In 1977, when German musician Joshua came to India for the first time, he found a home for his soul. He not only took on his first name Prem, but also started learning Indian classical music under sitar maestro Ustad Usman Khan. Three decades later, the musician stands strong with his idea of desi music with a global appeal, while trying to fit in the contemporary Western music scene.
With more than 20 albums to his credit, the 64-year-old artiste’s music transcends borders. Joshua, along with his band members, is in India to perform today at the ongoing Kula International Festival. He talks to The Free Press Journal about his latest trip to India, his multi-genre music, love for India, and how he has been able to stand the test of time.
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about your performance at the Kula Festival.
My band is a truly international phenomenon with musicians from India, Germany, Japan, and Egypt. We perform a unique crossover sound between Indian and Western musical influences. We are looking forward to presenting our new set in Mumbai at the Kula Festival.
It has been over three decades for you as a musician, how do you keep reinventing yourself?
Reinvention is a must for every artiste. If there is no evolvement and change it becomes just a dead repetition of old ideas. Together with my team, I keep exploring, learning, practicing, experimenting, playing, creating new music. Learning never ends! This way even old songs get better and better.
With technology taking over, music has evolved. How do you see these changing times?
Basically, there is nothing wrong with new technology for music as long as it triggers a creative process in the artist, as long as it moves listeners. However, many young musicians fall in the trap that technology can replace practising an instrument. You push a button and it already sounds great. So, why practice an instrument when the computer seems to be able to bypass the hard study of learning music? But, especially in music, that ‘special touch’ which comes only by hard practice will stir your soul and move your heart. Only a mature musician has that special touch. Only then music has depth and it will stand the test of time.
You have connected music with internal peace and actions, how has music helped you stay sane in difficult times?
Creating music has always been the best way to keep me sane! Especially during the pandemic, the creative process of writing and recording new music turned these ‘difficult times’ into such a blessing that I feel only gratitude. The results can be heard on my recently released album, Soma — a music album with nine songs featuring Indian diversity.
You have been performing in India for the last 20 years, how has your bond evolved with the Indian audience?
India is my second home and my music is deeply based in the Indian raga system. Therefore it is also best understood by the Indian audiences. With my band I interpret the ancient roots of Indian music in a fresh and contemporary way. As Indian audiences have opened up they understand what we do.
How has Indian music shaped you as a musician and as a human?
I must have had several previous lives in India. Although born in Germany I just feel at home in India. More than 40 years ago I came to India because I was mesmerised by Indian music. I studied music here - and now I am performing here.
Does a place influence your performance?
We perform all over the world. It is less a certain country but the right ambience, the right attentive audience that bring out the best in a musician.
How do you resolve creative differences that might crop up while working?
There is nothing to resolve, when you work with a good team these creative differences are not a struggle but the salt and pepper! It is a sheer joy to have so many different musical styles at hand, they easily merge and flow in our music, from Indian classical to influences from jazz, rock, reggae, funk, trance — the challenge and art is to go beyond these styles and create something fresh in the free space between the cultures!
How do you think you have been able to stand the test of time?
Over the years I have noticed that our sound is not confined to a certain age group. We have ardent fans with the older as well as with the younger generation. But I am especially touched when young Indians come up to me after a concert and say: ‘Hey, I grew up with your music and I still listen to it! My parents used to play it all the time in our house - and it has completely changed my view on music!’
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