One first came across Bonny Abraham in a 2017-episode of MTV Unplugged Season 6, when he played the oud during A.R. Rahman’s rendition of Mann Chandra. The recording artist and live instrumentalist, who specialises in playing the oud and the saaz, has come a long way since then. He has just released his first independent album, Dune, which combines Middle Eastern sounds with avant-garde influences. When asked about the unconventional choice of instrument, Bonny attributes it a childhood spent between Saudi Arabia and Kerala. “My father was working in a hotel in Saudi Arabia. A guest had left an oud there. At that time, I used to play the guitar. When he told me about the instrument, I asked him to ship one to our home in Kerala,” he reminisces. By the time the instrument reached Bonny, it was in a tattered condition. He tried his best to fix the oud. Bonny then started listening to noted oud players such as Dhafer Youssef. He would note the nuances of their style and began to implement them in music. “I am a self-taught oud artist,” he says.
He went on to do a diploma course in audio engineering and composition level 3 (western classical) from Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory. “I got to audition for Rahman Sir’s MTV Unplugged episode. That was the biggest stage that I had ever got in life and it added a new boost to my career,” he elaborates, “It was quite a challenge as everyone else in the ensemble was a professional artist.” After this experience, he started practicing harder. The oud is not commonly heard in the Indian music arena. “But one can incorporate the instrument beautifully in many genres. To me, the oud is all about experimenting,” says Bonny. And he has done so successfully in his album.
The first of the five compositions, Djinn, envelops you like a wave of sand. The vocals are interspersed with sounds of the percussion with the oud being used to add a layer of transition. The second song, Breathe, brings together the oud with other string instruments, the violin and the viola. “The third composition focuses on world music and the next one has a more Indian pulse. The last song is a celebration of the entire album, with more of the electronic synthesiser being used,” he says.
The first song, Djinn, can be heard on bonnyabraham.hearnow.com. The songs will be released on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Jio Saavn, Pandora