I got into music through jazz records and being taken to concerts. Hearing jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard play an outdoor concert inspired to me to take up the drum kit, and later classical piano. As a teenager I listened to electronic music, jazz, classical music, Indian classical music, and other non-western forms. I played in jazz groups, and created electronic music at home.
However my interest in creating purely electronic music more or less disappeared overnight, when I heard Branford Marsalis’s jazz quartet play an intense concert of acoustic, unamplified music. After this I found myself drawn to writing primarily for people, rather than machines (despite their increased tendency for turning up late, or even drunk, for rehearsals).
Years later another big change came when I saw the handpan being played by street musicians (a new melodic steel percussion instrument invented in Switzerland in 2001). Initially I thought it had too few notes, but despite this couldn’t shake an urge to play one. Finally I decided to take a risk and get one, and spent months trying to locate an instrument, before finally finding a guy Canada who was willing to sell one to me. The moment I played it I knew I wanted to create and compose for it.
Along this path there have been a number of other important musical inputs, which include various global music cultures such as: Zimbabwean mbira music, Arabic frame drumming, Indonesian gamelan, and South Indian Carnatic music. I’ve also had the privilege to learn from some incredible musicians, such as Billy Cobham, Asaf Sikirs, and South Indian drummer Master Balachander. There have also been some more peculiar obsessions too, such as the largely forgotten American music theorist Joseph Schillinger, church bell ringing patters, and various birdsongs.
Finally, in addition to instrumental music, I’ve worked on hi-tech installations, such as the award winning Cave of Sounds. This work has been exhibited at London’s V&A, The Barbican, Watermans gallery, and Rome’s Ex-Cartiera Latina; I also occasionally write on subjects such as music, open culture, technology, and the environment, and have had articles published in the Huffington Post and the Guardian Media Group owned magazine Contributoria.
In addition to the stimulation of the daily technical, physical, and emotional challenges, there is a unique sense of purpose I derive from music. I’ve sat with people from other cultures that were it not for music I would never have spent time with. The combined wealth from all the valuable experiences I have gained from compels me to give back to this most universal of cultures.
Along the way I hope to document and preserve some of my encounters with global music cultures, which are struggling due to the homogenising effects of mass culture. I want to continue to incorporate their ideas into my sound, and record these interactions in writing and video. All in all, to quote the great saxophonist John Coltrane, “I want to be a force for good”.