Every now and then, one of a kind music is discovered. About a year ago, one such musician popped up and has been a fine addition to my iTunes library. Prem Joshua offers a new blend of world music that is both peaceful and enjoyable at the same time. With his band that is made up of talented musicians; Raul Sengupta, Satgyan Fukuda, Nico di Battista, Runa Rizvi and Hina Sarojini, they bring a bright light into the often crowded music space. To sate my curiosity, I reached out to Prem Joshua to learn more about his adventure and views on the craft.
It was a natural part of life for this musician. “It never felt like it was my decision in the first place. Music has an immense power. Once you deeply enter into the world of music, it is music that takes you, not vice versa. It is not your choice! The more I learned about Indian music, the more the passion developed in me to let it melt with my European roots. Crossover or fusion music is a very natural process for me. It simply reflects my life as a world citizen.”
To date, Prem Joshua has amassed a staggering collection of great tunes. I asked if he could share a few of his most memorable. “All my albums reflect a certain time period in my development as a musician. The albums ‘Shiva Moon,’ ‘Sky Kisses Earth’ and ‘Water Down the Ganges’ might be my bestsellers, but my personal favorites are still ‘Dance of Shakti’ and ‘Luminous Secrets.’ Why? They simply were fantastic collaborations with great international musicians. Things came together the right way. It is a satisfaction that is not counted in sales figures or any outer recognition but within you [to] just feel humility and pride at the same time.”
Performing remains to be his greatest thrill. “This is the continuous risk and beauty of playing live music: no matter how prepared you are, you never know how the concert will go! There are some shows where magic simply happens. There is an energy circle between the musicians and the audience, it seems like the entire venue falls in sync. Everyone seems to take a bath in music and smiles come naturally. You cannot forcibly create this. It is a happening.”
Despite his successful career, he often finds moments to criticize and reflect on the state of world and its relationship with music. “Over the years, living the life of a traveling musician, I have become more and more aware of the immense power of music. It can really bring us together; give us joy, peace and a glimpse of our true inner being. Sometimes when we travel around the world for our concerts and we have passed yet another security check at yet another border after yet another sleepless night on a plane, then I ask myself; why don’t we just stay at home? Everywhere we travel the world seems in a hopeless state of division. The dream of an open and grown up world where different cultures are being shared rather than feared seems to remain a far away utopia. Then you can imagine the joy I feel when in a concert I can see an Arab sheik in a white robe sitting next to an American in a suit, who again sits next to an Indian lady in a colorful sari, all of them taken by the music, swaying. I can see their eyes shine; I can see a smile on their lips. These are the moments when I feel so tremendously happy that words fail to express the gratitude that arises in me! Yes, I can see it is possible! Deep down we are not divided, we are all just human beings! We want to be one! Our longing for this unity suddenly becomes reality and easily [seen] in this very moment. Yet again the power of music has done its magic! These are the moments worth all the trouble. Sharing this magic but also the arduous life on tour with my fellow musicians is an incredible experience of friendship that I don’t want to miss.”
On that note, performances themselves are often not ideal. I asked if there were any in particular that stood out in his mind. “It was in Thailand. We were supposed to play in a huge and completely packed hall. The sound vendor provided the best sound equipment but none of his staff had a clue how to use it! We ended up mixing our own sound; don’t ask me how we did it! But we did it! Just imagine you have to fly an airplane without a pilot! Somehow you manage to land and nobody even realizes what happened!”
The music industry as whole is a varied and wild place. Prem Joshua shared his thoughts. “The louder, the more plastic, the more bombastic and it sells! It seems like people are craving for fakes like they crave for McDonald’s food. Especially in India the music culture is bulldozed over by Bollywood. It has become the national anthem; it is synonymous with ‘being Indian.’ Strangely, Bollywood is mainly stolen western music! Musically it has become less and less Indian. Okay, let’s stop here! More thoughts would fill too many pages!”
Other mediums are plentiful for this musician. “I used to be a successful painter before becoming a professional musician. Maybe I might end up as a writer? As I said before, it is not my decision, let music decide!” Progress in his medium remains strong. “With my band of international musicians we are constantly trying to move on, change our music. Once music becomes static it is dead. Music has to re-invent itself all the time.”
To end, I asked Prem Joshua about his plans for the rest of the day. “After my riyaz, my musical practice, I give interviews like this one. Ha-Ha! Then I will be having dinner.” Simple and sweet, I love it. There you have it folks, Prem Joshua in all his rich music theory. Give a listen to his breadth of work and become inspired. His music is perfect for thinking and breaching social barriers. We always need that.