(Nearly) everything so far: 2016-present
I cover topics loosely related to jazz, rhythm, and global improvisation, drawing on my experiences playing guitar, tabla, and santoor. Above all I aim to enthuse fellow musical searchers, connecting new textures and abstract sonic interrelations to the human voices, cultures, and passions behind them.
In the past couple of years I’ve written for The Wire, Jazzwise, Jazzed, MusicRadar, and Música Macondo, with subjects ranging from Coltrane and Hendrix to Carnatic microtonality and West African polyrhythm. Currently I’m an Indian classical musicologist for Darbar, alongside teaching for Guitar World. Below is a list of (nearly) everything so far. Get in touch!
Living Traditions: 21 articles for 21st-century Indian classical music – in-depth collection exploring how music with ancient roots is adapting to a fast-paced, interconnected modern world. Darbar are a London-based arts charity.
—Interviews: Subcontinental stars in their own words
- Ustad Shahid Parvez (sitar): innovation and hyper-discipline
- Ustad Bahauddin Dagar (rudra veena): Dhrupad through time
- Debasmita Bhattacharya (sarod): nature, gender, and illusion
- Dr. Trichy Sankaran (mridangam): the everyday joys of rhythm
- Dr. Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande (khayal): the limits of the analytical
- Akram Khan MBE (dance): universal choreographic empathy
- Pandit Sanju Sahai (tabla): food, fusion, and family responsibility
- Begum Parveen Sultana (khayal): religious freedom, raga mirrors
- Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya (slide guitar): creation & rebirth
- Pandit Rupak Kulkarni (bansuri): gurus & global flute mythologies
- Meeta Pandit (khayal): family origins of the Gwalior gharana
—Explorations: Indian classical from different perspectives
- Raag Chandranandan: metaphysics of a modern creation
- Tihai: the power of threes: tripartite ‘stories’ in human culture
- Chiming with other genres: sonic bridges to styles you know
- Singing sculptures: curious instruments: ten fascinating timbres
- In-depth Carnatic music primer: South India’s mellifluous music
- Exploring Raag Malkauns: ‘he who wears serpents as garlands’
- Seven days of santoor: the hundred-stringed Hindustani box
- Twelve days of tabla: profiling the world’s most versatile drum
- The sitar from different angles (Pt. 1): histories, heroes, myths
- The sitar from different angles (Pt. 2): some modern innovations
Other Darbar writing: articles, events, projects, etc
- Artist Database: 150+ multimedia bios of our past performers
- YouTube channel: 300+ video descriptions on musical context
- Darbar VR360: covering the world’s first fully VR music festival
- Community pieces: e.g. obituary of Pandit Ramakant Gundecha
- Concert programmes for Barbican, Southbank, & Sadler’s Wells
- Social media, press releases, engagement with academia, etc
‘Beyond the Repertoire’: ongoing lesson series for Guitar World – searching for fresh fretboard perspectives through absorbing global musical ideas, and reappraising a few more familiar guitaristic concepts along the way.
- West African rhythm: Saharan kora harps & Ewe polyrhythms
- Jazz walking basslines: capturing melody, harmony, and swing
- Zero-th fret awareness: incorporating the open string tones
- Odd-time songwriting: building groove and a versatile ‘feel’
- Alankar ‘decoration’: India’s incredible melodic ornaments
- North Indian basics: two raga snapshots, and the tintal cycle
- Spinal Tap – up to 11: their ‘hidden’ roots in jazz, Bach, & raga
- Tendonitis guide: how to avoid it…from someone who didn’t
- Guitarless learning: practicing without your instrument around
- Joni Mitchell’s visual imagination: fresh tunings & cluster chords
- Creative wah pedal use: vowels, circuitry, & classic Hendrix
- Percussive acoustic guitar: techniques & animal rhythms
- FlyLo’s looping psychedelia: bliss, disgust, and free jazz
- The ‘hidden notes’: improvise using only natural harmonics
WORLD OF TUNING
Everything you didn’t realise you wanted to know about guitar tuning…from ancient myths to modern psychoacoustics (Guitar World collaboration).
- World of Tuning homepage: all project resources
- Altered tunings database: audio ‘taster menu’ of 60+
- Guitar tuning onepager: a flexible, combinational approach
- Guitar World’s ‘ultimate tuning guide’: the four key methods
- The ‘impatient meditation’: foundations of tuning in fine detail
- Indian tanpura drones: pristine HQ samples in all 12 keys
- Microtonal tuning puzzle: reaching James Taylor’s ‘stretch’
Various recent events, mostly jazz & global concerts around London (…the spectre of free press tickets helped get me into music writing in the first place).
- Marcel Khalifé @ Barbican: Lebanese folk lamenations (Jazzwise)
- Dawn of Midi & Co. @ Barbican: a Bauhaus centenery (Jazzwise)
- Alina Bzhezhinska @ The Crypt: lush hip-harp fusions (Jazzwise)
- Phronesis @ Ronnie Scott’s: communitarian virtuosi (Jazzwise)
- John McLaughlin @ Barbican: master fusioneer on fire (Jazzwise)
- Steve Reich’s Drumming @ Barbican: spiralling loops (JazzFM)
- Pharoah Sanders @ Ronnie Scott’s: natural revisitings (JazzFM)
- Darbar Festival 2016 @ Southbank: before they hired me (JazzFM)
- Raga Jazz Style: reissue: early, unsung Indo-jazz (Música Macondo)
- Light Shadow Boom Boom: eclectic jazz in Derry (Get in Her Ears)
Collection of shorter articles for Ragatip, spanning various topics related to South Asian traditional music and culture – classical roots, folk forms, modern fusions, historical & spiritual foundations, geographical oddities, etc.
