In 2007,American ethnomusicologist,composer and trumpet player Jacob Edgar came across a catchy number blaring from a paan shop while trundling across Kerala in a wobbly auto rickshaw. Edgar was on a vacation with family but his insatiable curiosity to find new voices had him jump out of the three wheeler,much to his wifes surprise. I rushed to the roadside shop but people did not know the singers name. I spent the rest of my vacation searching for that song and the singer, says Edgar,who finally stumbled upon the voice through a compact disc among hundreds he collected from India. The voice was that of singer Kailash Kher and Edgar decided to return to India,a land that threw new and colourful voices at every pit stop. He turned his find into a documentary series for NDTV Good Times,called Music Voyager,which went on air this month.
I have always believed that music provides a unique vehicle for introducing people to different cultures. The show fits into my broader life mission of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together and helping them uncover their similarities and appreciate their differences, says Edgar,who also travelled to Colombia,Jamaica,Turkey,Israel and the US for the show.
In India,Edgar chose Rajasthan,Mumbai and Delhi to shoot three episodes. Surprisingly,in the Mumbai episode,Edgar limited his focus on two artistes Kailash Kher and Sona Mohapatra,which,he says,was a huge challenge. While Kher took Edgar to Buddhist caves carved into hillside,Mohapatra took him to Banganga Tank,a tranquil place in bustling Mumbai I think we could have shot numerous episodes in Mumbai and I hope we have the opportunity to do that in the future, says Edgar. In Delhi,he jammed with Delhi-based alt-folk band Indian Ocean,Midival Punditz,Karsh Kale and met Rabbi Shergill but found the music scene in the Capital to be largely underground. What really struck a chord with Edgar was the vibrant and soulful music of Rajasthan. That happened because the roots of Roman or gypsy music can be found in Rajasthan too. These are the familiar flavours that help outsiders connect with it at a deeper level. Our trip to Rajasthan was a voyage of discovery,as we had little planned. We followed our ears and it ended up being a memorable experience, says Edgar,who got a desert and campfire recreated in the back patio of the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur for the Rajasthan shoot.
Born to parents who are artistes and having grown up in San Francisco and Vermont in a culturally-rich and open environment,Edgar found himself drawn to reggae,African music,jazz and blues,and went on to learn to play the trumpet. Throughout my life,music has been the tool I have used to get to know people,make new friends,gain insights and experience a place from behind closed doors. No other art form is so universal and impactful, says Edgar.