Guy Buttery(South Africa)-December Poems
Composer: Guy Buttery
Album: One Morning in Gurgaon
Label: Riverboat Records (2021)
A beautifully spontaneous collaboration between acclaimed South African guitarist Guy Buttery and Indian master musicians Mohd. Amjad Khan (tabla) & Mudassir Khan (sarangi), One Morning In Gurgaon was inspired by the trio’s shared appreciation of the musical wonders and landscapes of the subcontinent.
Guy Buttery is a “National treasure” according to South Africa’s leading newspaper The Mercury. As an internationally recognised guitar innovator, he enjoys invitations to play sell-out performances all over the globe. The USA, UK, Australia, France, Brazil, and Italy have all welcomed him back year after year. Guy Buttery has evolved into an ambassador of South African music, inspiring people across the world with his homegrown style at the very heart of his talent and tenacity.
It was whilst Guy was embarking on his 2019 tour of India, as part of a trio with the highly acclaimed Indian classical musicians Mohd. Amjad Khan and Mudassir Khan, that the seed was sown for One Morning In Gurgaon. Remarkably, all three musicians had never met before, let alone made any music together, and before their first concert they had only “practised” via voice recordings and exchanged texts somewhere between Hindi and English to break down the various parts of the set. Ultimately it was this unrehearsed approach combined with the inauspicious and eleventh-hour nature of their first meeting which provided the stardust for this collaboration as Guy explains, “Due to Delhi traffic, our intended dry run was shaved right down to a single 60 minutes giving us just enough time to shake hands, share a chai and tune our instruments. As a result, we went in totally blind to that first concert yet what unfolded on stage over the next hour left me in complete awe. So much so that after our performance I immediately set about asking anyone who would listen, how we could track down a local studio to capture our newly formed trio. As luck would have it, the very place where we had performed that first night had a basic recording set-up and we somehow managed to secure a single morning to record.”
Guy’s fascination and love for India’s musical wonders and myriad landscapes are deep rooted and go back to his first brush with the subcontinent when he was just twenty-one. Talking about the synchronicities of his first encounter with Amjad and Mudassir and the unexpected studio session that followed to create this album, Guy explains the importance of that first trip, “I don’t believe any of my prior or subsequent travels have impacted and shaped me as much as that trip did. I came back a vegetarian, 10 kgs lighter, with a severe case of lockjaw and a deep love for a land, its people and its intoxicating music.”
Both Mohd. Amjad Khan and Mudassir Khan are renowned masters of their respective instruments, steeped in the Indian classical traditions from a young age. Although guardians of their musical heritage, One Morning In Gurgaon highlights their willingness to push the envelope of their instruments, expertly highlighted by Amjad whose tabla playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity. Likewise, Mudassir has harnessed the improvisational potential of the rare and notoriously difficult sarangi (Indian box cello), an instrument whose sound most resembles that of the human voice, and an instrument which Guy confesses to, “Being overly obsessed with.” The combined experience of Guy’s acoustic guitar wizardry with these two Indian master musicians culminates in an album which is as pure and uninhibited an example of empathetic collaboration as you’ll find anywhere: a musical conversation between musicians exchanging each other’s ideas on the spur of the moment and feeling out the areas of crossover with a depth that goes far beyond pure mimicry. The album also highlights Guy’s mbira (thumb piano) playing on the beautiful ‘I Know This Place’, providing a sublime and hypnotic melody which seamlessly blends with the tabla and sarangi accompaniment.
It seems impossibly fortuitous that the celestials and traffic gods aligned to allow One Morning In Gurgaon to be. All the music you hear contained within is the result of singular takes, as time didn’t allow for more. Everything had to be spontaneous as Guy describes, “Amjad chose what songs we would play. Our rendition of “Raag Yaman” presented here was the first and only time we ever played it together. Mudassir gave me a skeleton idea of the raga in spoken word and what unfolded is what you hear here. Everything else was almost certainly telepathic. I was well aware of the intuition and openness in the room that consequential morning in Gurgaon. I feel incredibly humbled to have shared in sound with these two masters and am forever grateful to them both for their profound musicianship, their warm hearts and their spontaneous spirits.”