The Bay Area is home to many creative jazz-Indian collaborations. This project explores the link between hybrid music and Indian diasporic identity. What is Indian and what is jazz? Which musicians adjust more? Does fusion music liberate one from one’s usual musical self, or does it reaffirm that self? Is there any music which is simultaneously jazz and Hindustani or Carnatic?
From my interviews and observations, it is clear that diasporic musical identity as expressed through jazz fusion is by no means uniform, but two broad patterns emerged: some musicians view hybrid music as a means to affirm Indian musical identity by way of contrast with jazz, while others experience a holistic, blended musical identity that emerges through collaboration. Below are some interview excerpts which highlight these two perspectives.
“I wear two hats. When I play Carnatic, I’m a Carnatic musician. When I play jazz, I’m a jazz musician …. I’m very adamant about that … I wouldn’t call it a fusion. I don’t think of it as a sprinkling so much as a mixing.”
– Aishu Venkataraman, Carnatic and jazz violinist
“I don’t try to force anything … you know, more and more, I don’t believe in that. I’m not going to push it to be more Carnatic. There are a few basic requirements that should be satisfied, but beyond that, music is music … If you have Hindustani or Carnatic training, that is always going to inform your playing and your music. It’s like someone with a Russian accent. They’re always going to have that, and that’s great.”
– Prasant Radhakrishnan, Carnatic and jazz saxophonist
Researcher- Sruti Sarathy