Arthur Gracias and his Indo-jazz journey: Part 2

The search is eternal and the journey is everlasting.

That’s the conclusion Indo-jazz guitar player Arthur Gracias has drawn from a lifetime of playing music, first in Calcutta where he was born and then in Australia, where he has lived since 2001.

In his last set of vignettes (read them here), Gracias described his early years in India, starting with the Felix Torcato Quartet in 1967.
In this article, he talks about his musical explorations in Australia and beyond.

Lenny D’souza (drums) Michael Dias (alto and clarinet) Hector Cranenburg (bass) Arthur Gracias (guitar), Felix Torcato (piano).

I came to Perth, Western Australia  in 2001.

I always had a desire to design an instrument that resonates with my Indo-jazz music, so  I could express myself more freely with the tones at my disposal  I had designed an Indo-jazz guitar in India but that was unsuccessful. In Perth, I met an excellent luthier, Richard Baker, who  agreed to work with my design and  thought it was an interesting project. We worked many months to get to the final stage.

The instrument has two necks. The lower neck  has six strings and the upper neck 12 strings. The  tuning systems for the instrument vary considerably.

On arriving in  Australia, I was commissioned to compose and arrange the theme song for United Nations Harmony Day to counter against racial discrimination.

A national tour of Australia  sponsored by  the Australian Council in 2003 included performances and lecture demonstrations of Indojazz  in Perth, Adelaide,   Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Byron Bay and Brisbane.

In 2004, I used my Indo-jazz guitar at a concert to release my album Raags Downunder.

The compilation of music portrays the mysterious intensity of the ancient ragas.  It is an expression of the gamut of human emotions, which are often inexplicable and intense.

In 2015, I appeared in a documentary titled Unity in Diversity: A Harmony of Sounds with Tam Thai from Vietnam. It was shot in a Buddhist monastery and screened on Australia’s WTV Channel 44.
The producers said: “Two of Perth’s living musical treasures Arthur Gracias  from India and Tam Thai from Vietnam tell us their life stories and then join together in a jam session with their nationally distinctive guitars, creating a harmony in sound. They along with our many migrants have made Australia a culturally richer place.”

My journey to Europe 2018  started with a recording in Switzerland and two performances in Paris, There was a solo concert at the Mandapa Arts Centre and Babilo Jazz Club with legendary American saxophonist Steve Potts. He had moved to Paris in 1970.
Around 1973, he met saxophone player Steve Lacy and played in his groups for 30 years. Potts produced also film scores.

Sometime in the late 1980s, Potts came to Calcutta to do music for a film called La Nuit Bengali, which starred Hugh Grant. At the time, I was bandleader at the Great Eastern Hotel. Potts performed with us for almost a month and we also did a milestone concert at La Martiniere’s, which was attended by a few thousand people. In that span of time we built up a close rapport which is still continuing.

We last performed and recorded together in 1984 and  In Paris, we were meeting after 34 years, a nostalgic reunion. The musical conversation was very special and emotional at the Babilo Jazz Club  along with an incredible French pianist Jobic Le Mason and his Trio. It was a memorable experience.

Here are other performances by Gracias. His son, Andre, is on piano.

And here’s a track that sums up his approach to music and to life: Brotherhood. He is accompanied by Shekhar Subramaniam on mridangam, Tanmoy Bose on tabla and Tarun Bhattacharya on santoor.

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