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Interviews |  28 Nov 2017 19:13 |  By Namrata Kale

I love listening to Indian Classical music: Dee Wood

Dee Wood
Dee Wood

MUMBAI: American bassist-composer D.Wood a graduate of Berklee College of Music has performed and recorded internationally with a host of musicians. The list includes Dave Valentin, Loy Ehsaan, Louis Banks, Z.M.Dagar, Samantha Edwards, Salim Sulaimaan. He has also collaborated on film projects with Kabir Mohanty, Vikram Joglekar, Mani Victor Banerjee and Kumar Shahani and many others.

In an exclusive interview with Radioandmusic, Dee Wood spoke about his musical journey and initial learning phases and more. Excerpts.

When and how did your musical journey begin?

My musical journey began when I was a kid. Initially, my parents gave me a little record player with a whole bunch of 45 RPM records. Those records were coloured yellow, red and green and you could literally see that light coming through them. They were magic to me with all those great songs. For some reason I used to listen to Irish tunes as a kid and my musical journey grooved from there which slowly set me up for music.

So, was it the initial learning phase?

My initial learning phases were pretty much determined by listening. I used to try playing tunes on guitar which I used to hear on the radio. I would also spend more time listening and imitating them. I learned music along with school pals in the garage every day, to which with sheer persistence I gradually improved.

We’ve heard that you listen to a lot of Indian music.

I love North and South Indian classical music that’s what brought me closer to music. There are so many phenomenal musicians that this country has produced like Deepu Vinaykram, Bhimsen Joshi and many others. Classical music is inspiring and is regarded as the highest musical on this planet. It’s one of the most sophisticated systems of rhythm and melody.

I personally have worked with classical singers like Dhanashree Pandit Rai who specialises in Thumri and Vasundhara V, an Indian based singer who sings western music. 

The popularity of Jazz is diminishing in India. What according to you are the reasons for the same?

Jazz isn’t for everybody; it’s for a certain type of listeners. Jazz is for those with certain kind of exposure to art, culture and travel. It’s a niche market we do not expect everybody to love it. But there are enough people collectively in the world that create a substantial scene for practicing this scene. Also now with the internet, we can connect with our audience at a much deeper level. We are using the internet to expand our network and we are trying to get a lot of people to come to India to play with us. But overall jazz music is not popular in India.

You also teach Jazz at Whistling Woods International.

Whistling Woods has provided us with an extraordinary opportunity to create an artistic community and that to not with just musicians but also filmmakers, writers, actors and technicians. It’s such a conducive environment filled with creativity and innovation. I feel like I have done some of the most substantial personal growth being associated with Whistling Woods. Thanks to Subhash Ghai for providing an incredible opportunity for musicians.

When did you fall in love with India?

I was working on my masters while doing musical research. I came to India thinking I would stay here for six months but India had other plans for me, my fascination with Indian music and Indian culture really took hold here. I started getting great opportunities, while I travelled and learned a lot. I found life so much more fascinating in India that I did not go back in my own country. It wasn’t an easy journey but definitely a satisfying one. I have learned a lot while teaching; overall my journey in India has turned out to be an amazing one.  I feel India is my adopted home.

You’re the co-founder of the Bombay Jazz Club.

We wanted to bring in a community of people who could play music together on regular basis. Performance is so important in terms of growing as an artiste as far as growing our audiences and to flex our creative muscles. Bombay jazz club has been around here for five years and we have interacted with hundreds of musicians from all over India, all over the world. Music is improving and every year we get more people coming to learn.  Jazz was something that didn’t exist in this city (Mumbai) at least till I knew. Eventually, we bound up with likeminded people and with Whistling Woods who entrusted this beautiful idea and believed in us.”