• Thu, Sep 19, 2019
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The Three Seas, an Indo-Australian project tour India this December

features Dec 13, 06:13pm

The Three Seas, an Indo-Australian project which plays a crossover of Bengali folk (baul) music and jazz, led by Australian saxophonist Matt Keegan, recently released their 2nd album and will be touring in India from the 15th of December.
 Photo Courtesy: The Three Seas

“I woke up one day and saw a tree full of peacocks, from top to bottom,” said Gaurab Chattopadhyay, talking about his experience of recording an album in Piramal Haveli in Bagar, Rajasthan. “It was beautiful. Recording in such a place, away from city in the lap of nature, just doing your music. Waking up, recording, roaming around, taking it all in - it was an ethereal experience,” he said.
Gaurab, drummer of Bangla rock behemoth Lakkhichhara, had wandered into unknown territories through ‘Haveli’ with The Three Seas, an Indo-Australian cross cultural musical outfit combining Bengali folk form baul and jazz. Brainchild of Australian saxophonist Matt Keegan, ‘Haveli’ was made in 2013 while the 2nd album, ‘Fathers, Sons and Brothers’, was released this October. 

The common line-up across the two albums include Matt, Gaurab, Deoashish Mothey and Raju Das Baul, not to forget sound engineer Richard Belkner. While ‘Haveli’ saw Cameron Deyell and Tim Keegan play guitar and bass respectively, the legendary Steven Elphick played upright bass on the latter album.

The idea of this one-in-the-world kind of music was incepted in 2009 when Matt visited a friend, Sutapa, in Shantiniketan, West Bengal. “I was invited to India by Sutapa (cousin of Gaurab). I first met Raju in Kolkata and Deoashish in Shantiniketan at Sutapa’s house. We performed at an outdoor concert at Viswa Bharati University with Raju’s father on tabla and another Baul musician Tarun Khyapa. I got to hang out with Gaurab after the concert in an epic all night jam session. It was after this night that I had the idea that this could make a really interesting blend of music,” said Matt.

 

 

The band name is an interesting pun. “The Three Seas stands for CCC- Cross Cultural Collaboration. The logo is a Vimana. ‘The Three Seas’ is the name of this flying ship and we come together on board to work together and travel to new musical dimensions,” said Matt. 

The strange mix of musicians contribute to making them unique. Raju is a Baul, while Deoashish is a native of Kalimpong (foothills of Himalayas) who stayed in Shantiniketan for 15 years learning esraj. He can play traditional instruments of his native land, Nepali songs, as well as dotara, guitar, machunga (morsing) and assorted instruments. Gaurab is a rock musician from Kolkata, while Matt and Steven are well known jazz musicians in Australia.

The role of the bandleader is extremely important in such music, especially where two worlds come together. “The good thing is Matt likes Baul music. Fusion music is generally done with Hindustaani or Carnatic classical music by foreign musicians. Our sound is very different, and he keeps it very organic. Matt is a good bandleader; he allows individual as well as collective space, where he sees the outcome of different elements mixing,” said Gaurab.

 

“I had been thinking about the music for a year or so before we made the album. I researched all the different instruments we were going to use and considered the key centres and sounds, strengths and weaknesses and various combinations. I made demos of basic ideas I thought would inspire a collaborative process”
- Matt Keegan, The Three Seas

 

 

Both albums have a meditative or spiritual element, like floating across a velvety river of sound which is strange yet uniform at the same time. ‘Haveli’ has rock elements and some tracks reflect the atmosphere of nature they were engrossed in. It has threads of daring experimentation. “I had been thinking about the music for a year or so before we made the album. I researched all the different instruments we were going to use and considered the key centres and sounds, strengths and weaknesses and various combinations. I made demos of basic ideas I thought would inspire a collaborative process,” said Matt, “Some of my ideas worked well, most didn’t. We had new ideas, jammed in different combinations and eventually came up with enough great material. A lot of the album came together in post-production.”

Unavailability of former members and the need to make the band work in a live setting led to Steven Elphick coming in. The result was that the sound became more organic. It went deeper into the roots and reflected Indian folk elements more colourfully. The usage of the saxophone is eye-opening, if not educational. 

‘Fathers, Sons and Brothers’ is a gem, concretizing the fundamentals of a new breed of crossover music. Created at Richard’s Free Energy Device Studio in Sydney, it features some guest musicians from Australia. The boundaries of experimentation is traversed again, but with familiar supports and solid navigation, the soundscapes are richer and more layered with hints of subtle imagery.

 

 

The project could only be started after Matt received a grant through the Freedman Fellowship in 2011, but is difficult to run and organise due to the tyranny of distance and members living in different continents. Nevertheless, when they come together, they create magic through an aural experience which is pioneering and euphoric. “Hopefully, it will inspire other artists to explore cross cultural musical experiments that really push and extend their comfort zones. A focus on the process of creating rather than worrying about the commercial outcome will encourage a broader understanding between people and result in some interesting new music as well!” said Matt.


Fresh from an Australian tour, The Three Seas will be doing a eight city tour in India from 15th to 30th December.

 

Check for their tour dates here

Listen to The Three Seas music here

 

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