When he felt the tremors from an earthquake ripple up the long spine of his apartment complex, the first things Jehan Aloysius grabbed were his memory cards and his laptop. Presented with a chance to re-evaluate his decision, he made exactly the same choices when the tsunami scare prompted another evacuation. For Jehan it’s always an easy decision – when he picks up the cards, he’s holding his life’s work in his hands.
Of course, if it weren’t quite so unwieldy, he would reach for the instrument which usually holds the cards themselves. For exactly a decade, the Korg Triton LE has been the faithful interpreter and recorder of the tunes Jehan hears in his head. On it he has composed six musicals and underscored two plays. Mucking about on it is also something he associates with one of his oldest and dearest friends – “it’s brought my best friend Avanti and I into a partnership that has lasted just as long,” he says.
It was when Jehan was still in university that he asked his brother to hand carry the Triton back from the US. It was easier said than done - the instrument in its long case couldn’t be checked in nor could it be fitted into the overhead compartments. So the Triton travelled in style, commandeering a seat of its own. For his part, Jehan couldn’t be more pleased to finally have a recording instrument though it cost a tidy sum – he had poured all his savings into the purchase and had still needed help from his parents. The Triton would change and revitalise the way he created; but first he had to figure out how it worked. A large manual helped, but Jehan had to teach himself a great deal. He learnt not only how to use the instrument but slowly mastered the basics of his craft.
|Jehan composing a melody with the aid of his musical partner.
Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara
The Triton is billed as a complete ‘music workstation’ – it includes a sequencer, synthesizer, sampler and effects unit. For Jehan, a composer who couldn’t read music, it allowed him the room to be inventive. It was certainly a big improvement on how he and Avanti used to work – bribing a friend with ice cream to allow them to use his studio on holidays.
Now they could go all day and all night – and they frequently did. Even when Avanti was away studying, visits home always included a gleeful return to the studio. “The times that Avanti and I spent on that were brilliant,” he says, explaining that these days their sessions are filled with nostalgia.
“We first worked together like this on campus and working on it again brings us together. I do all the buttons and the programming and she does the performing. Both of us would be lost without the other - it’s like four hands are working on that one keyboard…We have a fantastic friendship.”
Jehan thinks he may have worked on the Triton nearly every day since he first bought it, with only a few exceptions. Where he used to write poetry, he now writes music – even making a gift of the latter to his friends.
“It’s been my workhorse,” says Jehan. “All my composing is done on it.” Musicians normally upgrade similar instruments within 3 – 4 years, but Jehan, who still keeps his Triton carefully in its case, says he’s supremely reluctant to do so.
In fact, he’s doing all he can to extend its life – he even makes sure he’s the only one to plug it in after a mishap fried its power pack a few years ago. He might take it out to show it off, however, when he finally stages his most ambitious musical ‘Rag’. He intends to play the music directly off the Triton instead of transferring it and risking a loss in quality. After years of labouring together this artist knows there’s no better companion in the spotlight than the instrument he’s relied on for so long.