BOHP_2007-06-18 - Charlie Mariano - 9
FB: Could you tell us why the South Indian music was so appealing? What was in it that made you say 'wow'? CM: Well, I mean the South Indian... let me say North Indian music is beautiful, I love it, but to me it was a bit more exotic to me. When I heard South Indian music, I could understand it more. I could feel it more. It was more to me like... I don't know how to say this... black music. Yeah, I mean I could feel like the rhythms easier, and there were different instruments involved, and so on. It's all Indian music so mostly it sounds to most Western ears same. But it's not the same. There are some... FB: No, no, it's not. It's very structured, is it not? CM: There are some subtle differences, that if you know them, then you can hear them. You can hear differences. FB: I always thought that this Carnatic music was very evolved and therefore very complex. And that it was so structured that it really didn't leave a lot of room for improvisation. CM: No, it doesn't. When I started to study this... I was not allowed to improvise at all. That's what I wanted to do because I'm an improviser, but no I had to learn the traditional way. I was taking three lessons a day an hour at a time. An hour in the morning at like 6:30 in the morning, and in the afternoon and evening. FB: If it were a language class they would call it 'total immersion'. You were throughly steeped that you were bathing in this music. CM: Yeah. Yeah. FB: You were trying to catch up and learn a lot in a short space of time. CM: Well, sure, because, you know, that's why for instance I know a lot about Carnatic music, but I still don't sound like an Indian because I started too late. My vocalist that I work with a lot, Ramamani, she started when she was like four years old which is normal for classical music. FB: A lifelong pursuit. But you made sufficient progress in your own eyes and in your teachers' eyes gradually over the course of the few months that you were in Kuala Lumpur? CM: Well, no, I was just starting. I'm still... whenever I go to India, even now... or like the last time I went I was there for four months a year and a half ago. I was studying, and I did my first classical concert a year and a half ago in Kuala Lumpur. FB: And this is all composed music, not improvised? CM: Well it's mostly all composed music, but I improvised a bit, too. FB: So there are cadenzas in places like allaps where you can stretch a little bit. CM: Exactly. I was allowed to play some allaps and to improvise a couple of times in there. FB: This is under the strict supervision of guys who have been doing this their whole life. And you were able to cut the mustard with these guys. CM: Yeah. I'm not a master at that, for sure. But the things that I'm doing with the Carnatic percussion people... it's nice. I guess you would call it fusion. Yeah, whatever it is, we're having fun doing it. They enjoy it, and I enjoy it. FB: It's not jazz and it's not strictly Carnatic. It's somewhere in between, leaning on the Indian side? CM: Well, let me say that what the Indians are doing is strictly classical music 'cause they don't know anything about Western music. But little by little they are being influenced by the Western tradition of music, because it's there. FB: Yeah. Uh huh. To me, I'm thinking, I'm trying to think laterally, it'd be a little bit like yourself or Stan Getz or somebody playing with Harry Lookofsky's strings. It's a Viennese string ensemble, they're playing the traditional instruments of Mozart, but they're writing some bluesy lines for them, and they're stretching a little bit, and they're learning how to swing a little bit. Is there any of that? CM: Sure, but I think what we're doing is nice music, and we're enjoying it. So, you can't ask for more than that. FB: Okay. And you've been following this continually now for forty years. CM: Yeah. FB: It started with that Berklee trip to... CM: Yeah, but you know, at the beginning of course it was difficult for me because I didn't have anybody to play with, and I didn't know enough. But then I met the Carnatica people in 1980, and we've been working together ever since. Not all the time, but every once in a while. Like we just did a tour in Europe, and also we did a radio production with the WDR big band in Cologne which lasted a week and a half or so. And we did a concert. So, that's all been recorded and so on. They like that. The Indians. Myself, I don't find...that's a great big band... but I don't find that music terribly interesting. It's too confining. I like to work with the Carnatic percussion people in a much smaller group, just with maybe two percussion players and a singer and myself. That's enough. FB: But at some point, you know, after you'd gone to Europe, the Nagaswarm was part of your... it was in your battery of instruments. CM: Yeah I tried... FB: Fusion bands. CM: I tried to play it, and it was okay, you know, I was... FB: It was certainly a novelty. And it wore well because it was so different, and you had sufficient command to put it over. CM: Yeah, well, I can't say that I've ever played it really well. But, (laughs) I tried. FB: You're your own worst critic. Probably, you know. CM: You know, I mean, that's a difficult instrument. Oh, boy. FB: But you like the challenge as well. CM: I like... yeah... CM: I like yeah.