US jazz band sways to Indian beats

October 26th, 2011 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) Music has once again transcended borders with a top American jazz fusion band including a Hindi track by composer Sandeep Chowta in its new album.

Contemporary jazz ensemble Spyro Gyra, formed in the mid-1970s in Buffalo in the US, has collaborated with the Mumbai-based fusion composer in its new album, “A Foreign Affair”, marking the beginning of the band’s journey into Indian music.

Chowta has composed a Hindi track, “Khuda”, a soul song about Oriental mysticism and love. The album has climbed to the number two slot on iTunes US and the Billboard.

Spyro Gyra, created by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and keyboardist Jeremy Wall, has released 25 albums in three decades. Four of their albums have been nominated for the Grammy Awards.

“This is a unique collaboration. I have been working with Spyro Gyra, a band I have idolised, for the last five years, exchanging music. Three years ago, during a trip to India, they came to my studio and heard my music. I wanted them to play for two of my compositions,” Chowta told IANS from Mumbai, describing the making of the album.

When saxophonist Jay Beckenstein came to Chowta’s studio some years ago, he lamented that he did not have his saxophone with him.

“But you need not be in a hurry,” Beckenstein had told Chowta then.

Later, Beckenstein played solo for two of Chowta’s tracks. Chowta and Beckenstein continued to stay in touch.

“This year in January, I received an e-mail from the band which said they wanted me to compose an Indian track for them in their new album. I sent them a song in Hindi,” Chowta said.

The composer said “the band loved the song sung by Arijit Singh, though they did not understand the lyrics”.

Chowta worked with Spyro Gyra keyboardist Tom Schuman for music arrangement via the internet.

The band realised that the song was about love and spirituality, Chowta recalled.

“They did not alter anything in my composition but just added my arrangement from the top,” the composer said.

Chowta, who was born in West Africa, left home and his family business in Bangalore 15 years ago to eke a living out of music. A keyboardist and guitarist, he composes fusion instrument music.

He has also composed for Bollywood films like “Satya”, “Kaun”, “Shool” and “Jungle”.

Explained Beckenstein: “Tom worked with Chowta long distance over the net and then I did some work for Chowta. We were very impressed with what he was doing; so when we decided to take the record in this direction, it was a perfect gateway into Indian music for us.”

The album has been released in India by Sony Music.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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