Sanjay Divecha and Secret
I’ve seen many unique performances at the Blue Frog stage in Mumbai. One memorable gig I witnessed was performed on the pubs concrete floor usually occupied by patrons. It was at this event that I first heard one of India’s premier names in Jazz and fusion music, Sanjay Divecha perform alongside pianist, Sharik Hasan and drummer Adrian D’souza. Years later, in a conversation with Sanjay we talk about how he found his creative identity with his fusion project ‘Secret’. The band releases its debut album, ‘Sanjay Divecha and Secret’ on the 4th of August 2016, this is the story behind the art.
Before picking up the guitar, Sanjay studied the sitar for 5 years. A period during which he first delved deeper into the world of Indian Classical music. He left much of his roots behind during the 15 years he spent as a musician in Los Angeles. On returning back to Mumbai in 2003 he was able to once again tap into the classical and folk traditions that he so strongly loved. He says, “My return to Mumbai, was the perfect opportunity to explore it again because I was now a part of a community of musicians that were very well versed with classical traditions.”
Putting into practice the Hindustani as well as Carnatic rhythms that he then began studying again, the release of his first record, ‘Full circle’ in 2007 was the beginning of his journey of re-discovery. The second record, ‘Sanjay Divecha and Secret’ is a continuation of that journey. With its acoustic sound the album brings together Indian Classical, Folk, Jazz, Blues, African, Latin and other World Music elements. With songs sung in Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Telugu, Hindi and Axomiya (Assamese) it presents us with creative diversity that few would attempt to blend.
The album is highlighted with covers of three traditional songs: Rhythmically coloured with African elements is their version of the Carnatic classic Mahaganapatim played as a tribute to Afro-Beat legend Fela Kuti. The album consists of a Hindi Meera Bhajan called Saanwarra played as a tribute to Sanjay’s country/folk influences. The third cover is a Thillana played in a funk based rhythm with Middle Eastern instruments like Bouzouki, Saaz and Doumbek.
“When I’m arranging music for the band I try to visualise how other musicians would fit into it. All these songs, I made them work with just the musicians and instruments that we had.” Having performed most of the original material on the album over the last three years, the band stepped into the studio to record the album in a way that it captured their live sound. Sanjay says, “We didn’t cut any corners, we did what we had to give the songs the justice they required.”
Sanjay claims that the biggest challenge with such a variety of elements is to make it sound cohesive. Fusion, as he says, must take place on a compositional level and not just as a colour. It is through this mindful integration, that each song captures a variety of moods that will be felt in the journey that a listener would go through.
Along with Sanjay Divecha on guitars, Secret comprises of vocalists Chandana Bala and Raman Mahadevan, bass player Sonu Sangameshwaran and percussionist Sanket Naik. The album also features musicians like Louiz banks (piano), Gino Banks (drums), Kurt peters (drums), Tapas Roy (Saaz and Bouzouki), Anand Bhagat (Djembe), Naresh Kamath (backing vocals), Shubha Santosh (Veena), Shirish Malhotra (Tenor/alto sax and bass clarinet), Kishore Sodha (Trumpet), Ryan Sadri (Sax), Agnello Picardo (Trumpet), Rhys Sebastian (Alto Sax) and Ravi Knypstra (acoustic bass).
Sanjay, in finding his identity through this album aims to inspire the emergence of what he calls ‘parallel streams of music’. Here’s what he has to say, “I’ve been composing and writing for many other projects, but this is special to me because it’s given me my identity. Independent music and other parallel streams of music in India needs to be encouraged and developed. In India we are at the infancy stage of those parallel streams. The dominance of pop culture where people connect music to film should change so that music can stand by itself. The only way that is going to change is firstly for young musicians to keep believing in their dream and for people with influence to support this talent alongside a growing audience.”
With an extensive set of global and Indian influences the album also features the contributions of our country’s best musical talent. We can only guess at the kind of vibrancy it will add to our independent music scene both in terms of repertoire and performance.
Since we love everything about this crazy city, here’s one of Sanjay’s songs, Virar Fast from his first album Full Circle.
Be sure to make it to the album launch on the 4th of August at Blue Frog, Mumbai.
Discover Sanjay Divecha’s music on SoundCloud.