This Is Not Fusion is a project in experimental music bringing together genres in 20th-century Western popular music (jazz, blues, rock) and the Indian raga. Its first performance took place in Calcutta on 15th January 2005. At that time, this is what I’d said about the basis for the experiment: 'It’s my concern, in this project, to think beyond a physical meeting-point between musicians of Western and Indian traditions (which is what “fusion”, in the ordinary sense, usually is), towards a musical and conceptual meeting-point, a space in which not only musicians encounter each other, but in which musical lineages intersect, and renovate themselves and become altered by this contact. These musical intersections already exist, in structural similarities between ragas and rock melodies, for instance, or between Western folk melodies and Indian ones, mainly in the form of the pentatonic scale found in the blues and also in Indian music in ragas such Malkauns and Jog; the aim is not only to take advantage of these musical intersections between the two traditions, but to attempt to create a language of music and performance out of them. One is really seeking a “point of entry” into one musical tradition or system through another one. That point of entry might be a phrase from a raga, through which one might access, afresh, a jazz classic, or a handful of notes from a blues or rock composition, through which one might enter a raga. This is the starting-point of this exploration, and it widens into a range of references to the world we live in. In a sense, all the compositions are what Marcel Duchamp called “found objects”: that is, they already exist in one form or another, and have been given, hopefully, another dimension and lease of life through art.'

As I’d said at the time, the cheeky title, and, more importantly, the music itself aimed to arrive at a language of performance that had a conceptual basis other than the one of bringing two or more cultural spheres – mainly, the ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ – together. That conceptual basis was provided by the memory that survived from my guitar-playing days in the late Seventies: that the mainly pentatonic blues scale, also used in jazz and rock, was also remarkably akin to some of the ragas I had begun to learn then. It’s obvious that this scale, and variants of it, had travelled, probably from Africa, to different parts of the world at different points in history, and become incorporated into, or come to embody, quite distinct musical traditions and world-views. Many of these pieces, too, contain in them this metaphor and narrative of travel, from one musical system to another. (It should be pointed out that I’ve been a vocalist and performer in Hindustani music for two decades – alongside being a novelist – but that my early encounters with music involved listening to Western blues, rock, and jazz. As a teenager in the Seventies, I performed with a guitar. My turn to Indian classical music was so absolute that I stopped listening or having anything to do with Western music from the early Eighties onward, and returned to it slowly only in the last seven or eight years. This project and the conceptual cross-fertilization it represents would have been impossible without this double legacy or lineage.)

 
As this experiment crystallized, a phrase from a raga, in the way I’ve already described, was used as a ‘point of entry’ into a jazz or rock standard, and vice-versa. That is how pieces like ‘The Layla Riff to Todi’ and ‘Summertime’ were arrived at or recontextualised. In the last year, the experiment has been pursued further, the repertoire widened, new compositions added. A greater number of songs have emerged; the new pieces continue to respond to what’s in the air, what’s to be found in the ether of the contemporary, to my travels in the globalized world, as well as the persistence, in it, of older sensibilities, tunes, and memories. One thing becomes clearer than before: that, for many urban Indians, the ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ are not part of two different worlds, but a common inheritance, and have been inlaid into different parts of a single self, a single memory. It’s this memory, where what’s ‘foreign’ and what ‘native’ is constantly realigned, redefined, that this music wishes to explore.