Aruna Sairam is all set to try out fusion when she takes the stage tomorrow for a charity show.

There’s always a buzz whenever Aruna Sairam takes the stage. For, this veteran likes to experiment, be it with the theme or presentation. That’s exactly what she will be doing tomorrow (July 7) when she pays tribute to various goddesses in a fusion concert titled ‘Lalitha: The Divine Mother Goddess With a 1000 Venerable Names.’ The show is a fund-raiser for CANCARE Foundation, a charitable organisation that offers palliative care to terminally-ill cancer patients and supports the surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy of needy patients from low income groups.

Aruna will break new ground when she jams with the Chennai-based band Oxygen, for some fusion fare with the divine chants of Lalitha Sahasranamam as the leitmotif. Though the classical singer has collaborated with musicians from other genres in the past, she has never moved away from her comfort zone… pure Carnatic. “To be honest, I am quite nervous,” she says during a telephone conversation. “I have never tried fusion of this kind before on home turf. I am excited yet edgy.”

There’s a fascinating past story about how the idea for the theme – Lalitha Sahasranamam – took shape. Nearly 13 years ago, during a road trip through Germany, Aruna met a couple of research scholars who took her to a monastery. She recalls, “They led me to the crypt of the chapel where the organ’s keys are placed. At once, one of the scholars, Michael Heineman, a musician himself, started playing the organ and sang a beautiful hymn on Mother Mary. Then he asked me if there are similar songs praising goddesses in India. At once, Lalitha Sahasranamam came to mind; I chant it daily as part of my morning prayer. So I sang it with Michael playing the organ. It was a surreal experience. That jamming session was so moving that it left all of us with moist eyes.”

There are quite a few similarities between the Indian classical music and ancient choral music, explains Aruna. “Did you know that many devotional chants that originated from the West way back in the 9th and 10th centuries, are based on Indian ragas such as Kalyani, Kharaharapriya and Sindhu Bhairavi? In fact, the German poetess and saint Hilde de Garde von Bingen is believed to have set a few of her poems in Sindu Bhairavi! That’s the universality of music.”

Getting back to the current show, Aruna remembers chanting Lalitha Sahasranamam at a concert in Berlin. “The melody haunted me… it never left me. When CANCARE asked me to do a concert for it, I felt the verses which have immense powers, would be apt. Also, it gave me an opportunity to present the beautiful hymn to audiences in Chennai.”

Aruna continues, “The show will highlight the many moods, facets and hues of the Female Power, be it Durga, Lakshmi or Saraswathi.” While she will open the concert with Lalitha Sahasranamam, she has also chosen other pieces in languages as diverse as Sanskrit, Latin, Italian, Bengali and Marathi, besides Tamil.

Giving Aruna instrumental support will be “my anchors” and regular accompanists H.N. Bhaskar (violin) and Patri Satish Kumar (mridangam), who have arranged the pieces, and the fusion band, Oxygen. Why Oxygen? “They are young, they are immensely talented and they are from Chennai. What’s more, fusion comes naturally to them.”

Aruna signs off by saying, “Music is a healer. This concert supports a cause where music can play a pivotal role in alleviating pain and suffering.”

‘Lalitha: The Divine Mother Goddess with a 1000 Venerable Names’ is on July 7, 6.45 p.m. at The Music Academy. Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis.

Band power

Oxygen is a Chennai-based fusion band comprising young and musically trained members. The members of the band, which will play for Aruna Sairam, are:

Girinandh - keyboards, keytar and conductor

K.S. Ramana - ghatam, modular drums, darbouka and konnakol

P.T. Prithvi Kumar - drums and kahon (box-shaped percussion instrument)

Bob Phukan – lead guitar

John Praveen - bass guitar