‘Tinctures’. It isn’t the sort of word one is likely to hear everyday, save for vague memories of the bright red, iodine-scented mixture that would be smeared generously over scraped knees, back in school. Aman Mahajan remembers this well, saying, “I think it had a dash of alcohol in it as well.” Things continue in this vein for a moment, as pianist Aman and guitarist Nishad Pandey stop to consider what went into that childhood remedy. That’s what Tinctures, their collaboration, is about, for it means ‘a slight trace of something’. With Nishad and Aman bringing influences that go from Melbourne to Berlin, Calcutta to Bengaluru.
It’s their first time composing music with someone else, they point out. It’s an important juncture for both of them and although they began with little idea of how things would shape up, apart from what they call a concert-based approach, they knew one thing: “We wanted it to be fun,” says Nishad. “We didn’t want it to turn into some onerous task.”
That they were friends probably helped them along too - they met, Aman recalls, at a gig at Plantation House, a venue in Bengaluru. “Nishad was playing there and we headed back to my house later, to jam a bit.” Still, the guitar and the piano don’t always go together and they stayed friends. “It was only a matter of time, though, before we began writing music together.”
It was this camaraderie that found its way into their process of composition, too, full of musical tropes and games, with equal parts structure and improvisation. “We would pick a certaint technique or a rhythmic pattern that we found inspiring and take it from there,” says Nishad. The sound that evolved is an eclectic one, with tinctures, so to speak, of jazz, Western and Indian classical music. “In the song Patterns, we explore rhythmic cycles, I start the tune, he (Aman) follows. It’s stacking and unstacking parts, basically. In Serpentine, we both play melody, without chords.”
Aman Mahajan is a familiar name in the Indian music circuit, with a repertoire that comprises a vast set of influeces, both traditional and contemporary, from around the world. Nishad, who lives in Berlin now, was born in Melbourne, where he studied guitar and did a course on jazz at the University. In 2010, he heard talk of Debashish Bhattacharya, the pioneer of Indian slide guitar and an Indian classical musician, singer and composer and the creator of the world’s first Slide Guitar syllabus.
Nishad arrived in Kolkata to meet him and ended up staying six years, learning in fragments from Bhattacharya and finding his way through the Indian music scene. “I wasn’t a typical shishya or anything but I did spend a lot of time with my guru, in his studio hearing him play or just spending time at his house, with his family. That was a new experience for me, I hadn’t done anything like it in Melbourne.”
Aman and Nishad will take Tinctures on tour for a series of concerts and workshops, before heading to Bengaluru to hit the studios where they will record Simple Machines. Their first set of compositions, which includes fresh co ntexts for familar sounds, some improvised pieces and an exploration, as Aman describes it, of ‘the nature of consonance and dissonance on the piano and guitar’.
What: Tinctures, featuring
Aman Mahajan and Nishad Pandey
When: Jan 26, 7 pm
Where: The Blue Room