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Hear Aman Mahajan’s Soulful Piano Jazz Album ‘Refuge’

The Bengaluru-based artist, who has performed with jazz vocalist Radha Thomas and tabla player and percussionist Muthu Kumar, has been writing his own material since 2005

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Anurag Tagat Jan 02, 2020

Pianist Aman Mahajan. Photo: Courtesy of Art Bengaluru 2018

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Although it’s entirely a piano-based album, Bengaluru contemporary jazz artist Aman Mahajan’s record Refuge took root in different instruments, some starting in 2005. He mentions how vocalist Radha Thomas had helped in creating the bass portions of the title track, while “Leifmotif” was informed by New Delhi artist Kartikeya Srivastava’s drumming.

Even then, the seasoned pianist believed in keeping it just to piano across 10 tracks. “I really felt that I needed to refine the music a certain way and put it out with a certain aesthetic,” he says. Over the last two decades, Mahajan has accompanied artists like jazz singer Thomas, cross-cultural band Mystik Vibes and Pakistan-origin artist Arooj Aftab. Refuge was released last month via Bengaluru label Subcontinental Records and also seems to take parts of Indian, Brazilian, European and West African music into consideration. Mahajan says, “A lot of ideas came together along with studying jazz and harmony and I’m really into this whole lot of Buddhist ideas for a long time and I still am. It basically became something that I wanted to write about and that I wanted to make music about.” Song titles like “The Ten Thousand Questions” and “Beginningless” suggest spirituality, while “Sitaphalmandi” is dedicated to Charlie, a dog that Mahajan had adopted.

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What also became a catalyst of sorts in converting his scrapbook of songs into a full-length album was performing in cities like New York and Berlin. “It evoked this feeling that it was important to put something out as an artist,” he says.

But how do songs and compositional ideas that started out in 2005 still stay relevant in Mahajan’s eyes as a composer who’s performed them with different iterations and other instruments? The pianist says he never delved into self-doubt over early material. “I think what really saved me from those kinds of thoughts is that the music itself involves so much over the years that I lost track of what was really the first draft of that.”

There are five more pieces that are in the works for his next material, even as Mahajan has just wrapped up a country-wide run of shows. Also in the pipeline is an India tour with Brooklyn-based Indian soul-pop artist Shilpa Ananth. There’s also workshops and shows with Tinctures, a classical-meets-jazz duo with Berlin-based guitarist Nishad Pandey.

Listen to ‘Refuge’ below. 

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