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The sound of music

Gilles de La Buharaye, a visually-impaired French musician and sculptor, was on a visit to the State to learn more about its rich musical traditions.


SOUNDS ARE like colours for Gilles de La Buharaye.

Music has no barriers and it is life itself, says Buharaye. To hear, enjoy and learn ethnic music traditions, Buharaye has travelled to many countries. Now he is in India, a land where, Buharaye says, music plays an important role in everyday life.

At the age of nine, due to an illness, the world of colours was lost to Buharaye. It was like a rebirth and he started to experience life anew from the captivating sounds of nature. In the school for visually impaired where Buharaye studied, he was introduced to the piano. For hours together did he play the instrument, exploring the world of music.

By the time he was 18, he had become an accomplished pianist. He conducted his first concert at the age of 19. There was no looking back after that. Along with studying music in depth, Buharaye toured all over France conducting concerts. He has also travelled to Mexico, Columbia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Brazil, Madagascar, Turkey, and Israel to learn different music traditions.

Buharaye has a good collection of musical instruments collected from different parts of the world. And he loves playing his Iranian santoor and Indian sitar. Music is sacred and it ends only when it is separated from life, says Buharaye. "The universal nature of music is that it conveys the unique aspects of respective cultures," he says.

`Kalam', a music album brought out by Buharaye's troupe in 2002, was an instant hit. Laure Donnat, a noted singer in France, gave voice, and Pierre Fayolle and Jan van Naeltwiick accompanied on the double bass and bugle respectively. Though his debut album was a success, Buharaye is not ready to bring out more titles for the sake of commercial success. "Music is a passion for me and I just can't bring out albums one after another, unlike many of my contemporaries," he says.

"I am against commercial fusion in music albums. I would rather call it confusion than fusion," says Buharaye.

Indians still have music in their life, unlike Europeans whose lives have become too mechanical, observes Buharaye.

"In India, every thing is musical, from the songs of women flower vendors of Tamil Nadu to the reading of religious texts and the chanting of mantras in temples. The wide range of percussion instruments of Kerala is proof of the rich tradition of a culture closely associated with music," he says.

During his tours, Buharaye records sounds from his surroundings, which, he says, are for him like photographs. "I have a large collection of real life sounds from India, including those from the local markets of Pondicherry, chanting of mantras from temples of Karnataka and the percussion music of Kerala," says Buharaye.

Apart from music, Buharaye's interest lies in sculpture. Chroniques de la Terre, his studio at Avignon in France, is his workstation for sculpture and music. There, he gives training in both the arts to the local people.

Next year, Buharaye plans to conduct a concert in Bangalore. Then he plans to visit Kerala to learn about the traditional Kerala music. Buharaye's friend, Nathalie, who works as a Public Relations Officer in France, accompanies him on these tours.

M. S. VIDYANANDAN

Photo: S. Mahinsha

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