—Profiles: quick bios of fascinating South Asian artists
- Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra and the ‘curious veena’
- Pandit Anokhelal Mishra’s total tabla dedication
- Dr. Kadri Gopalnath, ‘benevolent ruler’ of Carnatic saxophone
- Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Benares tabla powerhouse
- D.R. ‘Veena Baba’ Parvatikar, musical monk of the Himalayas
- Pandit Ram Sahai, fountainhead of the Benares tabla gharana
- Pandit Lacchu Maharaj, unheralded rhythmic genius of Benares
—Instruments: short intros and sonic samples
- What should I expect from going to a Dhrupad concert?
- The sarangi: bowed instrument ‘of a hundred colours’
- How does the sitar work? What happens at a sitar concert?
- What is khayal? What happens at a khayal vocal concert?
- What should I expect from seeing a Carnatic singer?
- What is happening at a solo tabla performance?
- The santoor: North India’s magical, multi-stringed box
- The bansuri: the seductive powers of Lord Krishna’s flute
- The sarod: divine, devotional cousin of the banjo
- The Carnatic violin: sliding strings of South India
—Cultural: assorted snapshots, primers, & oddball tales
- How did Zakir Hussain end up living with the Grateful Dead?
- Why do Indian classical musicians love board games so much?
- Tales of the tabla: The Mughal Emperor and the Red Fort Kayda
- Baul music: the spiritual songs of Bengal’s wandering bards
- Apocalyptic ambitions: Alexander Scriabin and the Himalayas
- Indian classical ‘protest music’: snapshots from North & South
- Rabindrasangeet: songs of Tagore, a broad-minded Bengali icon
- What is Sufism? Why is music so important to the Sufis?
- Qawwali: how euphoric Sufi chanting captured the world
- Joyful experiments: three snapshots of global Sufi music
- Progress or heresy? Electric instruments in Indian classical music
- Early improvisatory interchange: How jazz thrived in 1920s India
- Kathak: the athletic mathematics of North Indian classical dance
- Versatile vibrations: how the tabla can mimic (almost) anything
- Bharatanatyam: South India’s graceful, empathetic dance
- Marathi folk traditions: Abhang, Natya Sangeet, Lavani, and more
- Subcontinental sampling: instances from hip-hop & acid house
- Tappa music: romantic outbursts of the Punjabi camel riders
- Indian communities in Kenya: brief histories and sonic samples
- Bangla Kirtan: how the veneration of Lord Vishnu went global
- Rajasthani folk traditions: the Langas and the Manganiyars
- Gujarati folk dances for Navratri: colourful Garba and Dandiya
- Siddi music: how African folk rhythms took root in North India
John Coltrane left behind some cryptic, handwritten notes entitled ‘Scales of India’. I’ve been trying to work out which ragas they are, where he found them, and what he might have been doing with them. [in progress]
- Which Indian ragas was Coltrane learning? decoding these mysterious scale notes with musical friends and scholars from the East and West
- Coltrane’s ‘global scales’: what actually are they? identifying 18 more of Trane’s scales (“Balinese, Japanese, Persian…”), and tracing their natural habitats
Ongoing project in collaboration with Darbar: 40 fascinating North Indian ragas in sonic, geometric, and cultural depth – new sources, fresh explanatory techniques, and lots of direct input from the masters. [2020-21]
- Hindustani Raga Index: main project homepage [forthcoming]
- Raag Parameshwari: example draft for collaborators
ODDS & ENDS
Assorted musical pieces: breakdowns, interviews, playlists, early writings, speculations, etc.
- What is it about drummers? rock mythology vs. tales of the tabla
- Bullshit Jobs: rhythm games vs. office boredom: book extract
- Global Ear: curious cultural interchange in Bristol (The Wire)
- Duality: Yussef Dayes profile for Jazzed launch show (Jazzed)
- Feature playlist: introducing 300+ Indo-Jazz classics (Jazzed)
- Interview: Aruna Sairam & Soumik Datta (Música Macondo)
- Interview: Jaubi on the Lahore hip-hop scene (Música Macondo)
- Interview: Sarathy Korwar on Day to Day (Música Macondo)
- Harmony in dreams: what, how, why? quirks and speculations
- Rag(g)a Jungle: turntables, tablas, and talas: striking similarities
- Shakti’s ‘Remainder Bar’ rhythms: quick tricks for odd-time flow
- Interview: John McLaughlin on Shakti’s 2020 reformation [soon]
Before music I worked in systemic global dev activism, and also dragged myself through 5 years in corporate consulting (see ‘Bullshit Jobs’ above).
- ‘Workplace Activism Handbook’ – how to push for ethical change from within the private sector (v2 draft on request)
- Assorted global dev projects with GiveDirectly and GWWC, including speeches given at Harvard, UC Berkeley, & UCL
- (…sadly, the student magazine I did some terrible teenage travel writing for has long vanished from the web)
See the rest of the site for more – and contact me here