Introduction to Khushboo project
TITI ROBIN (composition, guitar, buzuk)
MURAD ALI KHAN (sarangi)
GULABO SAPERA (sapera dance from Rajasthan)
MAHUA SHANKAR (kathak dance)
SHUHEB HASAN and ZOHAIB HASAN (vocal)
AMAAN ALI KHAN (tabla)
DINO BANJARA (percussions)
Sarangi master Murad Ali Khan and French composer Titi Robin have been working together on joint artistic projects for the last ten years, from the first recording of Laal Asmaan in Bombay (Blue Frog Label) to the international show Les Rives until the last album Rebel Diwana produced in Belgium. Padma Shri Gulabo Sapera and Titi Robin began their collaboration in the early 90s with the Gitans album, the first of a long series of recording, videos and numerous tours around the globe. Murad Ali Khan had the rich idea a few months ago to reunite on stage the eminent representative of the Rajasthan dance sapera with one of the brilliant stars of kathak classical dance, Mahua Shankar.
From this original and innovative meeting, motivated by the pleasure of exchange and sharing, was born this color of the emotion and this « khushboo » (perfume) of the soul that the artistic languages have for mission to create and transmit.
The artists then decided to continue the adventure and offer this show on the roads of India and the World.
Around Mahua Shankar (kathak dance), Gulabo Sapera (sapera dance), Murad Ali Khan (sarangi) and Titi Robin (compositions, bouzoug, guitar), are gathered Shuheb Hasan and Zohaib Hasan (songs), Dino Banjara (percussion) and Amaan Ali Khan (tabla). It is a show that is both adventurous and radical in its taking of aesthetic risks and deeply aware of the strength that respect can bring not from the form but from the spirit of the masters of tradition.
INTERVIEW (March 2019)
TITI ROBIN AND INDIAN CULTURE
1. What drew you to the music industry? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I decided to be professional musician when I realized that my intimate expression of life through art was understood by people around me, as if it was my duty to talk not only for me but also for others.
The source of art is a mistery, my inspiration is not my property, it goes through me, and my work is, humbly, to give a form to that river, that wave, it could be painting, cinema, …, it is music: composition, musical direction, interpretation and improvisation, and also poetry. My sound is a reflection of my soul, the sky that I see when I close my eyes. When I improvise or compose, I feel like I was writing poetry. As a poet who fights to find the good word, the right metaphor, I try to fond the right sound who will perfume the silence when music will stop. And when I write poetry, I fee also as a musician.
2. Your music has influences from India. What do you have to say about it?
I didn’t choose. It is my destiny. In the same time, I am a french mediterranean artist and happy about my own roots, and I can see that some of my closed friends are indians, and that some styles of music and poetry from India influence me every day. I simply accepted that reality and tried to translate it in my art.
3. You’ve been to India many times. How did you first discover Indian music?
I discovered really ans seriously indian music through my collaboration with jaipuri tabla player Hameed Khan, in the beginning of eighties. I recorded my first album with him in 1984. Then, I met famous kalbeliya dancer Gulabo Sapera and we worked together all over the world with our joint projects during many years. So, it is mainly through rajasthani music that I started to know indian music. Then, I learned to appreciate also hindustani classical music, ghazal, and other styles of indian music. But indian music is an ocean of styles, for example the great carnatic music that I know afar is a world by itself.
4. What have been your latest collaborations with Indian artists?
For my last project, Rebel Diwana, I invited two musicians from Delhi, Murad Ali Khan who plays the sarangi, and Shuheb Hasan, who sings. They are originaly specialists of hindustani music, but they used since many years to adapt their style with my compositions.
5. Have you performed in India recently? If yes, how was the experience?
In February 2019, I played in Jaipur with Gulabi Sapera, his son Dino Banjara and singer Saway Nath, and then in Alliance Française of Delhi for « Khushboo » concert with the same artists and also kathak exponent Mahua Shankar, Murad Ali Khan and other musicians from Delhi. The two shows were amazing and the meeting with audience very deep.
6. What does the audience in France think about the inclusion of Indian music in your works?
I think that since eighties european audience use to listen my music with those indian influences. It is somewhere a part of my style, especially the western gypsy connection with indian roots. I can say that it is a part of my identity. There is also a strong esthetic movement around that gypsy diaspora today in Europa and western countries. Many dancers in France are now studying kalbeliya dance, for example, following the path of Gulabo Sapera. And since my recording of « Laal Asmaan » CD in 2010 in Mumbai, in hommage to the part of indian influences in my music, it is clear for many people that the story of my musical experience draws a bridge between Europa and India.
7. In your career as a musician, what is the biggest problem you’ve had to overcome so far?
Maybe the highest difficulty is to find a balance, an harmony, between the integrity of esthetic approach, the need of touching the heart of people, and the necessity of earning money due to musical success.
8. How would you describe your musical style?
Since the beginning of my career, I played only my compositions in my own style. I recorded more than twenty CDs with that material. While resolutely modern and contemporary, it has been inspired by the ancient Mediterranean civilization, uniting a number of artistic styles that can be found along its banks, from the south of the Balkans up to northern African Maghreb, from the south of Europe up to the Machreq (Levant). For a long time, it has been the founding stone not only for numerous artists but also for scientists, physicians, philosophers, craftsmen and poets. Moreover, for centuries, the Mediterranean culture has been nourished by the cultural and philosophical flow which originated in Northern India and crossed Central Asia. The Gypsies have followed the same path. For this reason I can sometimes hear in the song of a Kalo (gypsy from south of France) in the San Jaume area of Perpignan the same poetic metaphor as the one that has been whispered in my ear just few days before by a Langa from Rajasthan or a qawal from Lahore. All these styles echo each other, oppose or attract each other to constantly join each other. They have not died out and come through in thousands of complementary forms. As a contemporary artist I do not create “fusion” but I take in, through the net of my inspiration, elements which are part of this mosaic, both diversified and homogeneous, which has preexisted my approach for ages.
9. Your music is an infusion of many different genres and cultures. What is the message that you wish to share through your music?
The main message could be to share with humility but also radicality, the intimacy of human experience through art, all those deep feelings that you could not explain with everyday words and that however are so essentials.
Of course, because there is in the form of my music a meeting between several cultures, people understands that we have many things to learn from other traditions. Nowadays, it is more and more important.
10. Currently you’re on tour. Tell us about the tour and what your plans are musically for the future?
I was on tour last week with my last project « Rebel Diwana » in France. In a few days, on 28th of march, I will play in Jaipur with Gulabo Sapera to celebrate her Padma Shri award from indian government. Then, I will go back to France for different concerts, mainly a brand new party with gypsies artists from south of France, « Ma gavali ».
11. What do you like the most about India?
I think it is the strong live link between history of the country, diversity of traditions, and modernity.
12. Do you have any words of advice to people aspiring to be musicians?
Never forget your dreams, when you will be professional musicians, and when you will struggle for success and recognition, remember your childhood dreams and try to respect them, try to be faithful to them.