Ranjit Barot is the only indian rated among the top 100 Drummers in the world by Drum Magazine, on the threshold of his latest concert 'Transcendence' with the ambassador of Kanjira Banglore Amrit, we take a download of the conversation with the event organizer Rajshekar Srinivasan on the Drums, concept of the event and his tribute to Buddy Rich.
Hailing from a traditional classical music family, why did you chose a western instrument, the drums?
It’s as much a mystery to me as anyone else. I was surrounded by Tabla’s, Sitar, vocals and of course, dance. Maybe going to a western school and being exposed to rock music, then taking part in an impromptu music competition and winning had something to do with it. Till that competition I had never played the drum set. Once the performance got over, I knew this was something special that had me out and would be a big part of my life in all the years to come.
What are his experiences with the Jazz world?
I was inducted into the world of jazz by Maestro Louiz Banks, the legendary jazz pianist. I’m 1980 I performed with him as a part of the Jazz Yatra sextet, featuring jazz musicians as well as Carnatic musicians. This was most fortuitous as I was exposed to improvisational jazz music and Carnatic music simultaneously. We performed at the Jazz Yatra in 1980 and in 1981 toured Europe with the band. This was a huge learning experience for me. Having grown up in India playing an instrument that I didn’t have much educational access too, the tour allowed to watch some of the greatest drummers in the world, thus giving me a glimpse into what the possibilities were in regards to this magnificent instrument we call the drum set.
How is the taal based Indian system of percussion unique from western drumming ?
The north and south taal system is a highly revolved rhythmic system, unparalleled in its beauty, poetry and complexity. While odd time meters and even complex interpretations of rhythm have found their way into western classical music and in the works of the late Frank Zappa, a visionary contemporary composer, the drum set still relies on a more symmetrical approach in some aspects of rhythm. Mind you, drummers like Virgil Donati have stretched the boundaries of what is possible on the drum set, and there are many drummers worldwide who are master jazz players, deeply schooled in the art of improvisation, who play within a frame work and yet are unpredictable. I must mention that the number of drummers gravitating to the Indian system of rhythm are growing exponentially day by day.
Something about Buddy Rich and how he has inspired you as a drummer?
He was the greatest drummer of his time. He had technique and imagination, the two key ingredients at being a great musician. He exploded on the scene, at a time when things were a little more conservative as far as the instrument went. In contrast he was full of musical bluster and a full throttle approach to music and his instrument. This is something I identify with deeply. You eventually play like who you are. All your attributes, deficiencies and aspirations are revealed when you truly surrender to the moment and your instrument. It’s like a veil is removed and what you are and what you play merge. The sound you create is you. Buddy had that ability in spades.
How different is this tribute going to be from other collaborations you have been associated with?
Well, you try and tip your hat to the master and put yourself in a place where you try and tap into the spirit of who you’re paying tribute to. Therefore every tribute is special and different.
Have you been able to get your percussion expertise and virtuosity into the main stream Bollywood.
Absolutely. I’ve rarely pretended to be anything but who I am on my instrument, no matter what the context may have been.
Who have been your favorite musicians especially percussion artists across the globe?
There are too many to list here. Basically, every drummer before and me those I’ve yet hear are my gurus.
What are your thoughts on Bangalore Amrit?
I witnessed Amrit ji when he performed at Ustad Zakir Hussain’s commemorative concert for his father’s, the late Ustad Allarakha, barsi. He was a part of Vidhwan Karaikudi Mani ji’s ensemble and I was just blown away with his playing. The dexterity, clarity of thought were astounding. He is an amazing player, human being and I think it is fitting that he pay his is the one to pay respects to the late Vidhwan Hari Shankar ji. I am deeply honoured to be sharing the stage with him.
Do you think such collaborations should be encouraged by sponsors more often?
Those of you who have been around from the 1960's through the 1990's will remember the vibrant live music scene in almost every starred hotel in India. Those were the days when you walked into a nightclub like 'Rendezvous' at The Taj Mahal hotel and 'Supper Club' at the Oberoi Sheraton in Mumbai to see curtains going up on a band that was the prime focus of these outlets. Every seat in these restaurants allowed an unobstructed view of the band that performed every night on resident contracts. Today all this has disappeared thanks to some ridiculously high entertainment taxes on live music. Today, non off these hotels have complete bands playing save for a few that feature small duos or solo singers. The Lodhi in New Delhi, recently listed among the world's best hotels, decided to step in and rewind to the good old days. They got Goa's premier jazz quartet 'Jazz Junction' to move to Delhi on a resident contract and the decision has paid off in terms of footfalls generated by the band. Jazz Junction featuring singer Daniella Rodrigues, pianist Tony Dias,
bassist Colin D'Cruz and drummer Angelo Colasco began playing at The Lodhi in June 2018. Four months into the contract the band generated a sizeable following, with quite a few high profile guests choosing to celebrate their special occasion at the Elan bar where the band performs. Against all odds the rewind option proved to be a huge success and hopefully other properties around the country takes the cue to trigger a whole new revival of live music.