Originally from Holland and currently residing in Chennai, Maarten Visser and his group, Maarten Visser Trio, are growing in popularity with followers of jazz. In the run-up to yet another performance in Bangalore on 11 June, the musician talks about jazz and his upcoming projects. Edited excerpts:
How would you classify your music?
I would not call it jazz. Although I studied jazz, I work more with improvising contemporary music and like experimenting with a variety of sounds. Somewhere in my music is a link to traditional jazz but I wouldn’t limit myself to just that. In addition to that, I don’t think I fit in completely with the tradition of jazz.
You came to India to learn Carnatic music but quit?
I came because I was extremely attracted to the music and enjoyed it a lot. But over a period of time, I realized that it was not important for my personal musical journey. Also I would never excel at it and become a performer, so I decided to explore further. Now I experiment with sounds so much that I find it hard to define my music.
Maarten Visser performing.
Do you find that India has warmed up to improvisations of Jazz?
I think so. What I have noticed is that in the larger cities people are very exposed to a variety of music across the world; they seem to be able to place the sounds they are hearing in my performance. Cities like Mumbai have an old relationship with jazz, and even Bangalore to a certain extent, but I’d say it’s because they have an exposure to music around the world.
You’ve even done some work for the film industry in Chennai?
Yes, I have worked for several music directors, even (A.R.) Rahman, but mostly on small pieces that they want me to play for them. The requests are specific and there isn’t much room for improvisation. They know exactly what they want. I don’t even know which song or movie these pieces belong to. I guess jazz has found an eager audience in Bangalore and I am part of it in some way.
How did you pick your band partners? You are playing with a new group now?
Keith (Peters) and Suresh (Bhaskara), who I have been playing with, are on tour right now, so I will be performing with Holger Jetter on the violin and Suresh Bhaskara on the percussion. It’s very important to have two levels of understanding with the people you are performing with. Your musical orientations should match so you sound like you are one. I compose the music myself and then work it out with the group I am playing with. This working out is very important, the ideas and changes that come out in that process are what make the performance. The personal relationship has multiple dimensions. When on tour, one would much rather be with people you enjoy being with; from the performance point of view, your audience is going to enjoy only if you are having fun on stage.
What are you working on now?
I am working on two projects at the moment. One musical project that will marry the violin and drums. It will start touring in January. And another dance project with Padmini Chettur where I am composing music for her contemporary dance productions.
The Marten Visser Trio will perform at the Alliance Française de Bangalore, on 11 June at 7.30pm. Entry is free.