"I can see more and more young musicians interested by the Jazz" - Mishko M'Ba

Recently, Mishko M'Ba & the Jaco Pastorius Tribute Band performed at the Congo square jazz fest 2014. Abhijit Ganguly spoke to Mishko M'Ba at the sidelines of the event. Born in 1962 in France, Mishko M'Ba is a composer, arranger, producer, bass guitarist and pianist. He performed on numerous French and international scenes from the 80's.
How did your tryst with music happen?

I have started the Music school when I was five or six year old having an elder sister learning piano and a elder brother the violin (my brother, Jam’Ba is now an excellent guitar player and producer in France). The clarinet was my first instrument in Western classical. I wanted to join the school earlier but reading was mandatory.

Jazz is a type of music that is perennially said to be suffering, or said to be dying. Do you see jazz suffering, financially, or creatively?

I think that a type of Music dies as a language when nobody plays it anymore.
To speak about India,  I can see more and more young musicians interested by the Jazz, mainly the harmony side, what I think is a main Jazz contribution to the Music along with the sense of Freedom (the Jazz was born in USA during the slavery (Blues) and segregation time).
Regarding the creativity, one can see new emerging Jazz Musicians all around the world : Tigran Amasyan, pianist from Armenia, Dhafer Youssef, singer and oud player from Tunisia or Hiromii Uehara, pianist from Japan and the “old” ones like Herbie Hancock (USA, piano), Raul de Souza (Brazil, trombone) or John Mclaughlin (UK, guitarist) who are still proposing us new experiences, I would say that Jazz is a dying Music… in fine fettle !

The money side is more complex as since forty year and more one use to evaluate something by his supposed price: A new phone will cost rs50000 against almost nothing for an old one (one year old). I think this cannot work when it comes to Art or Music: Vincent Van Gogh, almost nothing alive against some crores when dead… I am not sure that his paintings have changed in between. Since long time the Jazz is no more a business matter (it was the dance Music in the 30’s and 40’s) but one can find Jazz Festivals all around the world filled with thousands people or Ahmad Jamal, I was told, playing a concert in India for 1 Crore (all included).

One should not forget that as an improvised Music the Jazz is changing at every moment. If one reads some definitions for Jazz, one will think that Indian Classical Music fits in.
As a musician, how do you maintain creative space and manage creative differences when your final output is a combined one, whereas music is supposedly a very individualistic talent?

I don’t think the Music, unless for a solo performance, is individualistic, It is the reunion of different lives to form one sound which will be the result of the experiences of the members.
Concerning Jazz and Carnatic, for instance, I like to use the word: Symbiosis..
I am part of different bands playing this “Symbiotic Music”  (Emergence, Mystic Vibes, Krishna’s Temple Rock), this is why I came to India; one can watch and hear some pieces on my FB Musician page or YouTube page.

With the very new one Band, Arka, we are recording a music album which is the exact illustration of this interactivity. Coming from different backgrounds the aim is not to express one’s talent but to add the different qualities to found something that none from this band could have made alone. The main difficulty is to go beyond the selfishness. But when the right people are together, I think one can definitely say: 1 +1 +1 = 1 (the Music) ≈ ∞
Any collaboration between Western and Indian sounds is instantly labelled as Fusion music, a tag that was just for nomenclature, but lately it has also been attracting some criticism. Your comments?

It is very difficult to describe the Music with words. I think all types of Music are Fusion as nothing comes from nothing  In the case of Indian and Western blend, one is speaking of two Cultures having centuries of existence each with both of them having a long way of thoughts and theorization in Music. My way of seeing these two words is vertically about the Western side, based mainly on the harmony and horizontally concerning the Indian side which, I think, is based mainly on rhythm and melody.

This is why I would prefer to speak of “Symbiotic Music” (Symbiosis: The intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship). It will become a Fusion when a new type will have been created.

About the criticism, it is quite normal. Music will be felt differently by the Musicians who are building the Music and for the listeners who are using It. Many people find difficult to change habits. Coming from France, the first meal in India is an experience. It took me some time to enjoy it since I first have been sick with spice. It is great sometime to be patient.

As the cookers the musicians practice a lot before to offer something. So nothing is new at the time of the proposal for them. From the perspective of the listener sometime the Symbiotic won’t work (It just means that the piece is not good nor well played. I can play trumpet, very badly; it doesn’t mean the trumpet is a bad instrument). But I think the Symbiotic Music can work very well too. I will only name the band Shakti. This is one way to propose something else.

I would want to add that it is maybe better not to merge Western and Indian side because we would lose a lot of types of Music. I think we do need the differences if we do not want to end with a “Cola” world…

Your views on Jaco Pastorius?

To me Jaco Pastorius is the God of the electric Bass (Eb). There is an Eb before and another one after Jaco. The Eb is a quite new instrument created in 1935 (Paul Tutmarc) and used from 1951 (Leo Finder).

When Jaco came out the Eb was 22 years old only. Many wonderful Bass players were already there as Stanley Clarke, Larry Graham to name a few. From there Jaco took the Eb to another level introducing chords, harmonics, solos, melodies etc and in short gave the full status of musical instrument to Eb. This is the main reason of my deep respect to him.
Jaco Pastorius has been awarded best Bass player, best Jazz soloist and his band Weather Report best band of the year. A first one for an electric Bass Player !
By the way, a documentary Jaco: the Film should be release very soon.
Your word of advice to any budding musicians coming up?

Maybe even more than in some other fields, practice as much as you can (it is said that Pat Metheny practice as much as 14 hours a day) and as regularly as you can (7 days a week?). It is much better to practice 1 hour every day than 7 hours one day and nothing the rest of the week. It’s not a secret: the more you’ll practice the better you’ll be.

Listen carefully to all types of Music. Carefully means listen and listen again one piece trying to figure out the melody, chords, rhythm, parts of the different instruments, the “journey” of the piece. All that done with ears and paper. Use internet only to correct yourself after your work, not before.
Do not try to copy. It is a non sense to me to try to simulate somebody as everyone is unique. I pay homage to Pastorius with the Tribute but (unfortunately for me) it’s not a Xerox copy. This is this uniqueness that makes the world so beautiful when many are put together (the Unconscious will copy anyway).

Your upcoming projects you are looking forward to?
Among the projects the very new one is Arka a band with Selva Ganesh on kanjira, Singer Karthick, flautist Ravichandra Kulur and guitarist Santhosh Chandran. It is based on the meeting of different “aficionados” (somehow experts in their field), who share a same goal; continue the journey of Musical experience of Life to find new paths. I can say it is a collective work and composition. The result should be available hopefully next year.

As I like to play different types of Music since long time, I enjoy exploring new fields. So I have in mind to make an “almost” solo project using loops and new technologies. 

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