feedback, etc!
George Howlett | Rāga Junglism rāga – ‘that which colours the mind’ everything here will remain ad-free and open access
George Howlett | Rāga Junglism
rāga – ‘that which colours the mind’
everything here will remain ad-free and open access