An Indian Classical Music – Jazz Fusion Concert Musical Innovations


By Anita Kulkarni

HOUSTON: There are musical presentations galore, but amid a mix of genres the ‘Musical Innovations’ Fusions featuring flute and guitar came out like a beautiful breath of fresh air to an enchanted audience in Houston’s Jones Hall (University of St. Thomas), on Saturday, May 25, jointly organized by Sonali Patil and Sucheta Karandikar, for the benefit of Ekal Vidyalaya and Houston Maharashtra Mandal.

A distinctive display of musical genius and top notch flute by Lead artist Milind Date! Milind comes from the cultural city of Pune-India and is a disciple of flute Maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Milind’s style and fusion adaptations are a sheer audio delight. His musical reflections enhance his rich lineage as the Raag improvises through ascending sequences and phrases. The opening Raag Jog and ending Raag Charukeshi were most melodious and so were the theme songs “Cutting Through the Mist”, “Camel Walk”, Bengal dhun and Veda Chants in between. Wonderful accompaniment by Raja Banga on Tabla, James Metcalfe on percussions and Erich Evinger on guitar. Raja is the founder of Prana School of Music and teaches table in the Katy area.


It is so refreshing to discover the beauty in simplicity and spontaneity through rare presentations like this. And what was equally remarkable was that with the exception of the Program-eve rehearsal, the four artists had never met or played together before! World Music and Theater enthusiasts would find an uncanny similarity with Japan’s Noh Theater here. In Noh, the actors-musicians rehearse together just once, practicing their movements independently. The mood of the performance is set not by any single performer but by the interactions of the performers. Noh is said to exemplify the Japanese aesthetics of Transience, translating as “one chance, one meeting”. How beautiful!

A western drum kit would ordinarily have a predictable presence in such fusions. But the absence of it in Musical Innovations worked like a welcome thought that spared the nuanced, delicate and spontaneous musical content of the overpowering heavy metal! The troupe however, could contemplate adding another set of Indian bass percussions, and possibly piano. This could augment the acoustical beauty and add more drama to the presentation.

The concert ended with a flute-tabla Jugalbandi and a hearty standing ovation that followed. So well deserved! Kudos and heartfelt thanks to Milind and his Musical Innovations artists, and all the very best wishes!