Of flutes and fusion :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Jean-Luc Thomas and Ravichandra Kulur talk about the permutations and combinations of their collaboration

“The idea is that we bring the main food to the common meal. I bring my Brittany potatoes and Ravi brings his Indian spices, but we dont eat the same food every day. We change it up,” says flautist Jean-Luc Thomas of Magic Flutes, his collaboration with his Indian counterpart Ravichandra Kulur. You might wonder if they were quite hungry at the moment to come up with this analogy, though.

But Jean-Luc, who hails from Brittany in France and met Ravi at the TFE Festival in Rudolfstadt, Germany in 2013 for a collaborative concert, says the blend of different elements has to be connected. “Fusion can be confusion,” Jean-Luc says when hes describing the sound of Magic Flutes, ahead of the first of six shows across the country, starting with the Alliance Francaise in Bengaluru.

When they finally decided to create Magic Flutes in 2014, Jean-Luc was in India and it started off as a jazz-fusion project with the two flautists at the centre. They wanted to try different combinations, so they took their time to figure it out. The studio iteration of the project included Colombian guitarist Camilo Menjura and Brittany-based drummer and percussionist Jerome Kerihuel. Jean-Luc says, “After that, we took a few months to consider it deeply.”

Ravi helped with adding more Indian artists to the permutation, and as is the case with their current India tour theyve had ghatam, kanjira and khartal artists join their confluence of flute music. The intention is to always approach the live show differently than they did with their 2016 album Magic Flutes. Ravi says, “We invite different musicians and experiment and keep the music fresh. If you have a set band, itll be perfect music, but probably wont see too much freshness all the time.”

Apart from trust, the other connection the two share is their understanding of just how far-reaching the flutes influence is in music around the globe – from shepherds in Niger to the Indian reverence for the instrument that Krishna played, Greek mythology and more. Ravi adds, “Every region in the world has something special to offer.”

As part of their live shows, Jean-Luc also takes to using a looper to sample his flute sound and feed it back into the performance. Although it is in the electronic realm of music, the flute player assures us that it is all very organic and not a staid backing track. The Frenchman says, “A very good friend of mine created the software I use now. He was afraid of the bad quality sound of all loopers, especially for acoustic instruments. The one he made is now used more in contemporary music, to create climate, background colours. It is not the mainstream stuff and artistically creative.”

Following their India tour, there is a packed schedule awaiting Ravi, who also performs with sitarist Anoushka Shankar, as well as Jean-Luc, who has monthly events to handle, a label and a collaboration with Niger-based flautists Yacouba Moumouni and Nigerian rhythm master Boubacar Souleymane. With three months of planning that culminated in the India tour, there are plans to reunite later this year as well for Magic Flutes. Ravi says, “we have performed in Europe last year and we have plans to play there later this year as well. This set up will work, so well have to think about that.”

Magic Flutes perform at Bflat, Indiranagar on January 28, 9 p.m. onwards. Tickets: Rs 400, available on Bookmyshow.

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