Q&A with Deepak Ram, a versatile artist of traditional North Indian classical music, Jazz and other genres

"The more we know about music and other cultural forms, the more we get to understand the beauty there is in diversity by learning another culture, whether its music, language or art....we learn to appreciate understand and respect all …"

Deepak Ram: The Beauty of Music

Deepak Ram is a versatile artist who is well known for his evocative performances in traditional North Indian (Hindustani) classical music, his collaborations with musicians of other genres, his innovative compositions and for his excellence as a teacher. Deepak's first love is north Indian classical music. Indeed, he is an accomplished soloist. He is a delightful and captivating performer, combining technical mastery with personal charm. He has performed in the USA, South Africa, India, Europe, Asia and had the honor of accompanying his teacher, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, in Geneva, London and Paris. Deepak's versatility is apparent in his numerous collaborations with musicians of various genres. Deepak's knowledge of both Indian and western traditions is evident in his compositions which range from pieces for jazz groups, western flute quartets (flute, violin, viola and cello), choral works and ballets to orchestral pieces.

His work 'SURYA' for classical guitar and bansuri, commissioned by the award-winning guitarist Mesut Özgen was premiered at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Deepak is currently working on music for bansuri and string quartet. One of Deepak's fortes is his ability to communicate his knowledge, making him an excellent teacher. Most recently, he served as visiting professor in Indian Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He lectured full time for four years at the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa, and has conducted many workshops in Indian music in the USA, UK, Ireland and South Africa. He also has several publications to his credit, including an instruction booklet, “Harmonium Made Easy”.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Jazz and World music & culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you've taken?

I grew up in a household where Jazz, Indian classical were played constantly, all I remember that this excited me a lot as a child, and made me realize then, that beauty that is so diverse, and music clearly shows this. Much later, as a professional musician I get to travel and experience this beauty in all its diverse forms.

How do you describe Deepak Ram sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

I’m basically an exponent of Indian Classical music, but over the past 12 years have taken a keen study of jazz. My performances are now Traditional Indian Classical music (with Flute and tabla) and I also work with a trio (double bass, hand percussion and flute) where I play originals, and some jazz standards that I interpret and negotiate the chord changes using aesthetics of Indian music.

What were the reasons that you started the spiritual researches and Jazz/World music experiments?

Improvisation is paramount for me, because it allows me to try and create something new each time, and this reflects life, where with whatever parameters you are given, you try and create something unique Jazz and Indian music and other improvised music forms allows one to be a 'creator'.

"I miss been supported by a record company and also much work that session recordings provided, which was so diverse. My fears are that nowadays people do not have the attention span to discern good art, since everything is now instant."

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My teachers have been the most influential to me, but also my two older brothers who are musicians. The best advice I got from my main teacher (Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia) who instilled in me the habit of daily practice of fundamentals, to always practice the most basic things like scales, exercises and to always search for the perfect tone and sound.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you'd like to share with us?

Many years ago, I played in a Band in South Africa called (tananas) and we opened for Sting in 11 gigs, this was the first time I played for huge crowds, which was interesting, I also played with my teacher (Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia) in concerts in London. Geneva, Paris … Playing for Nelson Mandela on Robben Island in the year 2000 was a highlight too, and playing for children is always a treat.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss been supported by a record company and also much work that session recordings provided, which was so diverse. My fears are that nowadays people do not have the attention span to discern good art, since everything is now instant.

What is the biggest revolution which can be realized today? What do you think the major changes will be in near or far future of the world?

That we are one species, each individual is part of a collective and only by realizing this, can we move on to take care of our 'small' home called earth.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Let CD's and Record stores come back, let Record Companies for genres thrive again!!

"Improvisation is paramount for me, because it allows me to try and create something new each time, and this reflects life, where with whatever parameters you are given, you try and create something unique Jazz and Indian music and other improvised music forms allows one to be a 'creator'."

What is the impact of Jazz and World music and culture on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

The more we know about music and other cultural forms, the more we get to understand the beauty there is in diversity by learning another culture, whether its music, language or art...we learn to appreciate understand and respect all …

Let's take a trip with a time machine. so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

 I would love to go to the renaissance period, to Florence, Italy and spend a day with Leonardo Da Vinci.

Deepak Ram - Official website

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