An interview with composer and percussionist Ravish Momin : What do you think about a trend to a so called global
cultural hybridization , or maybe to a meltdown of musical styles into an
amorphous “world” music?

Ravish Momin: I think it’s inevitable, really. Let me first be clear that by
cultural hybridization, I am not referring to “homogenization of cultures.” On
the surface level, yes, the blending of pop music with various cultures somehow
leads to a homogenous “world-pop” sound, which can be heard on radio stations
from Taiwan to the Czech Republic to Peru.

What you refer to as a “meltdown of styles” is something deeper, having more
culture-specific resonances. As more and more people from different countries
are in contact with one another’s music, they are finding ways to extract
inspiration and blend it with their own experiences, instead of purely the
addition of a token cultural element, as is also often seen. I think that this
‘meltdown’ is most easily expressed in so-called Jazz, as Jazz has always been
based on improvisation, the individual voices, and a confluence of cultural

I’m interested in taking something of the essence of a musical genre, and
organically blending it with other ideas. This is such a personal experience,
and depends on one’s rootedness in one specific music or not. “Amorphous” world
music in the true sense, can only be created under conditions of total
objectivity of all influences and having no pre-set musical agendas. While
arguably few artists have been interested in this notion in the past, I do think
that there is a real commitment from more and more musicians to explore these

JWQ: Your musical influences are very diverse yet your rich Indian
cultural heritage is strong enough to distill them into a personal universe. Are
you attracted more to a specific culture than to another? What are your main

Ravish Momin: As I was saying, one has to be be committed to a ‘real
objectiveness.’ For myself, I really don’t prefer one culture over another,
though i’ll always have roots in Indian Music. My tastes range from all types of
World Music, to Death Metal, Electronica, Rock, Funk, Classical, Fado, Folk, and
anything else I can come across in the Library archives!

JWQ: You came back recently from a long tour in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland,
Italy and Portugal. Did you have musical encounters with local musicians? How
was the audience there, their understanding, how did they react to your music?

Ravish Momin: We were mostly doing club dates, so we didn’t really come
across too many other musicians, except for Hungary. We did a double bill with
the Great Hungarian-Jazz drummer Balazs Elemer, who has found a fantastic
approach to combining Jazz with his Hungarian Folk roots. The audiences’
responses were enthusiastic across the board, and it re-confirmed for me, I
daresay, the ‘universality’ in my music. Though, unfortunately, in a few places
due to lack of heavy promotion, or not having wider recognition, turnout was a
little thin. Our most well attended concerts were in Portugal.

JWQ: Interplay and interaction is crucial for a band whose members have
different cultural personalities How did this work for Trio Tarana?

Ravish Momin: Oh yeah, that’s critical! All my influences aside, I am also
open to what Jason and Shanir are bringing in, and really the band more than the
sum of the parts. Of course, I bring in all the compositions, however, once
we’ve begun rehearsing it, all sorts of ideas/arrangements/changes are suggested
by the others, and we find a way to incorporate them. This band is very much
about who’s in the band, and I write with them in mind. So finding a substitute
for a performance isn’t even really an option!

JWQ: Do Indian rhythms need a special musical knowledge in order to
understand them?

Ravish Momin: Yes, a little would help. I don’t mean that one has to
rigorously study Indian music to appreciate it! For example, on first listen to
a tabla player, a western person might have no idea what’s going on! They would
just hear fast intricate fingerwork! However, if one has basic understanding of
rhythm cycles and devices used to count time, the tabla player’s ingenuity and
skill can be better appreciated. Traditionally speaking, the Indian sense of
time is circular, while the Western sense is linear, and the African sense is

JWQ: What other fusion projects do you have?

Ravish Momin: I work in a project called Ursel Schlict’s “ExTempore” which is
temporarily on hiatus. This project is a larger-scale project and involves Balla
Kouyate, a fantastic Balafon Player from Mali, the great flutist Jamie Baum,
Ursel Schlicht on piano, Thomson Kneeland on bass, and me on percussion and
drums. It’s definitely more Jazz-based, but is also open to each member’s
compositions and cultures. I’m a very stylized drummer, so I can’t help but
bring my way of playing to whatever music I’m playing, so it’s a gift and a
curse at the same time! :- )

June 5, 2006

[Photo: Trio Tarana].