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The Indian Express, North American Edition, July 7, 2000

Connecting People Through Funk, Ragas

by Anil Mathew Varughese

   When the Desh Pardesh festival was coming to an end here [in Toronto] recently, the audience were thrilled by a New York group, Indofunk.

   It was an amazing display of fusion music. Indofunk blends ragas and taals from Indian classical music with hip-hop, bhangra and American funk beats to create a unique mix. And this mix produces a music which is both good for dances as well as soothing to ears.

   Indofunk is the latest project of a New York City trumpet player and composer, Satish, who traces his roots to South India. He quit his PhD in Molecular Biology half way through to pursue music.

   His parents came to the US from Madras. Born in the US, Satish grew up in Boston. He started playing trumpet in grade 5. During high school, he became attracted to jazz. He began to learn and play jazz music seriously. He majored in biology [at] Tufts University, Boston. "I loved biology almost as much as music," he says, adding that he moved to Madison, Wisconsin after joining a Ph.D. program in Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin. "My parents were happy because I was already on a career track, but I was not; I felt there was something missing. Madison was a small town, so I was the second best trumpet player in town, got a lot of exposure and opportunities. I was happy and realised what was missing from my life."

   Having decided to become a full-time jazz musician, he quit school two-and-a-half years through the Ph.D. program. He moved to New York, the best place for any budding jazz musician.

   "In New York, I was exposed to a lot of other traditions. I started feeling jazz by itself was boring to the contemporary youth and that I wasn't really saying anything through the music. I felt the need to say something, I wanted to connect with the young people who listened to hip-hop, pop, rock, and reggae."

   To enhance his music sense, Satish studied Indonesian, West African, and Indian music. He broke away from a jazz group and founded Indofunk in 1999. He uses Indian percussion (tabla or mridhangam), the drum beat from funk and the rest from Western instruments.

   Satish, for whom "music is life" gets [a] very mixed audience, not only South Asians. And he likes that, as "I am a mix of India and America."

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