Tag Archives: India

A Double Delight For Carnatic Music Fans in Muscat

 

Fresh from the memory of momentous inaugural concert by Prince Rama Varma, music fans in Muscat are being treated to a double delight by Nadopasana. A totally voluntary organization dreamed up by a bunch of die-hard rasikas of classical Carnatic music, Nadopasana is in its very first year of service to the music lovers of Oman. Encouraged by the support provided by its well-wishers, the organizing team has arranged for two concerts by promising young musicians who are currently making waves in the Indian music scene.

 

Mrs Nandini Neelakantan

 

The concerts, planned for the 25th of March 2017 at the Krishna Temple, Darsait, Muscat, will feature Mrs Nandini Neelakantan in the morning session and Mr Vignesh Ishwar in the evening.

Mrs Neelakantan (nee NJ Nandini of Trivandrum), stormed the Carnatic music scene a few years back by winning many of the reality competition shows on Indian television channels. Blessed with a lovely voice and a matching countenance, she has imbibed everything from her Gurus and created an enchanting style of her own. Yet to be 25, she is already an “A” grade artiste with All India Radio, and has performed over 700 concerts in India and abroad. If her track record is any indication, the discerning audience in Muscat is in for a real treat on Saturday, the 25th March. Her concert starts at 10.00 am.

Sri M. S. Ananthakrishnan

 

She will be accompanied by Sri M S Ananthakrrishnan, the youngest torch bearer of the great Parur style of violin playing, made internationally famous by his grandfather Sri M.S. Anantharaman and the legendary Sri M. S. Gopalakrishnan.

The Parur style emphasizes strict adherence to sruti and focuses on the gayaki style of playing the violin. In recent years, young Ananthakrrishnan has repeatedly won laurels for upholding the trend set by his illustrious predecessors.

The percussion accompaniment for Nandini will be by her brother Sri Nandagopal, already a well-known and much sought after mridangist, vocalist and teacher in Muscat. As a loving elder sibling, Nandagopal has been nurturing Nandini’s career and his presence and support on the mridangam is bound to bring the very best out of Nandini.

 

Sri N. J. Nandagopal

 

The evening concert, scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm, will feature another rising star in the Carnatic scene, Sri Vignesh Ishwar. Born with the advantage of belonging to a musically evolved family, Vignesh has grasped the essence of Carnatic music, which is revealed in impressive stage presence, and confident rendition of alapanas, kritis and kalpana swarams.

Making good use of his technical background (he holds a masters in sound and music technology), Vignesh has been involved in many innovative schemes to improve and preserve the great heritage of classical Indian music. He has a bagful of honors and awards to his credit, and there is no doubt he will leave his mark on the Muscat audience.

 

Sri Vignesh Ishwar

 

Young Ananthakrishnan will be Vignesh’s violin accompanist. It is creditable that Ananthakrishnan has agreed to play the violin for a lead female and male artiste on the same day, as this can be technically demanding.

 

R Srinivasan

 

The mridangist for the evening will be Delhi R Srinivasan, who has an enviable track record as an accompanist to almost all the great vocalists and instrumentalists who have visited Delhi in the last thirty odd years. He has been chosen to accompany many of these artistes abroad on their concert tours, such is his level of understanding the role of a percussionist. Another Muscat boy, Srinivasan is bound to delight the many locals who already know his prowess.

Saturday the 25th March promises to be an exciting day, alright!

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Music for Everyone – Unique and Innovative Music Chakra

Music Chakra

Mr. L.S. Ramesh, a Post Graduate from the reputed Indian Institute of Technology-I.I.T. Madras has designed an innovative Carnatic Music chakra (Sri Saraswathi 72 Melakarta chakra) after more than six years of effort,  to help anyone, children to elderly, without any music knowledge to very easily see, learn and play the Melakarta Ragas of Carnatic music, Western as well as Hindustani by using this unique chakra.

L.S. Ramesh with keyboard

Most people feel Carnatic music and music in general, is beyond their grasp. I wanted to simplify the entire concept and show all the main ragas as a visual tool seeing which it becomes easy to identify with the entire genre of music. Carnatic music is the mother of all world music

Design of the Music Chakra

The 72 Melakarta (Main Ragas) have been neatly depicted in the form of a chakra (Wheel) wherein the ragas are clearly shown as ‘dots on an Octave of the keyboard’. Playing the dots on your keyboard will bring out the melody of the raga. Each dot represents a swara stana (Position of a note).

