Pierre Flasse: International Endeavours Part 1 – India the land of hopes, expectations and music

Harness back to just over a year ago and I was finishing off my masters in composition in Manchester wondering what my next steps would be. I was stuck between two decisions: to commence my professional career working, writing and performing in Manchester, or to change things up, move around and learn something new. In the back of my mind, I had decided a while ago to have a break and to visit India for a little holiday. However, on some reflection, this gradually developed into a fully-fledged plan. I would leave for India, get some inspiration from the local cultures, spirituality, and music as a break before coming back to the UK. In one sense, this was either a great or terrible decision – to halt the professional development in the UK was a risk from the allure of the East. Was I putting off my career? Was this a bad decision? Was it naïve to expect a result from so little preparation? A lot of these questions were running through my head. At this point and really until a lot later, my hopes, expectations, and plans for this trip were scrambled.

I set out on this trip with no plans at all, nothing confirmed aside from taking my pBone (travelling to India with my actual trombone might not have been such a good idea). However, deciding to leave with nothing confirmed made me feel uneasy. As much as it was a ‘break’ away, I wanted to pursue some musical experiences. I found an organisation online called Sound Travels that helped organise workshops in Rajasthan with local folk musicians. I emailed and organised a week of workshops in June, without really knowing what I would do, bring, or play with them. More than this, I didn’t know what I should do, bring or play – my musical style suddenly felt bereft and insincere. With all this in mind and only one thing planned – I left.

In hindsight, it was incredibly naïve just to arrive and expect things to work out. It was a huge learning curve just arriving in the country, but perhaps one that I needed to go through. I began with what I knew: I found a jazz night in Goa and performed a few times, before continuing to Mumbai with newfound contacts. This developed to coming across three different music scenes – professional jazz, folk fusion and jamming circles across the multitude of bars in the city. I’m glad I brought my Zoom H1 with me so I’ve managed to collect a lot of recordings but ultimately managed to meet and infiltrate some fun gigs across a month in the city. But I didn’t really feel like I was learning anything and living a similar lifestyle to what I was used to in Manchester. I had gained confidence from the month of performing and acceptance and was now (slightly) more ready for the workshops.

At this point, composition wasn’t happening for me. I was getting little inspiration and didn’t really have many plans for the workshops in Rajasthan. I had come to this gigantic country full of hundreds of vibrant cultures just expecting things to happen and inspiration to ‘strike’. Personally, I think one needs to put oneself in the right frame of mind for this collaboration and inspiration to happen. It happens from a synthesis of understanding the culture, your own personal taste and confidence from both parties to engage - and at this point, I was not here. It was the first few workshops in Rajasthan, which began this shift. Stay tuned for the following parts where I discuss the workshops, future projects, and developing international relationships.

Pierre Flasse