Playing niche Nordic folk fused with Hindustani classical and packaging it as jazz will raise an eyebrow or two. But renowned tabla maestro Ustad Fazal Qureshi has been doing that for more than 30 years. Mynta is Ustad Qureshi and Swede Christian Paul’s eclectic band that has played a mix of jazz, rock, reggae music with distinct Nordic and Hindustani classical influences all over the world.
The band, which completed 30 years last year, released their 12th album,
Meetings In India,
and performed in the city recently.
Qureshi is elated to have come this far with his world music project. “I am a complete believer and supporter of world music. This album, in particular, is personally and professionally immensely satisfying. We’ve created a sound that has blended all the genres we have experimented with so far beautifully. The best part is its mostly based on Hindustani classical,” Qureshi says.
For Qureshi, for whom the tradition on tabla ran in the family (Ustad Allarakha is his father and Ustad Zakir Hussain, his older brother), picking niche world music was the best thing to do. This, he feels, merged his expectations and expression at the same time. “Two of the world’s biggest names in tabla are my teachers and my family. At times, I have had to live up to high audience expectation. But it is not necessarily a bad thing. I took it as a challenge and found my comfort groove,” says Qureshi.
Ustad Qureshi took to tabla fairly later in life. “I was 14 when I met a student from USA, who had come down to learn tabla from my father. I saw his immense dedication and devotion to my father and I realised that this is something I should do and carry on my father’s legacy further,” confesses Qureshi, who continues to teach the tabla at the Ustad Allarakha Institute of Music, an institute started by his late father.
About the band, Qureshi says Mynta was always his biggest expression and remains his biggest priority and that a digital release is the only way forward for the music industry.
“Everybody listens to and downloads music online, so I thought an online release was the only logical thing to do. Listening to a live concert is any day the best way to enjoy music otherwise,” says Qureshi.