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Anant Sundaram
Indian music is universal in nature
Sujoy Bosu

The Times of India

MUMBAI: Music aficionados affectionately call him the
father of the fusion guitar movement. A skilful
composer, he integrated the tabla and the sitar into
mainstream music during the swinging seventies.
Guitar Player once described him as the first jazz
guitarist to play complex altered scales, stinging
bent notes and odd meters on a distorting solid body
at ear-ringing volumes.

That's John McLaughlin for you__the legendary
guitarist who rocked the jazz world three decades ago
with his esoteric solo performances coupled with some
of the most stunning classical jazz-fusion musical
masterpieces ever composed.
Born in Yorkshire, England, McLaughlin first began to
receive public attention as a member of Georgie Fame's
Blues Flames. Thereafter, he joined the Graham Bond
Organisation and in 1968 formed his own band. After
moving to the U.S. a year later, he joined Lifetime__a
major group on the American jazz scene__and was later
personally invited to work and record with the
legendary Miles Davis.

A couple of albums later, he formed the immensely
popular Mahavishnu Orchestra, which later led to his
being hailed as `The Guitar Hero'. While continuing
with the group, he also worked with Carlos Santana and
the London Symphony Orchestra. Then, Shakti
happened__more as a result of his need for constant
innovation than a desire to play the acoustic guitar

Shakti has now been reincarnated as Remember Shakti,
as part of which McLaughlin was in Mumbai last week
for the last leg of a world concert tour. In a musical
tete-a-tete with The Times of India, he strummed down
memory lane. Excerpts from the exclusive jam session:

Why did you plan to remember Shakti in Mumbai towards
the end of your world tour?

It's like this. We've been travelling for the past two
months or so in a bid to make people remember Shakti
around the world. Christmas is coming and with it is
the holiday season. We felt that it would be a nice
way to round off the season with a dual concert in

Do you have plans to convert the Remember Shakti
concert into a separate album?

We haven't taken a final decision, but we do have
plans to cut an album. As it is, we are professionally
recording the concert music, and we may convert that
into an album if there's enough magic in our music.
But Shakti apart, I'm working on the music of Monte
Carlo, which is a mix of Western symphony and
classical music.

Your music is more fusion, less jazz. Why is this so?

Jazz music is cool. In fact, it's a bit too cool,
which is probably why I don't prefer jazz as often. On
the other hand, there's something in Shakti that is so
intensely joyful that I don't know why that feeling
happens. It's neither chemical nor a physical
experience. It's really difficult to explain..

Is that why you make extensive use of Indian music,
which is known for its intensity?

Well, perhaps. Indian music is like Indians
themselves, local in origin but universal in nature. I
have seen some incredible players here. Indian music,
per se, has the capacity to encompass the totality of
the entire human dimension..artistically,
philosophically, physically, scientifically as well as
on a religious plane.

With the right player, Indian music can produce a very
refined sort of exquisite sensuality which encompasses
everything..there's a certain depth, a certain wisdom,
a certain intelligence, which is inherently designed.
It is very difficult for any kind of music to
ascertain the depths of the soul, but Indian music
does. In fact, Indian music even addresses questions
about the existence of humans__simply mind-boggling.

How would you compare the popular Mahavishnu Orchestra
with the Shakti of today?

For one, the Mahavishnu Orchestra is 30 years old now.
But I had wanted to resurrect the group for some time
after its break-up. For ten years, I tried, but in
vain. Later, I was offered a lot of money to bring
back the group but I said no. The power of music is
much more than the power of ego. Yes, ego played a
major role in the break-up, but all that's history

I am a wiser man now after going through a
metamorphosis. Shakti is a tremendous source of
inspiration. It has that spirit of constant renewal
which resides within itself.

You also came to be known to be as an actor after
Round Midnight. Are you again planning to don

There was this offer opposite a leading French actor.
I was supposed to play the part of an American
general, complete with a crew cut and all that. But it
didn't work out. I think my life has now come full
circle with music.

World music has come to be recognised as a major
force. What would you say is its future?

We are swimming in a sea of mediocrity. There's very
little excellence around us. But world music has an
excellent future. World music can make people aware of
the different cultures around the globe. Instead of
being afraid, people can discover and enjoy other
cultures. For me personally, all music is world music.
Music has one language, a universal language which
everyone understands and enjoys__a language which is
one of the greatest unifiers of civilisation,
irrespective of geography and history.