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Tabla player Aditya Kalyanpur begins work on new jazz fusion album

The musician who has recorded with Keith Richards and Katy Perry is now working with jazz guitarist Larry Coryell on his latest album ‘Bombay Jazz’


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(left) Jazz guitarist Larry Coryell with Aditya Kalyanpur Photo: Courtesy of the artist

(left) Jazz guitarist Larry Coryell with Aditya Kalyanpur Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, Zakir Hussain, A R Rahman, Keith Richards, Katy Perry – 36-year-old table player Aditya Kalyanpur has an enviable artist resume. Kalyanpur trained under Alla Rakha Khan and has been touring since he turned eight. The tabla player, who shifted to the United States a decade ago, recalls his first American tour in 2000, alongside classical singer Prabha Atre. “That was the first time I was exposed to a western audience. I felt so much more relaxed, because in India, everybody knows the music. There is some kind of pressure to deliver. When you’re abroad, you’re allowed to take some liberties in the music, within the framework, of course. You can explore a lot of things,” says Kalyanpur over the phone from Los Angeles,

Fifteen years on, Kalyanpur has worked with fusion jazz guitarist Larry Coryell and super-producer Dr. Luke, on pop star Katy Perry’s 2013 track “Legendary Lovers.” Kalyanpur, who has also recorded for the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards says his experience working with Dr. Luke showed how accommodating he was to new ideas. Kalyanpur was contacted by Luke’s representatives through American Idol music director John Beasley, and went over to record at Dr. Luke’s beach house studio in Malibu. Kalyanpur recalls, “I was given 15 bars or something but I was given total liberty to do whatever I wanted. And that was very wonderful. Dr. Luke just said to me, ‘just do whatever you want and we’ll just record it and incorporate that’. I feel fortunate that they haven’t even edited it. They just picked up my solo part and put it in there. There’s a complete tabla solo section which they dedicated within the song, so I think that’s wonderful and very kind of them, to not cut or edit or make any changes to what I originally played.”

But the tabla player clearly wasn’t one to get carried away by the glamor of Hollywood or L.A. One of his current projects is creating a world music album with Larry Coryell called Bombay Jazz, named after Coryell’s East-West ensemble that also comprises Kalyanpur, saxophonist George Brooks and flautist Ronu Majumdar, among others. Says Kalyanpur, “We’re in the middle of recording our album next month. We’re also going to be on tour. I’m really looking forward to that.” Kalyanpur names Coryell, Zakir Hussain and his own guru Ustad Alla Rakha Khan as his influences to world music. Adds Kalyanpur, “Chick Corea’s music has been very inspiring. Even pop musicians like Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder have had a great influence on me. I’m not restricted to any genre.”

The tabla player’s liking for world music comes from its ability to break down barriers and become a universal language that brings together musicians of different genres to showcase their own style. “If Herbie Hancock is playing jazz in a world music setting, he represents jazz. But Zakir bhai could be playing traditional tabla, but he’s representing Indian tabla. And together it becomes world music. The beauty of world music is that nothing is getting diluted.”

In addition to recording Bombay Jazz with Coryell in July, Kalyanpur spends most of his time in the States now, returning to India during the peak season between December and March for festivals. What started with teaching assignments at Harvard has now led to opening his own music school in Boston, the New England School of Music in 2008. He’s currently in the process of starting another branch in Raleigh, North Carolina. Says Kalyanpur, “I do this so that people can learn this great traditional art form [of tabla]. As a musician, it’s my responsibility that I make it available to the next generation.”

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