Kaveesh Maharaj’s life mission is to create music that echoes the sound of the spirit.
Maharaj has returned from studying classical Eastern music in India and assembled a talented group of like-minded musicians to tap into that very energy.
The Couva-born musician’s self-titled Kaveesh The Band combines Eastern and Western musical styles, instruments and philosophies, to create a spiritual hybrid experience that he says, requires complete emersion to be fully understood.
“When you come to one of our events you experience musical spiritually. It’s a musical universality that spiritually intertwines with you. You have to listen to the melodies to understand the true value of the musical art form. It is beyond words, culture and all barriers that cause our mind to think of music as limiting, its beyond our planes. Love creates that bridge for people who may not understand,” an insightful Maharaj explained, during an intriguing chat with the Kitcharee on Friday.
The 34-year-old plays seven instruments: the harmonium, guitar, piano, tabla, dholak and melodica, as well as several percussive Indian instruments. The University of the West Indies, St Augustine English Literature and Linguistics-graduate first started singing at just two years old.
After journeying to India in his early 20s he first discussed his vision for the music he creates with Sadguru Sri Ganapathi Sachidananda of Mysore, India before joining Indian Oscar winner Dr AR Rahaman’s KM Music Conservatory in Chennai, in the south of India. Remarkably Maharaj was later invited by Bollywood star Padma Shri Anup Jalota to undertake a mentorship on the technicalities of music.
Upon returning to T&T in 2014 Maharaj said he felt a deep desire to carve out a new hybrid sound on the Indo-Trinidadian musical landscape.
“I learned fusion music, blending Eastern and Western classical together. Its an East meets West concept. We carved a new way for the Indo genre, we didn’t fall into the contemporary brands of chutney and chutney soca. We carved a way into the more fusion aspects and formed a pathway for people between the genre, implementing jazz with Indian, folk and western music,” he explained keenly.
Fulfilling a yearning to connect
It is an approach and sound that both purists and innovators of East Indian music on the islands can appreciate and respect, he said. Kaveesh The Band has played in every setting from diplomatic functions to traditional weddings and secular events, he said.
The response has been overwhelming. When we go on stage its like a music festival. There was a yearning for having music that could be a little more wide in its reception. Because it still goes a little bit deeper than the contemporary genres so it can fit in different spaces. One thing that we stand out for is we put a lot of spirituality into our music. When I say spirituality, I mean music that takes you to a higher source beyond the physical realm,” he said.
As Kaveesh The Band prepares to celebrate Indian Arrival Day later this month, he says their focus remains on forming tighter connections with the next generation of youth on the islands.
“Indian Arrival Day for us is a major event where we focus on the music our ancestors brought, as well as answering the question of connecting with the younger generation. It’s a classical balance of modernity and tradition,” he mused.
It’s a delicate exercise of evening the scale of not just demographics but also ethnic and cultural differences, he relates. But insists the work is important to ensure the longevity of the culture.
“It’s very important to us because we want to provide relatable content. A song your grandmother would listen to put into our guitar and made hybrid, that is relatable but nostalgic,” Maharaj explained.
It’s an approach other mother genres like calypso can benefit from implementing, he said.
“We have mentors and youth in calypso that try to do the same thing. Maybe we may not have found the exact recipe as yet, but it is coming. If I can work with a calypso singer my age, with a similar vision, perhaps we can work towards building that bridge together,” he mused out loud.
That willingness to embrace different cultures and expression is where the true love of music is unearthed, he added.
“Having a spirituality for music will make you understand a musical love for every genre. Our approach is using both western and eastern instruments and thankfully it has already brought us this far, there is so much more to discover,” Maharaj concluded.