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    Fusion music dead in the West: Trilok Gurtu

    Monday, January 09, 2006
    Fusion music is dead in the West and what is being promoted under that name is crude, commercial and soulless stuff, says Trilok Gurtu, one of the earliest exponents of the genre.

    "Fusion is dead in the West. Nobody cares for it there. World music is upcoming, good remixes are welcomed," Gurtu told IANS in an interview.
    Gurtu, the Hamburg-based son of late legendary Thumri exponent Shobha Gurtu, said the main reason for fusion's decline was that nobody wanted to look out for genuine music.
    "Nobody wants to spend money to go searching for good country and folk music to bring out fusion. People who try fusion nowadays are those who have no idea what is involved in fusion.
    "What we have nowadays is Bhangra beats and Garba beats in the name of fusion only because there is a large group of people from Punjab and Gujarat in the West," said Gurtu, who is currently travelling and performing in India.
    "I am not being a fanatic but why doesn't anyone try something based on Lavani of Maharashtra."
    Gurtu, who demonstrated his talent with tabla at the age of six, is also a master of Indian music, percussion and western drumming and plays a unique hybrid east-west drum set-up.
    While Jazz fans know Gurtu for his collaborations with Don Cherry, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul and Pat Metheny, the US audience first came to know about him as a member of Oregon, a world fusion or jazz fusion band.
    He is also a visionary composer whose musical adventurousness has led him to creative fusions of Indian music with jazz, rock, classical and ethnic music from all over the world.
    What exactly is his music style?
    "I have been doing it for 30-odd years. I think I would just call it Trilok Gurtu's music.
    "Everybody has a free hand to conceptualize what they feel about my music. 'Fusion' and all are mere words.
    "Sometimes it is naïve to categorize music as it is something much more deeper. They cannot fit me in any slot as I fit into all the slots," Gurtu asserted.
    His music, however, could not reach masses and appealed only to aficionados.
    "Though I was received on a high note by audiences -- musicians loved my music, genuine music lovers loved it, the media did not carry it well as it was not fashionable and so it did not connect with the masses," he said.
    "But today it (fusion) has clicked, it has become fashionable. About five years after I started, people have come to recognize my kind of music. By then I had moved far ahead."
    Gurtu said that the fundamental difference between Western and Indian classical music is in "the formula".
    "There is a difference between the north Indian and Carnatic music. While Hindustani is more elaborated and improvised, Carnatic's rhythm system is the best compared to anywhere in the world.
    "But where we lack (in Indian classical music) is the dance part of it. We are stiff and lack emotional appeal.
    "The geography is different. Our melody and rhythm structures are strong, while we lack harmony. The vocal chord is the most important musical instrument for us. I don't think it is for the West.
    "We are the only country which has a formal language for rhythm."
    Gurtu, whose debut album "Usfret" (1987) created a storm, does not have much interest in Bollywood.
    Despite being approached by stalwarts like Aparna Sen and Mira Nair, Gurtu avoids composing music for cinema because he believes he cannot deal with big networks and work styles of the Indian film industry.
    "Some of Bollywood music is good though the rest is clichéd. I like composers such as the Burmans, Madan Mohan and Salil Chowdhary, while today A.R. Rahman is good."

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