Austin, Texas is a great musical melting pot. There are so many sources of inspiration for musicians with the right mindset. Oliver Rajamani‘s recent performance at Central Market was a perfect example. To look at him, holding his sarod, you might think, ah, we’re going to hear some classical Indian music. Until you notice his cowboy boots. He is obviously not someone who can be pinned down or labeled.
The music he performed was a weird fusion of Indian, country & western, rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelia and rockabilly. Just when I thought I had a handle on his aesthetic, it would shift to something else. At one point he did an awesome Spanish flamenco song on guitar.
“This is Austin music,” he said. “Even the Indian stuff I’ve been playing, you can’t find it in India.” And I had just been thinking, “Only in Austin…”
He mentioned traveling in India and I couldn’t help but wonder how his music was received there. How would the songs about things cactuses and “My Texas Flower” work there? It would have familiar sounds, but the country influences and references to Texas would have to come across as strange, and possibly really cool.
Once, between songs, he made that very point: “Sometimes you fail to realize the exoticness of wherever you are. In India, Texas is exotic. In Texas, India is exotic.”
Rajamani didn’t do it on his own. He also had a pretty good ensemble, five other guys, playing bass, two guys on Middle-Eastern percussion, a drummer on trap set and a guy on violin.
Very enjoyable show. I almost always have a good time at Central Market. Lots of families with little kids, people willing to get up and dance. Really pleasant. Didn’t hurt that it was also free, except for the meal and the tip. There were also several CDs for sale and I picked up one, 6-song live concert album, Echoes from India to Iran. Interesting that one of the songs, “Yesu Bhajan,” is a Christian devotional song with traditional Tamil lyrics. Christianity is often considered a Western religion, but it didn’t start out that way and it has plenty of Eastern adherents today.
Here he is performing solo. Just one of his many styles:
Rajamani will perform at the George Washingon Carver Museum Boyd Vance Theatre on Sept. 10 at 7:45 p.m. “Moonlight Tanz” Concert. Rajamani performs with his Ensemble and the Rosetta Orchestra, accompanied by Ballet, Flamenco and Indian Dancers. Go here to get tickets and learn more about the show.
Other shows are scheduled for October and November in Georgetown and Kerrville, Texas. Go here to learn more.