santoor 2 resized

By Elizabeth Doyle

Dhevdhas Nair is a musician you really have to hear to believe. (You can sample or buy an album here:  http://www.dhevdhasnair.com/id9.html)

In Part One, Dhevdhas describes a remarkable moment when he is playing with a band in the Sudan. To read Part One first, click here.

He: It was a huge open plan studio and they had just finished reading the news at the other side – and the place erupted, cameramen, technicians, newsreader, everyone started cheering and dancing, there were big smiles everywhere, and we all knew something very special was happening. Afterwards the band stumbled out somewhat dazed, to sit under a tree and recover. It was wonderful but a little unnerving too. And I knew then just what live music was capable of and I definitely wanted more! I think that is really why people go to concerts. Because every now and then, this amazing thing happens and off we all go on a journey together which is so fulfilling and nourishing, and if I can play a part in making it happen, I consider it a good night’s work.

It’s a slightly different process sitting alone in the studio, at the piano, composing, but really I think the source is same – from somewhere in the depths of a collective consciousness, stories emerge that speak to a common experience of being alive, and although the message is universal, the medium has to be culturally specific in order to be communicated. Specific in the sense of using a mutually intelligible language to share the story, in my case the musical language made up of my cultural influences, living in this place at this time in history.

Me: You play several instruments, I know, including the piano and dulcimer. Which instrument is your true love?

He: Actually, I think that the process itself is my true love, rather than any individual instrument… the way that music flows through if you open the right doors. I certainly get the same sense of freedom and abandonment when that mysterious energy takes over, whether I’m playing piano, dulcimer, or an old dustbin lid!

Me: Set the stage for me of what it looks like when you’re composing music. Are you sitting in a room by yourself with a pen and paper? Are you fooling around on your piano? Walking in the woods? Listening to an album?

view from Eaglehurst summer afternoon, resized

He: I’m in my studio. I have a wonderful old converted barn with views over Dartmoor, a wilderness region in the South West of England. Its full of instruments, my Bechstein grand piano, dulcimer, lots of drums and percussion, piano accordion, harmonium, oud (arabic lute), as well as all the techie stuff you need to record with.

ancient trees 2, resized

Usually, pieces start as improvisations on the piano. The most productive time is when I have just come in from a walk on the moors. Dartmoor has quite a varied topography; there are high bleak moors, deep wooded valleys, and rushing, pure rivers strewn with granite boulders. There is an elemental energy in the landscape that seems to translate directly into musical energy as soon as I sit down. Often, the very first thing I play contains the basic idea for a piece. I need to repeat it quickly and write it down, or record it, or I’m likely to lose it in the ongoing flow of ideas. It almost seems as if I’m taking or absorbing that wilderness energy, turning it round, and sending it back to people who live in cities so that they can at least taste a little of it through the music. I remember when I was writing the first track, mudra mix, looking out of the window across the hills, with one hand over the dulcimer, and the other over the recording button, being filled with a huge sense of fulfilment and gratitude – I suddenly realised that after so many years of working and aiming for a goal of creativity and musicianship, here I was…. in this beautiful place, letting this beautiful music come through, actually doing what I had always imagined I wanted to do.

To be continued…

To go to part three, click here.

To order the album Inbetween and Passing by Dhevdhas Nair, if you live outside the UK, go to  http://www.cdbaby.com.

In the UK, click here.  

Photos: © Dhevdhas Nair

Top photo: Dhevdhas Nair with a santoor

Second photo: View from Eaglehurst in Dartmoor, in the UK

Third photo: An ancient tree