For Example, Mayamalavagaula-Melakarta Number 15 is depicted below:

Mayamalavagaula-Melakarta Number 15

Side one contains 36 Suddha Madhyama Ragas which are categorized under respective Chakra heads. For example Indu Chakra has 6 Melakarta Ragas Namely Kanakangi, Ratnangi ,Ganamurthi, Vanaspathi, Manavathi and Danarupi. Similarly other Chakras Netra, Agni ,Veda, Bana and Ruthu chakras with their respective Melakarta ragas are depicted with swara stanas as Dots.

This pattern of dots can be seen and played even by a novice to reveal the particular raga.

Side 2 has the remaining 36 Prathimadhyama Ragas depicted with chakra names Rishi, Vasu Brahma, Disi, Rudhra and Adithya with each chakra comprising 6 Melakarta Ragas each. For example Rishi chakra has the Melakartas from 37 to 42.

It is interesting to observe the following in the Music chakra:

1) As an example if we take Melakarta 29 (Dheerashankarabharanam) and add 36 to this, we get the corresponding Prathimadyama Melakarta raga (29+36=65) Mechakalyani which is very similar to Dheerashankarabharanam except for the MA note.

This helps students to quickly grasp the swara stanas and visualize the raga patterns.

2) The below table shows a comparative list of Carnatic, Hindustani and western scales

Carnatic Hindustani Western
Shankarabharanam

Melakarta -29

Bilawal C-Major
Natabhairavi

Melakarta-20

Asavari C-Natural Minor
Keeravani

Melakarta-21

Kirwani C-Harmonic Minor
Gowrimanohari

Melakarta-23

Patdeep C-Melodic Minor

 

Use Of The Music Chakra To Help Children With Special Needs –Autism , Down’s Syndrome

Children with autism or Downs’s Syndrome are very good at identifying patterns and Music is a language they understand best.
Parents and teachers of special children can learn from this chakra and teach.

Research has shown how playing an instrument helps in brain development .When a person plays an instrument the left and right hemispheres of the brain get activated and the motor neurons become more active to help send or receive signals.

Mr. Ramesh conducts Lecture-demo and workshops for Schools, Colleges and corporates on “Music – What, How and Why To Play Music.”

For details website http://www.faces108.com. Mobile Mrs. Sridevi 09445360139

Note: Part of the sale proceeds of this music chakra is used to support orphans through our FACES (Food , Aid, Clothing, Education, Shelter) initiative.

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A Different Look at a Concert with a Difference – but a Remarkable Feat

Some years back, I wrote an article titled “What makes for an interesting concert?” Although it was part of a concert review, I was doing some introspection while trying to find a solution to that question. I should have waited. Prince Rama Varma’s concert at the Krishna Temple, Muscat, on 25th February, under the auspices of Nadopasana, provided the answer unambiguously. I came away immensely satisfied, and can now understand not only what makes a concert interesting, but also what gives a sense of fulfillment to the discerning rasika. And this, despite the concert not having an RTP. A remarkable feat indeed.

The success of a concert, I realized, lies in the ability of the main artist to communicate with the audience, and not just by a show of his repertoire or virtuosity. Rama Varma and his team were sitting on the stage. But for the audience, they may as well have been sitting in their midst, talking, making eye contact, and wholesomely reaching out, to almost everyone in the audience of over 400 people.

The proof was there for all to see. No one, not a single child, moved during the entire concert, no phones rang, and extra chairs were pulled to accommodate curious entrants to the temple hall who were drawn into Varma’s enchanting web of music mixed with conversation. He introduced every kriti with an anecdote that took you an immense step closer to the creative instinct of the composer. He has a sense of spontaneous, inoffensive humor which he uses liberally in all his concerts. He can play on words like few others in his field. (for example, he urged people to Google the meaning of various keertanas, gently reminding those present that they were not missing out by skipping a Tamil play (based on Google) that was going on at a nearby venue). I think that by the time he was done, he had aroused the interest of many students and rasikas into exploring the world of composers, sahithyas and meanings of the thousands of wonderful kritis now extant.

Not for nothing is he well known for bringing rare kritis to the concert platform, in keeping with similar work done by his esteemed guru, Sri Balamurali Krishna. How many would have heard Mali’s immortal “magudi” piece in oral form? We were the lucky few last Saturday.

