Paul Grant (USA/Switzerland)
“I believe in transformation, we need it more than ever in the world today, it is obvious that the systems we live under are starting to crumble. And, this transformation has to come from the people: we have to come together as people. I marched in the 60’s against the Vietnam War. I believe that we need a revolution, definitely so. I was an old rock musician in the 60’s and then I went to the East – I went deeply to the East and I am still in the East. We have great potential from East-West collaboration: the best potential ever for transforming the world.”
Paul Grant is American by birth, Oriental at heart and Genevois by adoption and is also one of the few westerners who has dedicated himself to the study of oriental music for more than 40 years. He is recognized for his mastery of the art of santur playing in several musical traditions: India, Iran, Afghanistan and Kashmir. He has extensively researched the links that connect these cultures and has also studied tabla and sitar. Keenly interested in old and rare instruments and styles of playing he has restored and built a number of musical instruments as part of his lifelong quest for the perfect sound.
Born in Atlanta, USA in 1951, Paul began his musical career as a drummer and singer with various bands playing rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz. He was gradually drawn towards the Orient and his musical horizons opened as a result of his first trip to India in 1972. From then on he has totally devoted himself to the musical repertoires of Northern India, Persia, Kashmir and Afghanistan.
From 1990 to 1993, he taught sitar and tabla at the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music in the World Music Department. Since 1994, he has been teaching both Kashmiri (Indian) and Persian (Iranian) Santur, sitar and tabla at the ADEM – Ateliers d’Ethnomusicologie de Genève – Centre dedicated to research, documentation, organization of concerts and workshops of traditional music and dance of the world.
He has played with many different groups. From 1998 to 2003 he was a member of the Ensemble Kaboul (traditional music from Afghanistan) which enabled him to add this repertoire to his vast knowledge of oriental music. In 2003 the Ensemble Kaboul received the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music. From 1997 to 2003, he also played with the Kathak/Flamenco group in the Dance and Music program “From Benares to Jerez” displaying his mastery of the rhythmic and melodic affinities of these two traditions. In 1998 and 2004 with the Ateliers d’Ethnomusicologie de Geneve, he organized and participated in two “Voyages en Orient” – musical odysseys which explored the diversity and similarity of repertoires extending from the slopes of the Himalayas to the shores of the Mediterranean.
Paul Grant is a frequent performer at the University Terre du Ciel. He regularly participates in the “Lumières de l’Inde” Festival and in the forum that takes place each year in Aix-les-Bains. He has performed and recorded many duets with Pandit Nayan Ghosh with whom he has elevated the musical dialogue of the Hindustani tradition to unequalled heights to the great delight of audiences in Switzerland, France, Morocco and elsewhere. Since 2008 he has again taken up the study of the music of Kashmir, in particular the Sufyana Kalam, which is the traditional poetry and music of the Sufis.
Indeed, Paul Grant’s interest in the music from faraway lands, his participation in traditional groups proves that a heartfelt dialogue is possible between people of very different cultures. It is a symbol of hope in our world so in need of true dialogue beyond linguistic, religious, political and economic boundaries.