Dhruv Ghanekar Readies New Album
The Mumbai guitarist brings pop and fusion jazz together for his second album
Composer Dhruv Ghanekar, who is best known for his virtuoso jazz performances on stage, wants to uncover a lesser-known side to his musical personality with his upcoming album. “A lot of work that I do (for ad agencies and television) is extremely pop and varied, but it’s anonymous,” says the guitarist, “I’ve done so much of it now but nobody knows it’s me or will ever guess it’s by me. It’s to do with how people perceive me and I want to change that.”
“The Voyage” featuring vocals by Paris-based Cameroonian bassist and singer Etienne Mbappe and visually impaired singer-songwriter RaÃºl MidÃ³n, who have both performed in the country in the past, is one such pop track by Ghanekar. The percussion-heavy song, currently a work-in-progress for Ghanekar, also features the pakhawaj and a jazz trumpet. “RaÃºl is incredible, he’s like the young Stevie Wonder. When he came down to India around 2010-11, we recorded the song,” says the composer, as he adds finishing touches to the track when we meet him at Wah Wah Music, his recording studio in Khar, which is also different from most studios we’ve been to. No staid walnut wood and brown carpets for Ghanekar, but kitschy furnishings and larger-than life wall installations are perhaps another peek at the composer’s pop-art leanings.
Like his 2010 debut Distance, Ghanekar’s new album has generous doses of improvisation and a sound that bridges jazz with influences from India, Europe, US and Africa. However, some other tracks veer towards pop, what with vocalists such as Ila Arun and Vasudha Sharma collaborating. “Trilok Gurtu has collaborated too,” he says. “I started putting down ideas immediately after I finished my debut album. So I have a bank for almost two albums.”Â The new album includes both Ghanekar’s songs with his live band and as he puts it, “what I produce for other people.” While the composer-musician is not sure if his commercial music will ever make it to the stage, he’s sure it’s the right time to put it out. “Half of it is purely vocal-driven music, while the other half is instrumental,” he adds.
Last month, Ghanekar released an in-the-studio promo on YouTube where he along with his touring band, comprising Sheldon D’Silva on bass, Gino Banks on drums and Tala Faral on sax and keys, are seen jamming at Andheri’s YRF Studios. “When you’ve played with someone for that long, there’s a lot you can do with intuition. While performing, I don’t even look at them to give a cue. I don’t have to worry anymore; they just know what I’ll do next. With a close-knit band, you can take some crazy detours and they know when you’ll come back,” adds Ghanekar. The quartet recorded three songs with Yash Raj’s resident sound engineer Shantanu Hudlikar in January.
Ghanekar has taken lessons from his debut solo for his second outing and chosen a more organic path to record this time. After testing his material at concerts in India and abroad, Ganekar plans to take the stage improvisations to the studio. “This album is sort of a blue print of how we perform live. After Distance released, during our first few concerts I tried to replicate what I had recorded, but that doesn’t happen unless you are a pop act,” he says. Turning the idea on its head, Ghanekar’s stage act will make it to the album, rather than the other way round. “I thought it would be cool to go and record the same way we perform our music. It’s (the album) a live capture of our performance, so I’ll have to try and keep the over dubs down to the minimum,” he adds.
This article appears in the May 2013 edition of Rolling Stone IndiaÂ