Rama Varma

Rama Varma had accepted a request from the local organizers and came to the city nearly four days prior to the concert. He gave of his fullest during this time: three elaborate classes for aspiring musicians of the city (age range 7 to 71!). He indulged a mixed audience to a lecture demonstration on Indian classical music and its position viz. other forms of world music. The lec-dem was at the Indian Embassy, Muscat, and the brain child of the ambassador of India.

The students he taught had been forewarned that they may be asked to sing along at the end of the main concert, but he still managed to make it all exciting: He announced to the audience that he had “discovered” a few people knew some of the songs he liked to sing, so would they please join him from wherever they were sitting? It was a kind of a musical Flash-Mob, if you like, and one that endeared him to every single person in the hall – his students and their parents (or children!) beaming with pride, the unknowing amongst the audience pleasantly surprised, and the whole hall reverberating to an orchestra of classical Carnatic music in its purest form!

When it was all over, as all concerts must, there was a deep sense of longing in the hearts of all rasikas, lay and connoisseur alike. It was reflected by the most asked question when people queued up to meet him and his team – when do we see you again?

I will break from the standard pattern of listing and elaborating on the nuances of each kriti he sang, for two good reasons: I have dwelled long enough on other aspects of this memorable concert. More importantly, Varma generously allows all of his concerts to be uploaded to YouTube, and it would be presumptuous of me to explain what was good and what was excellent – everyone is welcome to their own opinion. I notice that already some noble soul has uploaded the flash-mob bits at youtube.com. I must hasten to add though that the success of this master craftsman’s concert was to a large extent because of his longtime associates – Sri SR Vinu on the violin and Dr G Babu on the mridangam, both “musicians who are magicians” in their own right.

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The Festival of Indian Classical Music @ Sunad

 

If Spring Season cometh to Delhi can the The Festival of Indian Classical Music @ Sunad be far behind.

This year’s Musical Festival is indeed a kaleidoscopic pattern, integrating various subtle genres of the Indian Classical Music. It starts with a Hindustani Instrumental rendering by veteran Suvir Misra on the rudhra veena. Suvir Misra is an Indian musician – vocalist, musicologist, and is an expert in the rudhra veena. He is accompanied by Pandit Mohan Shyam Sharma who is one of the leading pakhawaj players of India.

 

Suvir Misra

 

This is immediately followed by a grand Carnatic music Vocal concert by Sandeep Narayan (who has relocated to India from Los Angeles purely for his passion for music) accompanied on the violin by Delhi P. Sunder Rajan and on the mridangam by Delhi M.V. Chander Shekar. So much for the morning session menu for the 18th Mar. Saturday.

Sunday the 19th evening features another Double delight. It starts with a Carnatic music vocal duet by young Kumari Archana and Kumari Samanvi. They are accompanied on the violin by Delhi R. Sridhar and on the mridangam by Vinod Shyam.

 

Saraswati Rajagopalan

 

This is followed by the unique Samvad which is a musical fusion based on the harmonious exchange of musical expressions and rhythms. This is featured by the versatile Veena Vidushi Saraswati Rajagopalan on the veena; Ajay Prasanna on flute; Anil Chawla on keyboard; Anoor Anantha Krishna Sharma on mridangam; Vinod Shyam on tabla; and S. Pranav Dath on rhythm pad.

Saraswati Rajagopalan has the distinction of having featured on all the Sunad events in various formats as Solo, Jugalbandhi, Orchestra/Fusion music and now the Samvad. This is supported and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of India. All are Welcome.

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The Best of Multi-Instrumentalist Baluji Shrivastav

Baluji Shrivastav featuring The InnerVision Orchestra – Best of Baluji Shrivastav (ARC Music EUCD2695, 2017)

“Awesome” is an awesomely overused word these days, and applied to music with a repugnant frequency that waters down the word’s meaning. It is intended to be easily accessible in the toolboxes of writers and speakers as, more or less, “’superlative,’ but without the cravat.” It is frustrating to a reviewer to have “awesome” watered down when it comes to mind so readily and naturally regarding Baluji Shrivastav. His actual name is Dhanonday Shrivastav (Officer of the Order of the British Empire, OBE).

Multi-instrumentalists who are truly competent with instruments of different general families (string, percussion, vocals, etc.) are rare and awesome enough, multi-instrumentalists who are blind from babyhood are at the tip of the awesomeness iceberg and blind instrumentalists working and recording with a 14-piece jazz ensemble made up entirely of visually impaired musicians from all around the globe are … “awesunique” comes to mind, a sniglet invented to combine “awesome” and “unique” for the specific purpose of lauding Baluji Shrivastav with a term unlikely to be watered down through overuse.

