Dissolving Borders with Carnatic Music

Posted By : Editor

Do we have to live in a Dead Poets Society? We sing in the shower -- not to win an award. And we text our loved ones -- not to proudly cross an item on the to-do list. Singing, dancing, writing for love is neither cute nor cool. It’s just a constant reminder to ourselves. We do so to tap into the life within and outside.Medicine, law, business, engineering, to quote from the Dead Poets Society, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. In this special issue, we thought it’d be a good idea to sing happy birthday to Karnataka. A tune from the United States, attributed to Patty and Mildred J. Hill, diffused borders.

May we request our readers to join us sing a song? “Happy birthday to Karnataka! May God bless you!” Known to us as the raga Sankarabharanam, best heard on violin when played by Apoorva Krishna — the most promising classical musician from our state who moved back to India from the United States to pursue music. We start off by wishing both Karnataka and Carnatic music the best.

So Apoorva, like the happy birthday song in the raga Sankarabharanam, your compositions are here to melt hearts and dissolve borders? Tell us more about the work you do.

 

Why Bahudari? And what’s Bahudari all about?

A couple of years ago, I thought of having a musical ensemble to collaborate with young artistes from my peer group. Bahudari means many ways and I feel it is great to celebrate music in many ways, which is why this name was picked.  The idea is to share Carnatic music in all possible ways like demos, workshops, outreach programmes and performances. 

It is such a delight to see youngsters like you shine on like crazy diamonds. Share with our readers all about your music and collaborations in the near future?

Thank you. In July 2017, TARISIO, an international auction house for string-based musical instruments, recognised our creative music with their Young Artiste Grant Program. The Bahudari composition was picked as one of the top three among many genres and applicants over the world in the classical music stream.  Our team of three, myself supported by my percussion artistes Vinod Shyam on the Mridangam

and Sunaad Anoor on the Khanjira from Bengaluru consider it as a mark of the celebration of Carnatic Music and as a testimony to our Indian Classical Music System by the global musical fraternity. The jury comprised senior musical luminaries including Kim Kashkashian, Grammy Award-winning soloist; Martin Engstroem, Founder & Executive Director of Verbier Festival; and Quatuor Ebene, France’s genre-defying ensemble.

We are deeply humbled by this achievement and are simultaneously even more excited to take up the task of making our Carnatic music reach out to the rural areas in India and global audience even more. We wish to achieve this by also leveraging and harnessing the available power of technology in today’s world such the Internet and Social Media. Through outreach programmes and creative musical extravaganzas, we wish to celebrate music beyond borders or boundaries.

 

What is your opinion about popular music, and what in your opinion are the fundamental differences with respect to Carnatic?

Musical genres are many. Popular music like pop, film or folk music is more appealing to the masses because of cinema and entertainment. It is generally in a free flowing style which is quite easy to enjoy and may not go into deeper levels of complexities. Carnatic music needs more discipline to understand, learn and practise due to its structural framework in the Raga (Melodic) and Tala (Rhythmic) bedrock of the Indian Classical Music System. The key difference is that Carnatic Classical Music Stream has a definite framework. However, this rule does not limit the creativity (or Manodharma) for improvisation, within the contours of its framework. In fact, there are infinite possibilities in the Manodharma aspects of Carnatic music that help to bring out freshness and innovation, left only to the imagination of the composers and performing musicians.

Do you envision an open place where Carnatic musicians come and perform just to engage with non-Carnatic crowd? Do you see yourself taking the plunge?

We can spread Carnatic music by beginning to explore ways and means to popularise it outside the regular sabha platforms that are available to us as of today.  Other than performing at temples or music festivals, Carnatic music has not come alive in different settings. I believe, Carnatic musicians should take ownership and responsibility to take Carnatic music to the people. How they do it should be left to them.

 

How often do you perform with artistes from other genres in the city? How has been your experience? Do you appreciate concerts and artistes from other genres? Do you personally attend any of them?

When I performed with Shankar Mahadevan Sir at the Bengaluru Ganesh Utsav, I played along for a popular music number. However, the segway to it was more exhilarating for me, as the Sindhu Bhairavi raga followed by ‘thanam’ was a grand build up to the number. It was all impromptu and was truly an amazing experience for me that I could pull it off too, live on stage. I got appreciation from live audience as well as the clip that went viral on Facebook. I also found my recent five week workshop in Berklee College of Music, Boston, bringing me an experience of a lifetime. I have the opportunity to collaborate with jazz and western musicians and together, we performed at a Bulgarian Music Festival Series and my collaboration found now meaning and I made a bunch of global musician friends for life. I can appreciate world music much better now and am equipped to take our Carnatic Music with equal pride to collaborate seamlessly in such situations.

 

What are the plans for yourself and your music for the next 5 - 10 years?

In five to ten years, I wish to make definite progress to showcase and demonstrate that Carnatic music can be a truly viable alternative for stress relief by showcasing its power on the minds and bodies that need soothing sounds and balms through music.