Soulful journey


Son of the late Kolkata composer John Mayer, Jonathan began his musical training at the early age of 5 with Violin, Piano & Composition. He started his initial training under the western sitarist Clem Alford who was a disciple of Sachindra Nath Saha, Senia Gharana. Later he studied Imdadkhani Gharana technical proficiency under Ustad Wajahat Khan for a short while and finally settled in to the Senia Veen-kar Gharana under the extremely knowledgeable maestro Pandit Subroto Roychowdhury.

Jonathan Mayer studied composition from his father who studied violin with Phillipe Sandre in Calcutta, music theory with Melhi Mehta in Bombay, Indian theory with Sanathan Mukerjee and composition from Matyas Sether. Jonathan later  studied composition from Andrew Downes at the Birmingham Conservatoire where he gained a B.Mus (Hons) at the Birmingham Conservatoire studying both sitar and composition. Because of his ability to read western notation he has performed with a variety of genres and so far his career has seen him play with artists such as Dave Stewart, The Bingham String Quartet, Kathryn Tickell, Kumar Bose, Kuljit Bhamra, Erich Gruenburg, Rohan De Sarem, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra Kenny Wheeler, The Orlando Consort, John Wilson, Bombay Dub Orchestra, Future Sounds of London, Sarah Brightman, I Musici Fiamminghi Orchestra,and Sir Paul McCartney.


Jonathan has composed extensively for many genres including jazz, fusion, Indian & symphonic writing. His works have been performed and commissioned by The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra, Docklands Sinfonia, Erich Gruenburg, Joji Hattori, and his father’s band Indo-Jazz Fusions. Jonathan can be heard on many soundtracks & films including Sarah Brightmans’ Eden, Kevin Spaceys’ Beyond the sea, Indian Summer (Channel 4), Victoria & Abdul (where he can be seen on film) and Salty. Jonathan is also co-founder of First Hand Records Ltd.

Jonathan has performed all over the world including, France, Germany, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Australia, America, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and two very successful tours in India as well as a number of performances for the BBC in the UK.

You started playing piano and violin at an early age of 5. What sparked your interest for sitar?

My father is Indian, born in Kolkata. He was also a violinist/Composer (John Mayer) and formed The Indo-Jazz Fusions band with Joe Harriott in 1966. The sound of the sitar was always around me while growing up but only decided to pick it up later in my youth.


You have collaborated with a wide range of artists including Sir Paul McCartney & the BBC Concert Orchestra. How important is to collaborate and to work with other genres of music?

Although my father is Indian, my mother is English and this dual heritage is my musical identity. I studied both sitar from Pandit Subroto Roychowdury and composition from my father and so combining the two cultures feels natural to me.

Your music can be heard on many soundtracks & films.  The sitar has added an Indian sound to Hollywood films from the 1950s. What are your thoughts on Hollywood’s obsession with the sitar?

As long as it is done with respect for the instrument and genre is can only be a good thing!

Do you think sitar’s hybrid version (the electronic sitar for example) which is being hotly pursued by young, experimental musician a threat?

Not a threat. As long as there is no confusion between an acoustic sitar and electric as they are different instruments, just as electric and acoustic guitars are seen as different instruments. You cannot play classical Hindustani on an electric sitar and you cannot play rock/funk on an acoustic one with conviction and volume.


Indian classical music has a strong following abroad, but do you agree the genre's popularity hasn't translated in the country of its origin?

Classical music be it Indian or western is a niche market. I wouldn’t say there is a massive Indian classical music  following abroad but there are possibly more concert opportunities through festivals. Media plays such a huge part in everyone’s lives and so being bombarded with Bollywood or Justin Bieber and being told that their music is great can’t help the classical cause but these are only fads and Indian classical music will stay around and evolve. I read an article recently about the decline of the big classical musical festivals in India and that is a worry, we must keep concert opportunities open for the sake of culture.

For centuries, art and music have helped establish a spiritual connection between humans irrespective of their race or ethnicity. Does music helps you to reconnect to exalted, higher places?

That’s too deep! I play, I love playing, and I have fun and try to take the listener on a journey which is fundamentally my journey. My journey is a story and I play with my character as each musician SHOULD have his/her own unique voice as no two people are the same. My story isn’t spiritual, it is about life, family, sorrow, love and travels. If someone would like to call this a spiritual journey then that is fine but I see it as being story in which I connect with myself and not a higher place….inner peace!

What new things are you working on now?

Just finished a full symphonic orchestral piece called ‘Pranam’. It is completely based on Kathak and was performed in Czech Rep in June. I am now looking to revamp a trio I was in called The Teak Project (sitar, guitar & tabla)

1 comment:


  1. very very amazing explaintion....many things gather about yourself...yes realy i enjoy it


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