This 14-song anthology spans over three decades of recordings and reflects the artist’s explorations of several genres and bandstand partnerships. Three of the 14, “Discovering London & Friendship,” “Walking Through The Streets” and “Mixing with the Crowd and Spirit of Joy,” comprise a fascinating description of the man’s move to London, taking in the city’s ambiance without the sense of sight. Each of these three cuts is overdue for use in a film soundtrack, as is another piece written by the artist’s daughter, “The Way I Feel.” Of the CD cuts, these four particularly disprove Rudyard Kipling’s truism, “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” for East and West intermesh seamlessly here.

From start to finish, from folk-rooted Indian ragas to rich orchestral pieces, this anthology delights and rewards a general listenership. It is, in short, “awesunique.”

Buy Best of Baluji Shrivastav

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The Genders of Indian Music Concert in London

On March 5, 2017 the Asian Music Circuit will present a concert in London of North Indian Classical music. The event deals with the gender roles within North Indian Classical music and how these roles have transformed over time.

The concert will showcase Uday Bhawalkar, who will sing in the Dhrupad style that is conventionally performed by male singers. He will be accompanied by Chirangana Agle-Reshwal, who has attracted a lot of attention as the first well-known female performer of an instrument that until recently was habitually only played by men, the pakhawaj (a barrel drum).

Uday Bhawalkar

 

The concert will also feature Manjiri Asanare Kelkar, who sings in the Khyal style, another genre usually associated with men. She will be accompanied by the male tabla player Sanjay Deshpande.

 

Manjiri Asanare Kelkar

 

Sanjay Deshpande

 

March 5, 2017
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Starts: 6:00pm
Royal Albert Hall
Kensington Gore
London
SW7 2AP
UK
Phone: 020 7589 8212
www.royalalberthall.com

headline photo: Chirangana Agle-Reshwal

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Jaipur LitFest 2017: a five-day showcase of literature – and music!

The annual Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), held every January in Rajasthan, is widely regarded as one of India’s best literary events, and indeed one of the world’s largest free events of its kind (see my compilation of 75 Inspiring Quotes from the 2017 edition). It’s not just the established and emerging authors that are a popular draw, but also the celebration of art and music that have become major attractions at the five-day event.

The music lineup at the 10th edition of the festival featured a range of artistes at three locations: the festival venue Diggi Palace in the mornings, an evening heritage showcase at Amber Fort, and night-time performances in the lawns of Hotel Clarks Amer.

Day One

The first musical performance was by the Shillong Chamber Choir from Northeast India. The choir covers everything from Indian cinema to opera. “It’s not music that is the difficult part. It is sticking together that takes effort,” explained lead singer William Richmond Basaiawmoit in an interview.

 

Shillong Chamber Choir – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The evening performances kicked off with a high-energy set by Rajasthan Josh, a folk band performing a wide range of traditions of the north-western region of India. Featured instruments included the morchang, bhapang, khartaal, double flute, and nagada, performed in traditional bhajans as well as mystic Sufi Rajasthani compositions. The colorful folk dances on the superbly-designed stage also drew loud applause.

 

Rajasthan Josh – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The second band to take the outdoor stage on the chilly night was Kabir Café, who play a genre called Kabir Rock, derived from the teachings and music of the 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint Kabir. The lineup includes Neeraj Arya (vocals, guitar), Mukund Ramaswamy (violin), Viren Solanki (percussion) and Raman Iyer (mandolin). The messages of devotion, tolerance and inner faith, set to contemporary rhythms, resonated well with the audience at the literature festival.

 

Kabir Cafe – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Day Two

The morning of Day Two kicked off with a performance at the lit-fest venue by Swanand Kirkire (Hindi singer and lyricist) and Ankur Tewari (Bollywood lyricist and composer). The evening highlight at the scenic Amber Fort was sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. The sarod has been derived by modifying the ancient folk instrument of Iran, rabab. Khan also has a wide range of collaborations with Western classical musicians, and his legacy carries on with his two sons, Amaan and Ayaan, themselves accomplished sarod artistes.

