This article originally appeared in Humber Today June 25, 2015 9:06 am
Mostly unheard of on this side of the world, the three instruments are fundamental to Indian classical music.
Jonathan and his brother Andrew Kay, both graduates of the Humber Bachelor of Music program, have spent more than half a decade in India learning the intricacies of Indian music and how to play that music on western instruments.
“This process has been extremely challenging, but also wildly fulfilling and helpful artistically,” says Jonathan, a saxophone major while he was at Humber. “Exploring the ornate nuances of the music has forced me to discover new things about my expression through the saxophone, as well as pushed my technical capabilities on the instrument.
“Our guru, Pandit Shantanu Bhattacharyya, has welcomed us into his home and family,” he continues. “Andrew and I have the rare opportunity to live most of the year in Kolkata with him in the traditional Guru-Shishya Parampara, the oral tradition of learning Indian classical music.”
Music, it’s safe to say, is in Jonathan and Andrew’s blood. Their uncle, Alastair Kay, is one of the top trombonists in Canada and the head of Humber’s Brass Department.
Andrew joined the Humber Community Music Program while he was in high school, an experience he says was crucial in preparing him to study music in college.
“During the first year of high school I became very interested in music and was looking for more education and experience than was available at my school, so my uncle suggested I join the Humber Community Music Program,” Andrew recalls. “I started the program in my second year of high school and spent the following three years diving deep into jazz and creative music.”
As Jonathan was preparing to finish his time at Humber, younger brother Andrew’s college journey was just beginning. The two lived together and, in Andrew’s second year, bass player and fellow Humber student Justin Gray moved in.
The three spent most of their waking hours talking about and playing music, and together became “captivated,” Jonathan says, by Indian music.
In 2006, the trio travelled to Kolkata to study briefly with Pandit Shantanu Bhattacharyya.
“We returned to Toronto to finish school and started composing and writing music inspired by India, but longed for more,” Andrew says. “We went back (to India in 2008) and dove headfirst into the study of Indian classical music.
“Since then [Jonathan and I] have spent the majority of our time in Kolkata, making a trip home for a couple months to share our music with our family, friends and music lovers of Toronto.”
Last fall they released their first album, Mandala, with their band Monsoon. The album is “the culmination of our east-west Indo-Jazz vision,” says Jonathan. Their next album, Pranaam, is Indian classical music played on western instruments. It is available on Bandcamp.
Jonathan adds he is extremely grateful to Humber for everything he learned and everyone he met.
“Most of our closest friends are from our Humber days and most of the musicians we play with now are also from Humber.
“All of my professors from Humber continue to be important mentors and influences in my life and their support is invaluable. Over the years Andrew, Justin and I have also performed alongside many of our teachers, which is by far the greatest learning experience one can have.”