Guy Buttery. Picture: Jacki Bruniquel
Guy Buttery. Picture: Jacki Bruniquel

Guy Buttery and acclaimed Indian musicians release album

By Liam Karabo Joyce Time of article published Sep 26, 2021

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It was while South African musician Guy Buttery was on a concert tour of India, as part of a trio with the highly acclaimed Indian classical musicians Mohd., Amjad Khan and Mudassir Khan, that the seed was sown for “One Morning In Gurgaon”.

Remarkably, all three musicians had never met before, let alone made any music together, and before their first concert, they had “practised” via voice recordings and exchanged texts somewhere between Hindi and English to break down the various parts of the set.

Ultimately, it was the unrehearsed approach combined with the inauspicious and 11th-hour nature of their first meeting that provided stardust for the collaboration.

“Towards the end of 2019, I was fortunate to work with tabla player, Mohd. Amjad Khan, and sarangi master, Mudassir Khan, during a concert tour of India.

“Due to Delhi traffic, our intended dry run was shaved right down to a single 60 minutes, giving us just enough time to shake hands, share a chai and tune our instruments.

“As a result, we went in totally blind to our first concert yet what unfolded on stage over the next hour left me in complete awe,” Buttery shared.

Guy Buttery. Picture: Supplied

The recording of the album came together by chance.

The inspiration was more about finding pathways and meeting points between cultural lines and not over planning it too much with an overhanging creative vision in the way.

“Amjad, Mudassir and I simply exchanged messages, chatting about the music and mood rather than workshopping it all together from a distance.

“Not long after, I was contacted about doing a nationwide tour through India and immediately jumped at the opportunity to work with these guys.”

There was no clear idea of what the trio wanted the end product to be. All the music you hear on “One Morning in Gurgaon” was the result of singular takes.

Time didn’t allow for more.

“Amjad chose what songs we would play. For example, our rendition of ’Raag Yaman’ presented here was the first and only time we ever played it together. Mudassir gave me a skeleton idea of the raga in spoken word and what unfolded is what you hear here. Everything else was almost certainly telepathic,” the star guitarist shared.

The sound on the album is described as a meeting of two worlds.

"Mohd Amjad Khan and Mudassir Khan are renowned masters of their respective instruments, steeped in the Indian classical traditions, from a young age.

“Guardians of their musical heritage, ’One Morning In Gurgaon’ highlights their willingness to push the envelope of their instruments, expertly highlighted by Amjad whose tabla playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity.

“Likewise, Mudassir has harnessed the improvisational potential of the rare and notoriously difficult sarangi, an instrument whose sound most resembles that of the human voice.

“Conjoined with my acoustic guitar and mbira playing, the album culminates in a pure and uninhibited example of empathetic collaboration.

“The whole record is a musical conversation between the three of us exchanging each other’s ideas on the spur of the moment and feeling out the areas of crossover with curiosity and intrigue.

“The music kind of ran away with itself,” he said.

When putting together the album, the biggest hurdle for Buttery was the language. T

hat and a distinct lack of time. Having studied Indian classical music, mostly as an area of great interest rather than as a serious scholar, he was familiar with a lot of the structures, movements and associated terms commonly used within the Hindustani raga musical school of thought.

“As a result, we relied heavily on musical language being our main form of communication, which was a wonder to share and shape together,” he said.

Buttery explained how the name came about.

“My tour in India kicked off in Delhi before moving onto a variety of other cities in the country.

“I had exactly one morning free between my following concert in Pune in Maharashtra, and Mudassir had an afternoon sound check for a concert that evening.

“We literally had a handful of hours to capture the full album before we all darted off in different directions.

“That all took place one morning in the town of Gurgaon just outside of New Delhi.”

Buttery said he was well aware of the intuition and openness in the room that consequential morning in Gurgaon and felt incredibly humbled to have shared in sound with two masters.

“I am forever grateful to them both for their profound musicianship, their warm hearts and their spontaneous spirits. You can bury me with this one.

“What people take from it, is and will always be their own experience.

“I do, however, suggest openness and a sense of vulnerability when listening. But I'd likely say that for all music.”

When pushed to choose a favourite track on the album, Buttery said: “Our rendition of my previously recorded track ’December Poems’, is the best version yet.

“When I heard the music in the headphones played back for the first time, it sounded like we had played it together 1 000 times over.

“The sense of freedom in that improvised performance will stay with me for many years to come.”

“One Morning In Gurgaon” is available on all digital platforms.

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