The night-time performances kicked off with Bombay Bassment, with the sounds of hip-hop, reggae, funk, and drum & bass. The members include drummer Levin Mendes and bassist Ruell Barretto, along with Kenyan rapper Robert Omulo (aka Bobkat) and Chandrashekhar Kunder aka Major C, a DJ. Their first album was released in 2014, and the band has performed across India as well as at the Glastonbury Festival and the Reunion Kaloobang Festival.

 

Bombay Bassment – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The final act on Friday night was Inna Modja, a singer-songwriter from Mali. Her hit songs include ‘Mister H’, ‘French Cancan’ and ‘La Fille du Lido.’ The performance blended Motown soul, Sahel desert blues, Mandinka guitars, a Fula flute, and kora.

 

Inna Modja – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Day Three

The Saturday morning vocal performance featured Padmini Rao, exponent of the Kirana Gharana form of North Indian classical music. Rao is a senior disciple of renowned singer Dr. Prabha Atre, and also studied under the guidance of the late Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Khan Dagar.

The evening show kicked off with the melodic combination of Beth Orton and Sam Amidon.

 

Beth Orton, Sam Amidon and Rajasthan Josh – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Beth Orton is a singer-songwriter from the UK who has released six acclaimed albums, including Kidsticks. Sam Amidon is a singer/banjoist/guitarist from Vermont, with five albums to his credit (the latest is Lily-O). To the audience’s delight, folk band Rajasthan Josh also joined them for a memorable collaboration at the end, and Western folk harmonics smoothly blended with Rajasthani folk and dance to a rousing crescendo.

Top Indian blues band Soulmate wrapped up the Saturday night showcase, with a sizzling set of vocals and guitar. The quartet was formed in Shillong in 2003 by guitarist Rudy Wallang and vocalist Tipriti Kharbangar, along with Leon Wallang (bass) and Vincent Tariang (drums). Tipriti drew rousing applause for her songs ‘Voodoo Woman’ and especially ‘Keep your hands off me,’ in protest against incidents of women being assaulted by men.

 

Rudy Wallang – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Tipriti Kharbangar – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Day Four

Sunday morning kicked off with vocalist Devashish Dey, a classical singer who specializes in thumri, dadra, tappa, chaiti and kazri styles. He has performed widely across India and the UK and released many albums.

The final night-time showcase began with Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, whose award-winning albums include At Swim, Sea Sew and Passenger. The audience cheered along for her outstanding and haunting harmonies. She also showed her sense of humor and compassion by dedicating a song to the safety of drivers in India’s notorious traffic-choked streets (‘don’t be in a hurry, don’t be crushed by a lorry’).

A mesmerizing band then took the stage: Aga Khan All Stars, with a range of talented instrumentalists from Afghanistan, China, Italy and Syria. The collective is a project of the Aga Khan Music Initiative, an inter-regional music and arts education program. The music evoked the culture along the historic Silk Route from Asia to Europe. Salar Nader, Homayoun Sakhi. Wu Man, Feras Charestan, Basel Rajoub, and Andrea Piccioni drew loud applause for their outstanding solos and duets on pipa, tabla, saxophone, kanun and tamburello.

 

Aga Khan All Stars – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Aga Khan All Stars – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The perfect finale was the colorful and energetic Raghu Dixit Project, one of the most popular contemporary folk-fusion bands in India. Their infectious and happy tunes were sung in Kannada and Hindi, with Raghu Dixit on vocals, Gaurav Vaz on bass, Sanjay Kumar on guitar, H.N. Bhaskar on violin, and Wilfred D’moz on drums. They performed hits from their albums including ‘Jag Changa,’ and ended with the superb ‘Har Saans Mein.’

 

Raghu Dixit – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Raghu Dixit Project – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Raghu engaged with the audience throughout, urging them to get up and dance rather than ‘sit down and look at the bums of the people dancing in front of you!’ The band has performed extensively at festivals across Asia, Europe and Australia, and their youthfulness and creativity will ensure that they continue to headline a range of cultural events.

Day Five

The final musical performance at the Jaipur LitFest was on Monday morning, titled ‘East Meets Middle East.’ It featured a superb blend of music from the Middle East and South Asia, with Subrata Bhattacharya (tabla) and Abhisek Lahiri (sarod) from Kolkata collaborating with Ronnie Malley (oud) and George Lawler (percussion). Palestinian Ronnie Malley anchored the set, and the group truly transcended boundaries as they paired off in a range of scintillating duets.

