Less emphasis on race, more on talent in music world: Grammy winner Jeff Bhasker

November 02 2017

 The world of music is largely untouched by racism, says five-time Grammy winning producer Jeff Bhasker, who has worked with celebrated artistes like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson to Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Rihanna as well as India's very own Jasbir Jassi.

Bhasker, whose father was born in India and had moved to the US in 1955, was at the MTV India Music Summit here. It's his first visit to India in 30 years, and he was buoyed by the hospitality and warmth which gave him a "crash course in Indian culture".

Of late, diversity and racism have been two of the most discussed issues in Hollywood. How prevalent and relevant are they in the context of music in the US?

"I have to say that maybe actually, it's not as prevalent as in many other areas, because we have music in common to bind us together. There's less of emphasis on race and more emphasis on talent and ideas. Like people go 'Wow, I love what you're doing, and I like what you're doing'... Your race doesn't matter as much," Bhasker told IANS during a tete-a-tete.

He, however, said that while "it kind of seems to be less", but when it comes to genres like hip-hop, R&B and rap, "from the business side, there used to be huge racism and emphasis on separating people, whereas in reality, music should bring people together".

Bhasker's Grammy credits include awards for the songs "Run this town" by Jay-Z, "All of the lights" by Kanye West, "We are young" by Fun, and "Uptown funk" by Mark Ronson. He received the 2016 Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical for co-producing Ronson's album "Uptown Special" and producing Nate Ruess's album "Grand Romantic", among other records.

It was in 2010 when Bhasker had collaborated with Jassi on the album "Jassi - Back with a Bang". He's up for more.

"Yes, absolutely. Look out for that one," he said, adding that he finds doing fusion "very surface-level and a bit predictable".

"You take a little Indian thing and put it in a track and it sounds kind of exotic on the nose... That does not appeal to me. But maybe, taking a rhythm or a scale and doing a little more undercover where people didn't think 'Oh, that's Indian'... The possibilities of helping a new scene emerging in Indian music, that's very exciting to me," said the talented artiste, who is also a songwriter, keyboardist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.

He enjoys how young talents are changing the landscape of music globally.

"They have grown up with different tools to create music. I think it's fantastic. There are so many new, supremely-talented youngsters out there. I think combining what they're doing on their own, and combining with some old-fashioned song-writing and craft and techniques, can be so exciting in creating new forms.

"At the summit here, I heard a lot about a clash between traditionalism and the future, and independent music and Bollywood. But there, in the US, it doesn't have to be one or the other. There, it's about taking the best of things and the cream is going to rise. You cannot keep talent down. It's going to emerge," said Bhasker, who has worked very closely with Bruno Mars and Kanye West.

Celebrities from America's popular culture have been very vocal in condemning the country's current political scenario under President Donald Trump.

Commenting on that, Bhasker said: "I hate to be a party pooper, but a lot of people have been jumping on to the bandwagon of protest politics.

"In the past, in the 1960s, there was this tradition of protest music, and even that was kind of trendy... to be a hippie and protest. I think music can be a force, but it's almost an easy way out.

"As a citizen of the country or of the world, you really need to educate yourself and be aware of laws, ballot initiatives, judges... Politics in itself just gives you the responsibility to understand what goes on in the society, not to protest it. But to understand and participate in the process."

(The writer's trip was at the invitation of the MTV India Music Summit organisers. Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)

  • Source
  • IANS