Frenchmen Give Techno An
It took Indian instruments and three
French musicians to save what was a German invention from going to
seed. By incorporating the sitar, the sarod and the tabla with
techno music, Pierre Moitram and Richard Bernet, both children of
the baby boom from Marseilles, have not only infused soul into
computer-generated futurophonics, but also ensured that the genre
goes beyond its fad value to have a glorious future.
“We wanted to bring melody to techno,” says Bernet, the sarod
player, whose first introduction to Indian music was through the
radio. He loved it enough to move to San Francisco, where he started
taking sarod classes from Ali Akbar Khan. Ditto was the case with
Moitram, who, after listening to Ravi Shankar, again on the radio
when he was in his 20s, fell in love with the instrument. He bought
one from a touristy shop and began taking lessons from Pramod Kumar,
a Bengali ustad based in Paris. And in the process, if his parents
told him to get out of the house, he happily did it. “They thought I
had gone a bit insane, you know,” he says, laughing at the
recollection. After all, you can’t make a living playing the sitar
in a country where “Indian music doesn’t have a mass audience.”
Moitram left his homeland in ’74 for an advanced learning course
under Debu Chaudhary. And to finance his stay here, he worked with a
French trading company. Interestingly, although both Moitram and
Bernet belong to the same city, they met each other in Afghanistan
en route to India, which they had made their second home. But it
wasn’t until ’99 that they formed Nataraj, holding concerts in
France and the US.
The urge to experiment was always buzzing in their heads, which
is why when they met 22-year-old Kapi Philip, pianist-bass
guitarist-drummer-software programmer, their music immediately
acquired a different dimension. They renamed the band Nataraj XT
(which meant ‘extended’) and because techno was very popular back
home, they began to fuse the sounds of the Occident and the Orient.
The result: The rules of techno being re-written in their debut
album, Tandava, released under a local record label, but available
worldwide on the Net (www.naatarajxt.com). “Our music is pure dance
music,” Bernet promises us.
We’d like to concur wholeheartedly, for we got a taste of their
awesome music at a Vasant Kunj farmhouse this past Friday, thanks to
Alliance Francaise and Friends of Music.