Virtuoso bassist Shez Raja performs thundering funk and tuneful ragas in his London-based collective. Having performed alongside jazz legends such as Mike Stern and Randy Brecker, we were honoured to welcome Shez to ACM Guildford for an exclusive masterclass during Freshers’ Week.
Opening with an amazing solo bass performance, Shez’s masterclass was a lesson in creativity and inspiration. Telling our students that his main goal as a musician is to create raw music from the heart, he spoke at length about the importance of being in creative control as an artist.
Keeping the class interactive, Shez started the class by getting everyone to close their eyes, before asking them to raise their hands in a series of questions about their creativity; do they feel like a creative person, do they understand where their inspiration comes from and do they understand their own creative process.
On the importance of inspiration, Shez quoted the poet William Blake, “everything that has been created was once imagined”. Shez followed this by asking the class what inspires them. Responses included “other musicians”, “noise and chaos” and even “norse mythology”. Our Head of Creative Industry Development, Ace (also known as the guitarist in Skunk Anansie), shared that walking through Camden Market on a Sunday is what inspires him. Shez encouraged the class to be proactive, to find out what truly inspires them and to take time to do those things to ensure they are creatively charged.
Shez then gave his second performance of the class, which involved lots of looping and fast fills before revealing his top five creativity boosters: completely free yourself, completely limit yourself, hit the lights, pray for mistakes, and absurd words.
Asking the students to think back to when they first picked up their instrument, Shez told them to make time each week to practice in this way – free from boundaries. He then asked them to also make time for practicing improvisation with limitations such as using only certain notes within a scale.
Explaining that your senses are heightened when you lose your sight, he encouraged the students to try switching off the lights to boost their creative mindset next time they play.
Sharing Victor Wooten’s advice that “you’re only one step away from the right note”, he also told the students to embrace their mistakes; that they are opportunities, and crucial to creativity.
Shez’s final advice was to think of absurd words when looking for musical inspiration, laughing that ‘cauliflower jam’ can create some very unique music “when you think about it”.
We’d like to thank Shez for the brilliant and unique masterclass!
If you’d like to study at ACM and learn from incredible musicians like Shez Raja, please call our Admissions Team on 01483 500 841 or visit www.acm.ac.uk/open-days/ to book a place on an ACM Open Day today.