The Sound of Home

Suanshu Khurana

Saran, who went to Berklee in Boston to learn jazz, music theory and production, has in the last decade written music that has merged modern jazz with neo-soul, and rock with classical and contemporary Indian music. (Express Photo)

If one has to go by the tightly-knit soundscape of New York-based jazz guitarist Shubh Saran’s recent single Becoming, from his new eponymous EP, it is an example in recordings that sound instinctive and spontaneous. However, the rehearsals that go into it, in this case with Saran’s seven-piece band, are rigorous and a tough grind. While modern jazz and Indian classical music have always been a more explicit part of Saran’s music in the past, Becoming has him revisit the music that he grew up on — mostly punk rock, metal and rock of the new millennium — from bands such as Blink-182, Sum 41, and Green Day among others. “Becoming is about growth and embracing your past. I wanted to convey the idea that when you reach a stage where you are comfortable as a person and musician, many things are put away. In my case, it was the angsty punk rock stuff that I always had to bury away to make more ‘serious’ music. So I decided to embrace that instead of pushing it aside,” says 28-year-old Saran (pictured) in a conversation from Goa, where he performed yesterday. While he will play at Piano Man Jazz Club, Gurgaon, today, he will be one of the highlights at ‘Under the Banyan Tree’ in Mehrauli, an evening of jazz music, on March 6. Other bands, who will play, include Bianca Gismonti trio from Brazil and popular American band Sungazer.

Saran, who went to Berklee in Boston to learn jazz, music theory and production, has in the last decade written music that has merged modern jazz with neo-soul, and rock with classical and contemporary Indian music. But Becoming has him create musical structures that were was an integral part of his life.

Born in Bangladesh and raised in India, Canada, America, Egypt and Switzerland, Saran moved around due to various postings of his parents, both of whom are employed by the Indian government in foreign services. So much travel brought with it new sights and sounds, which meant new musical influences from everywhere. “Being surrounded by people who are ethnically so different from you exposes you to so much music. No wonder I always gravitated towards fusing sounds. Mixing and creating this ambiguous, undefinable genre has always been exciting,” he says.

Saran’s first brush with music was through Bollywood of the ’80s and ’90s, not exactly the golden age of music, “but that allowed me to discover a lot of RD Burman and later SD Burman.” “My mother has grown up on a lot of Beatles and Queen, so that made its appearance too,” says Saran, who also began taking some interest in music when his brother began to learn the piano. He tinkered with it for a bit but picked up the guitar when he was 12. He taught himself by looking up tabs online and exchanging notes with friends. All this while listening to bands such as Shakti and Indian Ocean, apart from significant guitarists like John Mayer and Jimi Hendrix.

But what always stayed with him was the music of his roots. On his last visit to India in 2017, he collaborated with classical singer Saptak Chatterjee, Delhi-based fusion band Shadow and Light, rock outfit Chayan and Smiti among others.

Saran is now hoping to collaborate with more artistes while honing the modern jazz ideas he likes. “The similarity of the concept of improvisation between jazz and Indian classical music is so similar. The two together come with amazing possibilities,” says Saran.