In 1991, am contacted by Peter Culshaw, back from our mutual Bombay experience with Boy George, Ahsha Bhosle and a cast of a Thousand Queens. From this meeting comes the notion that we might try to compose and record a few tunes, combining our mutual interests. Peter has more knowledge of ethnic music than I, whereas I have more knowledge of how to actually make records. Possibly the combination might be interesting.
We name the project Mira, not after anything at all, despite subsequent cringe-making attempts to justify the thing with acronyms and obscure words in Telegu. Following a discreet debut at London's October Gallery, with the two of us playing various keyboards and two graphics boffins projecting slides, Mira grows and grows.
Giving our megalomania a free rein, our project becomes a live stage show complete with choreographer, thirteen dancers, a martial arts practitioner, three musicians and a trapeze artiste, with live interactive graphics projections controlled by AllenParker with four large Apple Macs. It's entitled 'New Hope For The Dead', and gains full marks for ambition, nul points for practicability.
Our two Indian dancers, the notorious Bannerjee Sisters, prove to be rather inflexible, especially when it comes to removing large chunks of their choreography which, frankly speaking, isn't up to much. 'But we having spent a lot of time preparing it!' they shriek at choreographer Joseph Houseal in justification. He, an American who likes to beard the dragon in it's lair, is having none of it. 'But it isn't any good!' he screeches piercingly back. (In earlier auditions for our extravaganza, his advert read 'Ethnic dancers please bring your own nosebones').
We have a theatre run (two days, to be accurate, but reasonably well attended), and the Bannerjees get their own back by preventing the video team, which we have hired at great expense, from videoing their performances; as they are prominently featured in the show despite our best efforts, this rather scuppers the whole thing. Voices are raised backstage, along with accusations of racism and imperialism. It seems to me (at this time, at least) that the colour of one's skin has little to do with one's talent and amenability, and the arguments fester. Undeterred, our choreographer later takes the music on to the Cologne Dance festival with a multi-cultural dance troupe called, in an echo of former times, Kimono Motion. All other encumbrances (trapeze person, martial arts bloke, band, slides, Peter, myself) have, however, mysteriously disappeared from the performance.
In 1994 we try to record some of this stuff - we emerge bleary-eyed a year later with the 'New Hope For The Dead' CD. It includes performances from some fantastic players - BK Chandrashekar, later to be Ravi Shankar's music director, the inimitable Martyn Jacques from the Tiger Lillies, Kadir Durvesh, Kiran Pal Singh, Eddy Sayer and host of others. Eventually it comes out on the JVC Europe label.
They have a thriving world music catalogue but are unsure how to promote Mira. They do so by the fiendish strategy of not advertising it. Our circular discussion goes as follows: I say - 'No one's buying it, what about advertising it?'. Them: 'We're not advertising it because no one's buying it'. Me: 'But if you advertised it, then they would buy it'. Them: 'Because no one's buying it, we are not going to advertise it'. Me: 'But if they were buying it, you wouldn't need to advertise it'. Them: When they start to buy it, then we'll begin to advertise it'. And so on for a very, very long time.
A review in the London Times says 'Unsuspecting aliens will probably love it'. Alas, aliens unsuspecting or otherwise seem not to read the Times (this convinces me of the existence of aliens, incidentally) and so they don't buy the album, and neither do human beings. It is a fine, if patchy, work however and by purest coincidence is still available here. My working relationship with Culshaw doesn't survive the New Hope project, and neither alas does our friendship. (The Montreaux Jazz Festival accounts for another old friendship when Mira are invited to perform there in 1997.
Again assembling a troupe of outstanding players, from as differentiated disciplines as Ravi Shankar, the South Bank gamelan and the Spice Girls, we rehearse for a couple of weeks and play to the bemused Swiss burghers. One of the highlights is our version of Todd Rundgren's 'Tiny Demons', with Karnatic Indian violin from my old pal BK Chandrashekar. My other old pal, playing mandolin and 'ud, becomes convinced that he will accrue instant wealth from this concert. I have to disabuse him but he, being a northerner, is not easily disabused and starts to disabuse me back. Our altercation goes on for months - finally, in pique, I move to Germany.