“The effect of this style is so deep that even when I play fusion; each note and each line somehow gets affected by 'dhrupad'. It happens unconsciously and naturally. Whether I am on tour with a jazz band, a world music band or a church organ player, I begin with ‘dhrupad’ practice,” says Georg Gratzer, an Austrian artiste, who has been learning ‘dhrupad’, a genre of Indian classical music, since 2009 from the Gundecha Brothers, the leading exponents of this ancient vocal form of music.
Gratzer is in the city till March, finalising details of his yet-to-be-named album, which is slated to launch in India by December 2012. “It is too early to reveal other details. All I can say is that I will be launching the album in collaboration with Mumbai-based Kanakia Art Foundation (KAF). The music will be fusion that is inspired by my journeys through Europe, South America and Asia,” he adds. During this visit, Gratzer and KAF intend to begin the promotional work, besides meeting musicians, composing new music and recording sessions. Having witnessed the Pune Jazz Festival and the recently concluded Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, he says that Pune’s passion and understanding of music is very strong.
Gratzer is the founder and leader of various ensembles, including Amridan (world music), Carysfort Stories (contemporary pop) and Balg-und Holzgebläse. He also plays with Beefolk, Trio de Janeiro, Timna Brauer’s ‘Mozart Anders’, the Nenad Vasilic Balkan Band, Berndt Luefs Jazztett Forum Graz and 4 DP. The artiste has played in famous jazz and world music festivals across the world, including places like Paris, Odessa, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Vienna, Warsaw, Bratislava, Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Munich, London, Peking and Hong Kong.
Gratzer was always fascinated with the style of the Gundecha Brothers at Gurukul in Bhopal. He first saw their performance at the Doverlane Festival, Kolkata in 2008. Studying music from them was a fortunate and blissful experience, he says. The artiste admits that ‘dhrupad’ has changed and expanded the horizons of his musical awareness. “The style inspires and enables you to open your ears, to hear and experience new sounds, intervals, melodies and emotions regardless of what kind of music you play. At Gurukul, I understood that raga-based music has a lot of melodic tension and release without using harmonies or chord progressions,” he adds.
While teaching Gratzer, the Gundecha Brothers tried to expose the most subtle nuances of the Indian music that they practice in 'dhrupad' singing, says Ramakant Gundecha. “Since he is already deeply connected with western music, he could grasp and realise the intensity of ‘swar’ and ‘shruti’ in dhrupad music,” adds Umakant Gundecha.
Interestingly, Gratzer can play a number of musical instruments that include soprano, alto and tenor saxophone, Bb soprano, alto and bass clarinets, transverse flute, alto flute, Dizi (a wooden flute from traditional Chinese music), HuLuSi (a Chinese metal instrument), Didgeridoo (the traditional musical instrument of the North Australian aboriginals) and Zampoña (a panpipe from the Mid Andes) to name a few. He always travels with a few of his instruments. “Whenever I come across an artiste who is an expert in an instrument that I don’t know how to play, I request him/her to teach it to me. If they are interested, I also share my knowledge of the instruments that I play. Even if we don’t understand each other’s language, we connect through music,” he says.