Mark Stone multi-percussionist, composer/improviser, educator

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A jazz musician connects with Carnatic music
Binoy Valsan, TNN | Nov 21, 2012, 06.48AM IST


COIMBATORE: The enthusiasm is evident on Mark Stone's face when he plays Marimba, an African folk percussion instrument, inside the cool confines of his hotel room in the heart of the bustling Coimbatore city. He pauses for a moment as he points out to enjoy the positive vibrations arising from the instrument, which according to him will be missing in the modern versions of the Marimba. Stone, an expert percussionist and professor of world music at the Oakland University in the US, is set to enthral city residents when he jams with the Carnatica Brothers, K N Shashikiran and P Ganesh in a two-hour session of Carnatic Jazz at the Sarojini Nataraj Auditorium of Kikkani Higher Secondary School on Wednesday. "It will be a unique experience and I am looking forward to perform here in Coimbatore. I have been learning Carnatic music for the last two years and I wanted to visit India to widen my knowledge and experience of Carnatic music," says Stone.

For Stone, music symbolises cultural identity. He has extensively travelled and researched on
African music, especially of Uganda, and music of the Caribbean. Percussion is his forte and he
has been researching various instruments. "A lot of my students are interested in learning about Carnatic music and other varieties of Indian music. We even conduct an annual musical fest called Sarovar in which Indian music is featured," Stone added.

The interest in the diversity of world music is there, but Marimba, which to the uninitiated eyes resembles a xylophone, is the first love for Stone. "I did not find the Marimba, the Marimba found me when I was just six years old," claims Stone. Stone's musical journey began after his neighbour, a multiple sclerosis patient who was Marimba player offered to teach him to play the instrument. He took up the offer and soon mastered the Marimba and also decided to branch out to other percussion instruments. "Music should always be a mix of tradition and innovation to ensure that it reaches maximum audience without any bias," Stone adds.

Stone is co -founder and partner of Jumbie Records, a musical platform that supports innovative musicians from the US, Ghana, Guinea and Hungary. He is married to Lesley-Anne, also a musician, and the couple have three children. Stone counts Johann Sebastian Bach and Thelonius Monk, the American jazz pianist, among his inspirations.