Chinmaya Dunster reviews Praful’s latest album.
For twenty years Praful has made some of the most interesting explorations of Planet Music of any artist I can think of. From smooth jazz and electronic chillout to Indian mantras and Hindustani classical; from Brazilian songs to New Age tantric healing, there is hardly a continent he hasn’t visited musically.
From his base in Holland, a country with as diverse an ethnic mix as his music (I recall meeting a young Iraqi there years ago who had adapted his accordion so that he could play the Arabic quarter notes on it) Praful has proved himself adept at collaboration with musicians of numerous cultures, such as Moroccan DJ Kareem Rahani, Sufi singer Shahzad Ali Khan and Australian Earth-chantress Peruquois.
In a way, on today’s interconnected planet, our exposure to music has become a system fulfilling the conditions of scientific chaos theory: from a wide variety of starting conditions (at the press of a computer key you can listen to anything you want!) the system tends to evolve on a trajectory (you end up mainly listening to the genres that attract you). On ‘Into Being’ I feel the pull of the two principle chaotic attractors of Praful’s wide-ranging musical heart: his love for India and Osho; and the smooth jazz of Pat Metheny.
While this is an album ostensibly dedicated to mantras, it is the second of these attractors that dominates. As Praful admits when talking about mantras: “I love them not only for the healing and awakening power they carry, but also because singing Sanskrit does not involve thinking about the meaning of words – so even words become sound and pure music. And the music is the most important for me.” (my emphasis added).
From the outset (‘Rise to the Highest – Hanuman Mantra’) complex harmonies emerge that are outside the normal mantra paradigm. And for me the album reaches its climax in the instrumental ‘Journey to Isfahan’, which dispenses with the mantra vehicle altogether to take a groovy ride around unexpected chord structures on sax.
Praful is a virtuoso. In 1998 I remember a last minute cancellation by Hariprasad Chaurasia to perform in Buddha Hall. Praful jumped in to fill the gap and after just a couple of hours practice with Maneesh de Moor, who he’d never met before, pulled off a stunning performance. But unlike too many virtuosos who sadly can’t resist the temptation to fill the silence between the notes with the proof of their virtuosity, he has the maturity to fulfill the conditions of my favourite maxim from Miles Davis: “There’s no need to play so many notes when you can just play the beautiful ones.”
Don’t be misled by the mantra album moniker. There is much, much more to absorb in ‘Into Being’ than a few repetitive lines of Sanskrit homaging obscure Indian deities. I doubt whether Praful would deny it: the vehicle is not the message!
Chinmaya Dunster, Osho News
Praful grew up in Germany and studied Jazz Sax & Flute at the Amsterdam Conservatory. In 1992 he came to Pune where he took sannyas. In the meantime he has become a world-renowned sax and flute player, producer, performer and pioneer, feeling at home in many different musical styles. Some of his albums sold more than 100.000 worldwide, with a #1 hit (Sigh) on the US Jazz radio. He has also composed many of the famous Mantras for Deva Premal. When not touring, Praful lives and works near Cologne in Germany. www.prafulmusic.com