New York City-based jazz-fusion guitarist, composer and music educator Steven Chelliah released this method/theory book back in 2019. Although he is from Malaysia (and I believe we do have some friends in common), we haven’t crossed paths yet. That being said, I have been following his social media updates off and on over the years and when I finally realized his book was out, I had to get a copy!
The book brings together Indian Classical Music and Contemporary Western styles into one approach. Although the book’s examples are mostly played on electric guitar, the concepts are applicable for musicians playing any instrument.
It is divided into five chapters with an introduction and two appendixes:
Intro – What is FuzAsian?
Chapter 1 – Ionian bb7
Chapter 2 – Aeolian bb7
Chapter 3 – FuzAsian Blues
Chapter 4 – Extended Studies
Chapter 5 – FuzAsian Harmony.
Appendix A – Glossary of Terms
Appendix B – Synopsis of Ragas
Everything is well-organized and well formatted! This of course makes sense since Steven had Ken Pullig (Chair Emeritus of the Jazz Composition Department at Berklee College of Music) as the editor for the book and Dr. Kari Juusela (Former Dean of the Professional Writing & Music Technology Division at Berklee College of Music) as the executive advisor.
The attention to detail in the text really shines!
Basically if you are a formally trained jazz musician, went to Berklee or learned about Tonic, Subdominant, Dominant sounds and II-V-Is and scale substitutions, this book takes that kind of approach as the foundation to layer the “Raga Subs” on top of standard jazz harmony.
As explained in the text, “The FuzAsian Method explores the use of ragas in TWO distinct ways – from a Linear Harmonic perspective and from a Vertical Harmonic perspective.”
The accompanying tables help summarize the substitutions for the reader and was probably the most efficient way that I experienced the possibilities of the book.
As a performing musician, the book teaches the material that is accessible for a trained jazz musician to add to their melodic and harmonic language. However, this is not a book that I would recommend to anyone hasn’t worked on their major scales and some bebop vocabulary.
I guess the point is as a jazz guitar geek, this book was fun to work through! I’m not sure how much of this sound will make way into my improvisational vocabulary, but it certainly will be a additional option (which is always nice).
The only thing that I was wondering was whether Steven was going to address Gamakas in this book or in future volumes. Part of what makes Ragas interesting to me is the fact that certain notes tend to go to certain notes and the ornamentation aspect. But, I understand this is a decision he probably had to make when creating this first volume. From a practical point of view, what he did is likely a good way to get the basics of the sound into a jazz or Contemporary Western context.
In conclusion, I believe that this book is a great first volume to introduce Steven’s take on this topic. It was interesting for me to try out and I enjoyed the material as I got more familiar with the fingering and kinds of lines possible with the Raga Subs he shared.
Pros: An interesting, well edited method book with a cool premise. This might be fun for anyone who is looking for alternative sounds over familiar jazz chord progressions.
Cons: There is an inconsistency with the audio quality of the audio examples. It would be really great to hear some of the harmonic examples at the end of the book played with a saxophone player or another horn instrument.
TLDR: A very Berklee/jazz harmony meets Indian scales book. A good one for improvisors who already play jazz and would like alternative harmonic/melodic option for composition and improvisation.
For buyers in the United States, you can purchase the book here: https://heightsmusicinternational.com/collections/steven-chelliah/products/fuzasian-vol-1
For buyers outside of the United States, you can purchase the book here: https://fmscore.de/product/steven-chelliah-fuzasian
NOTE: I recommend getting it from the from the fmscore.de as the customer service was superb.
The story: I bought the eBook (PDF Version) from Heights Music International and the PDF version didn’t include download links for the audio examples. The print version has a personal code for mp3 audio but the PDF version didn’t include it in the book.
I emailed them (Heights Music International ) 4 times at the official email address they listed – ar at heightsmusicinternational dot com on ( Sep 26, 2023, 1:17 PM, Sep 29, 2023, 9:33 AM, Oct 4, 2023, 11:22 AM and Jan 2, 2024, 8:21 AM) and didn’t receive any reply to my inquiry about how I could get the audio downloads.
Then I tried another email address on the website (info at heightsmusicinternational dot com), added that… and received a prompt reply from Takashi from FMScore Sales who replied with a custom download link for me. Thank you Takashi!
I have to say that the audio download is an ESSENTIAL part of the experience to fully enjoy the book. So, make sure you study the book WITH the audio!
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