In recent years the world has seen numerous „You Tube Sensations“: girls who look like dolls, Gangnam style and Harlem Shake, epic talent show failures … But these are not the things I m going to write about.
You Tube sensations which do not make you laugh under the table or do not make you want to forget once and forever what you’ve just seen, are rare. In fact, those unique pieces of music almost never make it to „sensations“, staying on the playlists of several hundreds music lovers, who never found enough people of like mind to share it with. But luckily, there are enough exceptions to any trend.
I discovered Shankar Tucker by accident, when I typed „classical Indian“ and „Jazz“ together in search window by mistake and stumbled upon a beautiful mix of famous „O Re Piya“ and „Rolling in the deep“, which already had over million views at that time (and has 2,5 million now).
With this video, Shankar Tucker has won my heart. The American clarinetist and composer is a master of fusion and improvisation, who blends Jazz, Pop and Indian Classical Music (both Hindustani and Carnatic) into captivating masterpieces.
It is not a secret that Western and Indian music are very different from each other in structure, rhythms and sound, and even a short description of these differences would require pages of explanations. However, there is still a one core similarity between Indian music and Jazz – both rely on improvisation. Shankar described the adaptation of two styles in one of the interviews:
Adapting to the Indian style of playing had been a crazy process. The clarinet, a western instrument, is not designed to accomodate the “gamak” and “meend” that is essential to Indian music. I have spent many hours redesigning parts on my instrument to make this possible. I melted down small pieces of soft plastic polymer to replace the stiff felt pads on my clarinet, giving the instrument more resistance and a slightly more “human” feel.
For me, a combination of Indian classical music and Jazz are more than just an esthetic pleasure and a technically complicated piece of music, it is a deep emotional experience. This fusion brings together two different aspects of our interaction with the world. A spiritual side, which comes from the origins of Indian music, represents our balance with the nature and the environment we exist in, and the Western component reveals an individual emotional side.
Shankar Tucker’s compositions are alive: I can hear waves, sand and rain, I can feel the mood without understanding the words. And one of the best illustration for that would be a song, which was inspired by the monsoon rains in Mumbai …