Visiting US band plays jazz with Indian strains

Members of MND FLO have individually performed at festivals around the world. In addition, they have performed and recorded with internationally renowned artistes

(From left) Simon Moullier, Alexander L J Toth, Anthony A Toth and Sharik Hasan.

A group of four young men got together to explore music that incorporates elements of their own cultures. This is the story of MND FLO (pronounced ‘mind flow’) which unites Canadian, Hungarian, French and Indian musicians.

Playing predominantly modern jazz, the US-based band has influences of electronic, rock and Indian music. Currently on a multi-city tour in India, the four-member band recently launched its debut album, ‘From Time’.

Members of MND FLO have individually performed at festivals around the world. In addition, they have performed and recorded with internationally renowned artistes.

Rajitha Menon talks to Bengaluru-born, New York-bred jazz composer and pianist Sharik Hasan about the story behind the journey.

How was the band formed?

Initially, it started off as a trio — Alexander, Anthony and myself. We met at Berklee College of Music in 2009 and formed a deep friendship and a musical bond but we didn’t have any plans of starting a band. Later, we graduated and moved to different cities. Afterwards, I started playing professionally in other settings; but I missed the chemistry that we had.
After a few years, we got together again and played a concert in Brooklyn. That was when we realised that there was something special about our group and that we had to take it forward. That was also when we first thought about recording the album ‘From Time’. The fourth member, Simon, joined Berklee after I graduated but Antony and Alex had already met him and they said he was a great musician. When I played with him, it seemed a perfect fit — a completion of the sound we were looking for.

How would you describe your music?

It is an interesting mix of styles and sounds. One might call it jazz but, to be honest, it doesn’t sound like what people would expect when you say jazz. It is very cutting-edge and fuses a lot of influences. For example, in terms of style, we borrow from our own heritage. I am from India, Simon is from France and the two brothers Antony and Alex are half Hungarian and half Trinidadian; which makes our music eclectic and multi-cultural. So one minute you might think, ‘Oh that’s an Indian raga,’ and the next moment you will be like ‘That’s a Caribbean dance beat’. We also use a lot of modern electronic sounds as well. Even though we play acoustic instruments such as the piano and drums, we also have some electric sounds like synthesizer and more. There is a blend of electronic and acoustic soundscapes.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Definitely outside music. Personally, the unknown has always been a source of inspiration; I have always had a fascination with space and the universe. Before I took up music as a profession, I had multiple interests, including astrophysics. I did an internship at Harvard with a very famous astrophysicist. He was searching for exoplanets and while working with him, I discovered a planet. All of this is reflected in the song ‘Planet Hunter’. Another source of inspiration was my experience of getting mugged at a Paris bus stand. It inspired me to write a piece with some dark tones. 

Any bands or artistes that you are currently listening to now?

I am always interested in what my peers are doing and new people writing original music. I listen to many different styles —from pop to Indian classical music. It is tough for me to pinpoint a particular artiste.

How has India shaped your musical journey?

I imbibed a lot of Indian classical music. It was a part of my being and subconsciousness. Now when I am writing and composing, these sounds somehow find a way of coming out. Growing up in India, it was certainly not an obvious decision to become a jazz musician. But once I went to the States and discovered jazz, India provided me an amazing platform. There were not many jazz pianists here in the mid-2000s; it was somewhat of a novelty then. Thus I was able to perform a lot and get good exposure and experience. So in that way, India has moulded me as a professional musician.

About Bengaluru...

Bengaluru is home after all. I have always felt that it is perfect in every way though I wouldn’t say that about the traffic now. Since my parents live here, I come back once a year. I have always felt the city is culturally aware, open to new experiences, and forward-thinking. 

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Visiting US band plays jazz with Indian strains

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