When folk rocks

American artistes

When folk rocks

What do South Indian classical music and American folk songs have in common? Amos Libby and Douglas Porter!

The two instrumentalists have been experimenting with traditional forms of music for over two decades now. Founder of ‘The Ghosts of Johnson City’, an American traditional roots and original music group, Amos Libby teaches music at esteemed universities in the United States.

Co-founder Douglas Porter has played professionally in many acts and maintains a busy live performance schedule. The two are in the city to hold a workshop on traditional American and Arabian folk music, that will be supported by FrameWorx in association with Reynold’s.

They speak to Rajitha Menon about their unique brand of music and their association with India.

How did your musical journey start?

Douglas: I began guitar lessons at the age of nine. My first teacher was classically oriented but in my teen years I switched to a teacher who mainly played jazz. I formed my first rock band when I was 14. I did two semesters in college studying audio engineering and began experimenting with home recording.

Amos: My musical journey started when I was very young; my father was a musician in the American folk tradition and I would go to his performances and listen to his groups play. When I was a teenager, I started playing the guitar and soon after that  began learning the tabla. I have studied Carnatic classical mridangam with Vidwan M Vasudev Rao in Bengaluru.

How will you describe your music?

Douglas: My musical influences are wide ranging and eclectic. Jazz, funk, rock, heavy metal, punk, pop music, and Americana have all been a part of my musical journey.

Amos: My music is an effort to tell the stories and realities of people and places in the early history of the United States. I want to take listeners on a historical journey through vivid storytelling and simple but moving melodies.

What is the importance of folk music in today’s world?

Douglas: In the information age in which we live, it’s more important than ever to stay connected with our history. Folk music tells a story about our struggles and culture in ways few other musical styles can.

 Amos: I think folk music is vital in any culture because it’s how we all maintain our collective history and identity. Without music, a part of history is lost forever.

Thought about the music scene in India?

Douglas: This is my first trip to India, so I can’t really comment on the music. But  I got to see a Carnatic music performance here. It was beautiful and gave me the impression that old musical traditions are still very much alive here.

 Amos: My exposure to Indian music scene is mainly through the Carnatic classical music scene in Bengaluru. In the  traditional sense, it’s one of the healthiest musical scenes that I’ve seen in the world. I sometimes get worried about the proliferation of fusion music, as I think it dilutes traditional forms.

Is music a feasible career option for youngsters?

Douglas: Music as a career has it’s challenges like any occupation, but pursuing a career in music is great if one wants to follow one’s heart Amos: I think music is a feasible career for youngsters if they have a realistic viewpoint. It’s important not to focus on fame and money. But if you work hard enough at your craft, then you can make a career out of music by both passing on the tradition as a teacher as well as performing.

Thoughts about India

Douglas: This is easily one of the most amazing places I have ever been in. My time here will surely be with me for the rest of my days.

Amos: India is a second home to me. I have come here over 20 times and Indian music has been a driving factor in my life. India is an amazing country where you can find so many different musical cultures all coexisting at the same time. Even if I came here 100 more times, I would still only be scratching the surface.

(The duo will hold the workshop on January 14, 5 pm at Reynold’s, Brigade Road)

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