From DNA India:
Mix and match
I would classify Hindustani classical music in gastronomical terms — as being the highest development of, let’s say, fish,” says Virginia-based blues-jazz-raga fusion tabla player and composer Broto Roy. Jazz (“less evolved but more diverse”) is more like an assortment of salads, meats and desserts.
Roy began playing the tabla at six, training under Bidyut Banerjee of the Punjab gharana. Besides learning music the traditional way, he also has a bachelor’s degree in music from Virgini’s William and Mary College.
The gharana’s parampara never restricted Roy; rather, it provided food for his music. His debut tabla album, ‘American Raga’, draws out the inherent similarity of Hindustani classical ragas and jazz: improvisation. “I wrote the sketches and we improvised the Indian way,” says Roy.
He has used ‘tehai’ or the playing of the final segment of a melody three times, on this raga-jazz album, outside of its classical Indian context. After it has been played for the third time, begins the rhythmic cycle of the tabla — a clash at first, then slowly arriving at a resolution. The Washington Post had this to say: “Unlike trendy experiments, nothing seems half-baked on American Raga. The performances of Roy and his collaborators flow naturally, like conversations between old friends.”
“What I really am is a universalist composer,” says Roy. In fact, he is currently working on an album called Dundee Darbari, an attempt to fuse Raga Darbari with a Scottish Dundee melody.
Besides playing with his own Broto Roy Ensemble, he has collaborated with Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and guitarist Sanjay Mishra for the album The Crossing. He also set up an ensemble called Ganga, which has performed Bengali folk music in Europe and America.