Turnabout gets fair play

Nobody was more surprised than Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook to learn he had a blockbuster hit in India. “I didn’t even know I had any fans there,” said the Juno Award-winner, who performs on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.

‘when you create art it’s not always neat and pretty. Sometimes you have to embrace the chaos.

‘when you create art it’s not always neat and pretty. Sometimes you have to embrace the chaos.

Nobody was more surprised than Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook to learn he had a blockbuster hit in India.

“I didn’t even know I had any fans there,” said the Juno Award-winner, who performs on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.

Cook became perplexed when a slew of Indian admirers started writing him about one of his songs being a Bollywood smash. While he likes dance-mad, action-packed Bollywood movies, Cook couldn’t remember anyone asking him to contribute any of his songs to one.

Yet, sure enough, when Cook googled the soundtrack for Dhoom, one of the biggest blockbusters Bollywood produced in 2004, there was the melody of his instrumental Mario Takes a Walk, set to foreign lyrics.

Cook at first felt flattered that somebody had “borrowed” his music. He later thought “it would have been nice if I’d been asked. . . .”

But the Paris-born, Toronto-based guitarist learned India’s lax copyright laws pretty much allow arrangers to lift music from other artists. Rather than taking the legal route, he arranged a tit-for-tat scenario by “borrowing” some of the Indian arrangements that he felt had actually improved on his tune.

Cook introduced these new arrangements on an original song called Bombay Diner on his newest album, The Rumba Foundation.

The song stands out for its Eastern influence on a CD that leans largely in the other direction, towards the music of South America — Colombia, in particular.

Cook explains that he originally wanted to go back to the Cuban roots of rumba flamenco music. But instead of flying to Havana, he ended up in Bogota, Colombia, after being sidetracked by vallenato and cumbian music. “When you create art it’s not always neat and pretty,” said the 46-year-old musician. “Sometimes you have to embrace the chaos.”

In the case of The Rumba Foundation, the chaos is turned out to be pretty infectious. Most songs on the album are a lively blend of African, European and indigenous South American music.

“Maybe I will have made my mark,” said Cook, who believes it’s the first time anyone tried to marry rumba (Cuban), flamenco (Spanish) and vallento cumbian (Colombian) music.

The concept was certainly foreign to the Colombians he worked with in the band Los Gaiteros, who weren’t sure at first what to make of Cook.

But the traditional music makers, who play bamboo flutes with hollow feather mouthpieces, ended up loving the musical hybrid they created with the North American guitarist.

Cook jokes that the Smithsonian museum, which has taped for posterity the traditional music of Los Gaiteros, will not be amused by his musical meddling. “They’ll say, ‘Why are you messing with tradition?’ ”

Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert are $42.50 from Ticket Central.


— copyright Red Deer Advocate

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