Autumn Ballet

Saregama, Rs. 199

If one is still is hopeful of finding something novel in the world of fusion, the chances are slim. While every traveler on the road of fusion music claims that the sound they bring to the table is “new”, there is surely at least one other person who’s walked before them. Yet, if there’s something commendable about “Autumn Ballet”, it is its restraint. It doesn’t forcibly forge connections between idioms and sounds that never ever met, not even in the musically rich world of the Gandharvas.

The guiding beacon in Autumn Ballet is Hindustani classical, with a bit of Rock, and contemporary Western. Pianist Stephen Devassy is the composer of the album, Nivedita Dutt, is the lead singer, who is trained in Hindustani classical and is joined by Aniruddha.

The album opens with “Daheri Daheri” by Nivedita. Set to raga Bageshree, it is accompanied by free style piano. With no rhythm accompaniment, the song sets the mood for the dialogue that will ensue between two distinct musical ideas, even as it establishes the duality that will be invoked in the rest of the album. “Piya Ki Najariya” in Yaman comes as a contrast to the first piece. Set to the pace of a drut khayal, it ropes in a gamut of percussion sounds, with mridangam also for good measure. While the main piece is rooted in the classical idiom, the background score has a very Western emphasis. It’s only when Aniruddha breaks into “I can never forget you, meri jaan…” that you get a complete picture of what the background score is preparing you for. The reverb effect in this song sounds good.

The album gets its title from this beautiful song “Van Van...” Pulsating with the mood of celebration, it’s dynamism in infectious. Nivedita does a wonderful job of this song, but the hero of the piece clearly is the lush violin passages. From contemplative long notes, they switch to short, staccato segments, bestowing a richness to the overall tonal quality of the song.

“No Nobody there…” leads you to “Bole Koyalia” in Bhoop. The initial arrangement of instruments is rather interesting, before the digital tracks begin to dominate this otherwise gamak-oriented song. The Carnatic violin in this song is a standout, however, the boltaans could have been toned down. By virtue of choosing fusion, more often than not, the tenets of music are thrown to the wind. But in “Autum Ballet” you find that every genre of music that makes its presence in any composition, does so with utmost belief. You find that the tanpura drone stays throughout, and in songs like “Baaje Jhanana” it is more pronounced. The song is slow, and in the early phrases, charmingly syncopates over the piano movements, before the rhythm joins in steadily. Jaunpuri Plaintive

“Gaava Ho” in Kedar (shades of Basant at times), works well with the mature, mellow tones with the piano.

The last song, which is a Bangla folk, catches your attention for its authentic mood and sound. This lovely folksy number moves into a khyal interpretation, at once, invoking the many shades of viraha/longing. Grand in its presentation, it seems like Stephen’s inspiration is the remarkable composer Debajyoti Mishra.

Voice could do with some weight/higher octaves shrill – but music is more than voice, it’s about what it conveys. There’s a lot of feel.

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