Ramesh Shotham and “Urban Folklore”
Ramesh Shotham, the Indian percussionist master from Cologne currently making waves in Europe, started out as a drummer with a 1970’s rock band called Human Bondage, which he co-founded with his brother Suresh Shotham in Chennai. In those years, he began by playing the music expected of post-woodrock rock bands: much to the delight of the young hippies who were searching to find the spirituality and soul of India.
The Shothams then played music inspired by the likes of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones till they discovered Indian music and the fabulous sound of Indo Western fusion. Then Ramesh Shotham decided to return to his roots, and study the music of the south. He began by learning the tavil, a South Indian temple drum, in Chennai and went on to learn classical percussion at the Karnataka College of Percussion in Bangalore.
So when he moved to Europe, he began to find other classical musicians from different traditions, to fuse music and melody from all over the world. There has always been a global interest in Indian music, and Ramesh Shotham is one of those who has been promoting this sort of music in Europe. While Shotham plays with various artistes, he has his own group ‘Madras Special’.
Practically all the western artists who are now playing fusion successfully have taken time to learn and understand Indian music. Zoltan Lantos, the violinist, for instance, who has worked with Shotham on his latest CD, ‘Ramesh Shotham and Madras Special; Urban Folklore’, studied music in India.
He was born in Hungary, but lived in India for several years, so he contributes a great deal of experience from both music worlds.
The rest of his Madras Special team is equally proficient in both worlds. There’s German Christian Zurner, who is known for his mastery of Indian rhythms. Mike Herting is a well-known German pianist who skillfully bridges the East-West divide. And Sandhya Sanjana, their vocalist, is originally from Mumbai, though she now lives I Amsterdam.
According to Ramesh, the new album is called ‘Urban Folklore’ because this is about city people interpreting traditional elements. The compilation, which was released just about two weeks ago in Europe, is a live radio recording by ‘Funkhaus Europa WDR’ of a recent concert. The recording was done in a town called Bochum, not so far from Cologne. And it was a Sunday morning concert. But the audience was very enthusiastic. The venue was full, and there were people standing in queues to get in. And one could just say that Ramesh Shotham has arrived on the music screen.