When I say that the collaborations on One Morning in Gurgaon tend to feel organic, it’s not that they’re a blur. On the contrary, each track has its own dreamy palette, built on layers of harmonious and complex sound that speak to the individual and collective virtuosity among the album’s three main players.
Project leader and fingerstyle guitarist Guy Buttery credits the musical flows of his native Durban as the key inspiration for his distinctly nimble and often rhythmic technique. As they interweave with the already complex beats of master tabla player Mohd. Amjad Khan, Buttery’s ostinati lay a moving foundation for Mudassir Khan, whose lyrical sarangi lines tend to soar to the forefront. On One Morning in Gurgaon, those elements come together spontaneously, giving us as the audience intimate insight into their musical communications through the final product, a compendium of enrapturing sonic stories.
The album’s seven tracks present a range that feels like far more than a single morning. Languorous opening track “Chidiya” is an open sky, Mudassir Khan’s sarangi stretching slowly over the delicate scatterings of Buttery’s guitar. The trio reaches full bloom on the following piece “December Poems”, Mudassir and Buttery handing a gently melancholy melody back and forth over the steadily burning fuel of Mohd. Amjad Khan’s driving beats. Perhaps the most memorable track, “December Poems”, alone makes One Morning in Gurgaon worthwhile.
Other pieces, though, are just as intriguing. On two raga-based tracks, “Raag Yaman” and “Raag Kirwani”, we have the chance to witness the trio’s considerable improvisatory chemistry. “Raag Yaman” begins dominated by the deliberate winding of the sarangi over a free-floating fundamental tone, with tabla gradually picking up speed. Once Buttery enters on guitar, the inertia is unstoppable, the trio reaching full effervescence by the piece’s climax before floating to a short end. “Raag Kirwani” smolders, Buttery’s and Mudassir Khan’s respective strings meeting to circle and sway in relative unison before breaking apart to exchange solo passages.
Three other compositions embrace more repetition. “I Know This Place” substitutes Buttery’s guitar for the clear echoes of the mbira, giving the piece a sense of wonder. John Fahey would envy the melodies of “Kya Baat” and “Bakithi”, the former arrestingly dynamic and the latter a buoyant, sunny number that revels in glorious repetition, sounding like an homage to the South African popular and folk sounds so critical to Buttery’s instrumental roots. Together, these final explorations of emotion round out a wide-ranging acoustic experience.
As One Morning in Gurgaon flows from track to track, the talents of its players unfold. Each piece offers new insight into the many creative facets of Guy Buttery, Mudassir Khan, and Mohd. Amjad Khan, not only as individuals but as a uniquely fruitful combination. It’s even more remarkable by the fact that their work together in the studio and on tour was largely unrehearsed. In the case of One Morning in Gurgaon, time did not even allow for more than one take. Whether in spite of or because of this logistical pressure, their music here is inspired, a transcontinental encounter that stirs the imagination.