 

East Meets Middle East – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Abhisek Lahiri and Ronnie Malley – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

I look forward to interviewing the artistes in more detail and reviewing their albums, and will be sure to check out the 11th edition of the Jaipur LitFest next year, with its unbeatable combination of literature and music!

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Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh to Perform at Celtic Connections Festival 2017

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh

EarthSync will present the Carnatic tradition of veena virtuoso Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh live at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, Scotland. Celtic Connections is a large, influential music festival that celebrates Scottish music as well as Celtic and world music and other forms of roots music.

Jayanthi Kumaresh is an internationally renowned Carnatic veena maestro hailing from a distinguished family of musicians who have been immersed in the Carnatic tradition for seven generations. She has been playing the instrument since she was 5 years old, and will showcase a selection of evening ragas. Her performances at Celtic Connections 2017 will take place on Friday, January 27th at 7:30pm, and Saturday, January 28th at 8:00 pm.

I’m looking forward to presenting the national instrument of India – the Saraswati Veena – to an international audience in Glasgow, introducing many of them to the textures of this instrument that has a 15000 year old tradition originating from the Vedic period” says Kumaresh, “I would like to give credit to EarthSync for taking this instrument far and wide where people haven’t heard of it – it’s a great service to the cause of Indian Classical music to facilitate this exposure”.

For more information, visit: www.celticconnections.com

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The Baul

Babukishan

The Baul are mystic minstrels, traditional poets, singers, and storytellers, from Bengal (eastern India and Bangladesh). With their flowing saffron robes, long jet black hair, rolling eyes and swaying hips, they sing in their high keening voices to the frenzied accompaniment of their traditional instruments.

The Baul movement, at its peak in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, has now regained popularity among the rural population of Bangladesh. Their music and way of life have influenced a large segment of Bengali culture, and particularly the compositions of Nobel Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

Bauls live either near a village or travel from place to place and earn their living from singing to the accompaniment of the ektara, the lute dotara, a simple one-stringed instrument, and a drum called dubki. Bauls belong to an unorthodox devotional tradition, influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, Bengali, Vasinavism and Sufi Islam, yet distinctly different from them.

Bauls neither identify with any organized religion nor with the caste system, special deities, temples or sacred places. Their emphasis lies on the importance of a person’s physical body as the place where God resides. Bauls are admired for this freedom from convention as well as their music and poetry. Baul poetry, music, song and dance are devoted to finding humankind’s relationship to God, and to achieving spiritual liberation. Their devotional songs can be traced back to the fifteenth century when they first appeared in Bengali literature.

Baul music represents a particular type of folk song, carrying influences of Hindu bhakti movements as well as the shuphi, a form of Sufi song. Songs are also used by the spiritual leader to instruct disciples in Baul philosophy, and are transmitted orally. The language of the songs is continuously modernized thus endowing it with contemporary relevance.

The preservation of the Baul songs and the general context in which they are performed depend mainly on the social and economic situation of their practitioners, the Bauls, who have always been a relatively marginalized group. Moreover, their situation has worsened in recent decades due to the general impoverishment of rural Bangladesh.

Sources: Babukishan and UNESCO

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IndiEarth xChange 2016, Chennai: Weekend conference and festival of world music and indie acts

The annual IndiEarth xChange conference and festival wrapped up in Chennai recently with a weekend of world music and indie performances at The Park Hotel. The event also included conference tracks, workshops and film screenings (see my earlier writeups on the festival editions from 2015 and 2014).

The IndiEarth initiative, promoting independent musicians and filmmakers, was conceptualized by the founders of EarthSync India, a music label and film production company launched by Sastry Karra, Sonya Mazumdar, Yotam Agam and Kris Karra in 2004. It is widely regarded as one of the best forums to discover new bands and to network among the independent music industry, venue founders and festival curators in India.

 

electronic gear at the festival

 

Industry insights

The event was a celebration of the ability of artistes around the world to collaborate at a time of increasing political conflict, and also to share industry lessons on building viable careers and forums for the world of arts and culture. Panel discussions were held on music education, media contributions and festival design, along with workshops on field recordings, legal issues and preservation of folk arts.

Classical and folk musician Vidya Shah conducted an outstanding multi-media presentation along with live performances, titled ‘Women on Record,’ highlighting the gramophone era of recorded music and its mixed impact on the world of live performances. In a world of increasing commercialization of culture, it is important to understand the value and contributions of folk musicians, according to Divya Bhatia, founder of the annual four-day Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF) in Jodhpur.

