Guitarist/composer Aditya Balani marks new territory with his musical aspirations
“I think if you call something world jazz, it’s great. It’s so open you can do whatever you want, so I’m happy with that tag,”Â Aditya Balani says with an excited grin. For this Berklee student and co-founder of Delhi band Advaita – Balani left the band in 2006 to study music ”“ it also has something to do with his strong association with Indian classical, and its correlation with jazz where improvisation becomes more of an imperative. His need to express his Indian classical roots is also part reason why Balani straddles a fretless guitar today, a skill he picked up at Berklee. “When I founded Advaita with Abhishek (Mathur) in 2004, it was like my first major foray into fusion music. While with Advaita it was beautiful, what we were doing was really good and it was happening but I definitely wanted to take it to the next level with my own approach to music, my own compositions, learning more about harmony and jazz and experimenting with different forms of music which is why I wanted to study music.”
Balani’s Boston-based ensemble, the Aditya Balani Group, comprises trumpet player Aaron Bahr, drummer Tarun Balani, pianist Sharik Hasan and bassist Will Cafaro. While Balani plays main composer and orchestrator, these musicians from diverse backgrounds “step in and add colour with their individual characters.” Sarangi player Sohail Khan ”“ also of Advaita – also pitches his enchanting strain to some of Balani’s compositions, which are purely instrumental, not using the human voice (vocalist Annette Philippe guests on some tracks) in any lyrical capacity. Though on the group’s latest Indian tour (last month,) through Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata these guest musicians were missing, Khan played with the group on their last tour but was bound by other commitments this time.
From ”˜Answers’ (a dreamy track about life’s haunting whys) to ”˜Prarthna’ (a prayer for peace pressed in splendid jazz guitar lines), Balani’s original compositions are more of subconscious imprints than disciplined exercises in songwriting and he prefers it that way. “My writing is usually very subconscious. Some people can just sit down and write. I’ve tried that but it’s very dry. Most of my compositions that have been received well are those that have just come through me,” he says. The songwriter counts Miles Davis, Aaron Parks (the group often covers his song ”˜Nemesis’) and Mike Moreno as influences. Balani, who graduates from Berklee in May this year, says of his education, “More than anything else I think it’s about being in the hub of the music scene which is the East Coast and interacting and playing with various artists in cities like New York and Boston.” Though it might be a while before we see him roll into the Indian scene as he hopes to stick around and play in the States for sometime, with his eyes set on establishing himself internationally.