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Soul music

Lounge guru, Karunesh, talks about his brand of spiritual world music, to Nikhil Taneja.

music Updated: Feb 27, 2009 13:48 IST
Nikhil Taneja

Your last album Joy of Life came in 2006. Why has there been no album since then?
I worked very regularly for a long period, and didn’t take any holidays. I thought I needed to give myself a break and deal with some health issues. I should release a new album in another three months.

Why is your 2003 album Silent Heart releasing in India so late?
It was actually more to do with my label than to do with me. I had come down to India last in 2003 only, but that was for pleasure. I’ll surely try to come maybe once an year, so I can visit the Pune ashram. That’s where I was given the name Karunesh.

What was your real name?
Bruno.. It’s an Italian name, but used a lot in Germany as well.

You were a graphic designer before you turned to composing.
Oh yeah.. That was what I learnt for three years. I didn’t really like it. The profession was business-like and cold. When a friend started a music label, I went as a designer. (Smiles) But music had its calling.

How did your parents react when you took up composing music?
For sure, like many parents, they would have also liked me to do so-called real work.. like in a bank or an office. I composed my first song in ’82-’83. Soon, I started becoming successful and when they saw that as well as my passion for music, they started supporting me.

What were your influences growing up?
Oh, they changed every year. I was hooked to the Beatles, Rolling Stones and when I was older, it was Pink Floyd. These days, I like listening to oldies.. a lot of western classical. When I was a teenager, I played keyboards in a band.

With such mainstream influences, how did you get attracted to spiritual world music?
Well, I spent some years in the Osho center in Germany. There were many international musicians there so we played a lot of music together. We all had the common love for India, so it felt natural to fuse western music with Indian music.

What made you come to the Osho ashram after your near-fatal accident in Germany?
After the accident, I read a lot of spiritual books. I came across a book by his followers. I was very touched and wanted to experience it. The first time I came down to the Osho ashram in Pune was in 1979.

Your music has elements from the world over, but Indian elements are omnipresent.
I find Indian music very spiritual. It reaches the heart and makes you feel alive. For example, the music from the Indian bamboo flute. Plus, I am very lucky to have some Indian friends who record for me. The sitar in my music is played by a German friend, though.

Who are the Indian musicians you admire?
I’m a big fan of Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain. They used to visit the Pune ashram regularly when Osho was still alive. I also like Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma. (Chuckles) But these days, I am a fan of Anoushka Shankar.

Are you looking to collaborate with any musicians?
It depends on whether they speak the same language. We have to really flow together. There’s one particular singer called Santam Kaur, she does chanting rhythms. That really touches my heart.

Any commercial singers who you find soothing?
To be honest, none really.

You live a very spiritually-driven life. Would you say there is still something about you that you need to change?
That’s a tough question. (Laughs) I really have to think. It’s usually something like I’m eating too much. The only bad habit I had was smoking, which I gave up two years ago. I’m pretty content now.

Corrigendum
In Benny Dayal’s interview, on page 19, in the issue dated February 26, 2009, the song Kahin door jab is wrongly attributed to Kishore Kumar. It’s actually sung by Mukesh. The error is regretted.