 

Divya Bhatia, founder of the Rajasthan International Folk Festival – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

I took part in a panel on ‘Arts Journalism: Content Creation, Ethics, and Reportage,’ covering the increasing role of social media in artiste promotion and music reportage, the need for talent strategies incorporating partnerships and internships, media coverage for local audiences as compared to international markets, the balance between business and editorial agendas, and new digital formats for content about music (see for example my app ‘Oktav: Music Quotes and Proverbs’ available for Apple and Android devices).

Day One

In the afternoon of Day One, the music performances kicked off in the lobby stage with Aver, a nine-piece Indian contemporary fusion-style band. Formed in 2015, the band is based in Chennai; its Indian as well as Arabic influences were reflected in their range of instruments and sounds.

 

Aver – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The evening show began with the spellbinding Hindustani classical music duo Pratik & Vinayak. Vinayak Netke composes, arranges, and plays the tabla for his fusion band Zamee, and has also released two devotional albums, Aadi Pujya and Kalidas’s Meghdoot. Pratik Shrivastava was born into a family of musicians, and began playing the sarod at the age of six under the guidance of his grandfather Pandit Rabi Chakraborty. They played two ragas (Rageshri was outstanding), and drew loud applause for their virtuosity and call-response interplay.

 

Pratik Shrivastava on sarod – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Vinayak Netke on tabla – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The mood switched to electronica with Vasuda (‘Miss V’) on digital media and Chaitanya Bhaidkar on guitars. The music blends Indian classical and folk with Western contemporary music. Vasuda’s debut album is ‘Attuned Spirits.’

 

‘Miss V’(Vasuda) – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Another superb performance of Indian folk and ghazal followed, with Vidya Shah on vocals accompanied by four musicians on sarangi, tabla, percussion and guitar. She picked up on some of the themes from her morning presentation, and wrapped up in fine style with the ever-energetic ‘Mast Kalandar.’

 

Vidya Shah – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Gears shifted again to the lobby stage with Tamil rock band Kurangan. They showed that scorching funk and blues have no geographical barriers, and lend themselves well to local interpretation. Formed in 2015, the band is set to release its debut album next year.

 

Kurangan – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

French alternative electronic band Organic Bananas wowed the audience with some amazing sound from the hurdy gurdy, fused with modern digital ambience. Kraftwerk in the 21st century, with some rock and groove, would be an apt way to describe their music.

 

Organic Bananas – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The night ended with a long set of African-influenced danceable electronica by Sauvage Sound System from the Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The DJs Kwalud and Black Ben kept the audience on their feet late into the night, as could be seen by the sleepy faces of some of the conference attendees the next morning!

 

Sauvage Sound System – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Day Two

The second and final day of performances began with singer-songwriter Abhi Tambe from Bangalore, who was earlier with post-rock group Lounge Piranha. Abhi performed some melodic tracks from his upcoming solo album. Another solo performance featured Aditya Balani on guitar and digital media; he has been on BBC Asia Beats, MTV Coke Studio, Pepsi MTV Indies, and BBC Radio.

 

Aditya Balani – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The previous day’s Tamil rock track picked up again with folk rock band Kulam, featuring Pradeep Kumar on guitars and vocals, Jhanu on bass and Tapass Naresh on drums. Barefoot and in lungis, the guitarists joked among themselves between their songs, to much audience delight.

 

Kulam – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Another terrific band from Reunion Island then took the energy to another level: Afro-jazz band Identité. They blended maloya with jazz, showcasing the creativity of Creole culture. The percussion section and lead saxophone were outstanding, and drew loud applause from the audience.

 

Identité – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Electronica took the floor again with the Chennai duo Krameri, consisting of Gopi Krishnan and Damini Chauhan, followed by Indian punk rock band Dossers Urge. Synth-pop took the stage with Akshay Rajpurohit’s solo set; his debut album is called ‘Sadomist.’

 

Krameri – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

By then the audience was all pumped up for Indian dubstep guru Nucleya; his high energy set blended Indian sound with global bass. His new album ‘BASS Rani’ is a hit with audiences across the diverse regions of India.

 

Nucleya – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The music carried on later in the hotel bar well into the early hours of the next morning; a round of goodbyes followed the next day over breakfast and lunch (or was it brunch?). We look forward to next year’s xChange 2017 festival and conference already!

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