The musicians

On The Buddha Of Suburbia, David Bowie primarily worked with Erdal Kızılçay.

I felt really happy making that album. Overall, it was just myself and Erdal Kızılçay working on that.

Erdal was a fellow musician, Turkish, working in Switzerland. He had studied at the Istanbul Conservatory, and for his degree had to become proficient in every instrument in the orchestra.

This led to a lot of testing on my part. I would produce an oboe from my jacket pocket, ‘Hey, Erdal, don’t you think oboe would be nice here?’ He would trot off to the mic and put down a beautiful solo, then say, ‘That’s quite good, but how about if I doubled it with the North Albanian Frog Trembler?’ And he would.

David Bowie
ContactMusic, 23 September 2003

Kızılçay was a talented multi-instrumentalist with whom Bowie had collaborated since the Let’s Dance demos, and who later worked on 1.Outside

It was like for Iggy Pop’s Blah Blah Blah album. He wanted me to do certain things. I was painting for him – musical lines, whatever he wanted. He knew me very well by this time, because we’d done so many albums and plus the Glass Spider world tour, so we were friends, still very good friends. So he knew exactly what he wanted and he just let me work on the thing. There was never a negative word. He had very good ideas so I was his [helping] hand if you want. So it really went very well and I still listen to the album and it was really amazing. Some beautiful stuff came out of it.
Erdal Kızılçay, 2013

Another musician returning for the album was Mike Garson, who had first toured with Bowie and the Spiders From Mars on the Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1972-73, and whose avant-garde piano solo on ‘Aladdin Sane’ was a career-defining moment.

Garson had performed on the albums Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups, Diamond Dogs, David Live, and Young Americans, and in 1993 had reunited with Bowie on Black Tie White Noise.

On my favourite piece, ‘South Horizon’, all elements, from lead instrumentation to texture, were played both forwards and backwards. The resulting extracts were then intercut arbitrarily giving Mike Garson a splendidly eccentric backdrop upon which to improvise. I personally think Mike gives one of his best-ever performances on this piece and it thrills on every listening, confirming to me at least, that he is still one of the most extraordinary pianists playing today.
David Bowie, 15 September 1993
The Buddha Of Suburbia sleeve notes

Garson improvised the piano parts on two Buddha Of Suburbia songs, ‘Bleed Like A Craze, Dad’ and ‘South Horizon’. The three-hour overdub session took place in a Los Angeles studio.

David did the whole thing, then he came out to LA and he brought the tapes and in three hours I did the piano work and I just listened to the music on earphones. Again he directed where to play but I just played on top of it. Right after the Young Americans tour he said, ‘You’re going to be working with me for the next twenty years.’ Then I didn’t see him for twenty years! Then he called me and he said, ‘Let’s go.’ It was as if ten minutes had passed, it was that bizarre. I thought some of the music on Buddha was fantastic.
Mike Garson
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

There were just two other musical collaborators on The Buddha Of Suburbia. Lenny Kravitz added some rock guitar to the title track, which was remixed and edited to remove the introduction, and sequenced at the end of the album.

The other guest performers were 3D Echo, a lesser-known UK funk-rock group. Rob Clydesdale, Paul Davidson and Danny ‘Isaac’ Prevost added guitar, bass and drums respectively to ‘Bleed Like A Craze, Dad’ and the title track.

We were about two weeks into this free time with [producer] David Richards when we had to down tools because we learned that David Bowie was going to be coming in to record the music for this miniseries called The Buddha Of Suburbia. It was set in Ziggy sort of time and our manager Nigel said, ‘Let’s see if we can get you to record with him…’ And we said, ‘Yeah, right…’ We thought we’re just going to be knocking about in Montreux for a couple of weeks. But they said, ‘David’s going to come over tonight; if you could be upstairs jamming, he’ll listen behind the closed door of the live room. If he likes what he hears, you might be able to work on the music for the series.’ We went upstairs and had a bit of a jam and then all of a sudden the door opens and there’s David Bowie, Dave Richards and our manager. We shook hands, he said, ‘Hello, I’m David.’ He was very down to earth, never presumptuous that everybody would know who he was. This was a Sunday and he said, ‘I’m starting on Monday – would you like to turn up to the studio and we’ll get going?’ I’ve got some ideas and we’ll work on some stuff.’
Rob Clydesdale
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)