By Elizabeth Doyle
Dhevdhas Nair is a musician you really have to hear to believe. (You can sample or buy an album here: http://www.dhevdhasnair.com/id9.html)
His music isn’t quite describable, but I would say that it’s a mixture of thoughts, translated into notes that are trickled over an emotional baseline expressed in a musical background.
It would be easy to say something like he combines classical Indian with African music and American Jazz. But really, he just makes his own music, and different traditions from around the world feed into his musical vocabulary as he goes along. That’s how it seems to me. And what’s most important about what he does isn’t the tribute he’s paying to a particular style, but the experience he’s trying to give the listener – in that way that each of us has a message that no one else can share.
I got the chance to ask Dhevdhas some questions about his music, to give us a “musical appreciation” course on his work. And this is what he said:
Me: I’ve never heard arrangements like yours before. Sometimes, a new melody or a new instrument will enter the music that seems almost like a non-sequitur. And for a moment, I feel like it’s not going to work, and then it does. Do you know what I’m talking about? Is this a conscious decision? Are you intentionally layering “thoughts” on top of moods that don’t instantly seem related?
He: I’m aware that I sometimes put different sections up against each other which don’t have an immediate or obvious connection. I don’t stop too long to think about it – it comes out that way, and I tend to go with the order that ideas appear. I trust in the process, which sometimes doesn’t always seem to make sense at the time. I sort of hear in my head what needs to come next, I open to it, and out it comes from my fingers onto the instrument, the piano, dulcimer or percussion, accordion, or whatever.
Me: What are you usually trying to “show” us with your music? Is it something you sense that you can’t describe but want to share? Is it something you know about mentally and emotionally that you’re trying to share in a creative way? What’s driving you to want to communicate with me and everyone else through sound?
He: One of my jobs as a musician is to enable and encourage an experience of celebration, reflection and self exploration, and to accompany an audience on a journey that takes place in the realm of the inner life, but curiously is initiated by a shared external stimulus – organised sound. I suppose all forms of art and expression have this core function, the awakening of each individual to their own inner landscape which is often buried under layers of thought and the noise of our everyday minds. Music does have a way of getting through where language sometimes gets stuck. And there is a mysterious energy in there which, if you’re lucky, sometimes leaps right out into the room and transports everyone, the musicians and the audience into a rich experience.
Quite early in my career, when I was 18 years old, I was living and working with a band in Khartoum, in the Sudan. It was a great band, the most modern, cool band in Khartoum at the time, playing a blend of American-inspired jazz funk and African dance music. One day we were setting up in the main television studios to do a live broadcast, and while still tuning and getting ready we gradually fell into a completely unrehearsed improvisation, each member joining in until the whole band was playing. And something very strange began to happen. Somehow, I knew exactly what the guitarist was going to play before he played it, so I was able to play the same chords, notes and rhythm with him. It was an uncanny kind of telepathy. I distinctly remember looking down at my hands playing the keyboard and thinking “I’m not doing this, they’re just playing themselves”, and looking up to see that everyone in the band was having the same experience. We were staring at each other with the same bewildered expression on our faces, like…what is going on here? It was exactly as if someone or something was playing through us, and our individual identities disappeared as we blended into one perfect voice. It was the best piece of music we ever did, even though we had no idea what we were playing (and of course it didn’t get recorded!)
To be continued…
To go to part two, click here.
To order the album Inbetween and Passing by Dhevdhas Nair, if you live outside the UK, go to http://www.cdbaby.com.
In the UK, click here.
Top photo: “Photo of a hammered dulcimer, taken in Portland OR by Dvortygirl, 7/17/05” / Wikimedia Commons / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain…”
Second photo: Author: Maarten van Beek (firstname.lastname@example.org) / Wikimedia Commons / “The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the author Maarten van Beek and the website http://www.maartenvanbeek.nl are properly attributed.” / “Jebel Barkal near Karima, Sudan, site of the ancient Kush capital of Napata.”
Third photo: Author: Herby talk thyme / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License” / Wikimedia Commons / “View towards Sharpitor & Leather Tor down the valley of the river Meavy. The river Meavy is in the foregound. The forestry plantation is just above Burrator reservoir.”