With more young musicians jumping on to the fusion bandwagon, the question is: Is the stage large enough for both traditionalists and experimentalists?
A mrdangam and a bass guitar, a traditional alaap and a modern riff usually used to explain musical contrasts are now being brought together on stage by fusion artists. The proof lies in the increasing numbers of fusion bands and the frequency of such performances across the city.
A different experience
Youngsters with a firm grounding in classical music like 20-year-old mrdangam artist Tanjore K. Praveen have one foot in fusion as well. Jamming sessions with friends in school, being part of the school band and a classical background gave Praveen the idea to start the Indo-western fusion band, Sparsh.
Praveen Sparsh, as he is popularly known in contemporary music circles, calls it a double game. “For one, I am in a kurta and veshti; for the other, any weird costume will do. There is no correlation between the two. Both genres can co-exist. But fusion music should go beyond the genres it combines and create a unique sound.”
Kanjira artist Anirudh Athreya, 24, credits the increase in the number of fusion music bands to a general awareness about band culture itself. The increased exposure to band music has led artists like him into seeing it as an opportunity to take their music to a bigger platform, and hence the momentum. As a fusion artist himself — member of the band Oxygen — he feels there is no disadvantage. “We get to know and learn of different genres of music. But fusion artists should not compromise on the authenticity of each genre and stay true to their traditional values,” says the youngster, who was inspired by the famous fusion band Shakti.
Classical singer Rithvik Raja is in awe of Shakti’s talent and dedication; “they took two months off and just practised,” he says. But, personally, he has made a choice to stick to traditional Carnatic music. “I have sung in light music troupes too, but my heart was just not in it. Classical music is what I want to do. I have nothing against fusion music but I feel one should have complete knowledge of their genre before venturing to experiment. Nowadays, I see some who combine a violin and flute with a guitar and drums. Fusion music is not just that!”
Yet, there is no denying that fusion music is gaining popularity in the city and across the country as well. Is it because it is easier for the listener to comprehend and like? Does this result in more opportunities subsequently and increased viability for young musicians trying to gain a foothold? Yes and no.
“Fusion music is catchy. There are no restrictions and, sometimes, no lyrics too. So anyone can listen to it. I feel some changes need to be made in the way classical music is presented to take it to the masses,” feels Praveen.
On the contrary, “It is a misconception that one needs to learn Carnatic/classical music to appreciate it,” says Amritha Murali, Carnatic vocalist and violinist. Traditional music is still popular; in fact increasing in popularity and the proof for that, says Amritha, is the increasing number of youngsters at the kutcheris. “There are more youngsters learning and listening to it too. The only drawback is that it takes a longer time to create an impact, but I don’t mind the wait.”
Seconding her opinion, Rithvik adds that the drawback for Carnatic music is that most youngsters, like his friends, seem to think that it is meant for old people. Also many are unable to relate to songs in Telugu and Sanskrit, languages in which many Carnatic songs are penned. “All they require is exposure. How do I like both sambar and pasta? It is because I have tried both. The same goes for music as well. Youngsters just need that initial push to get curious about traditional music and get interested in it,” suggests Rithvik.
As far as opportunities are concerned, the fusion and traditional camps agree that it’s not the genre of music but talent that lands them gigs/concerts. So as long as you have the skill and passion to perform, fusion or Carnatic, there’s always an audience waiting for you.
Agreed both genres are equally captivating, but personally, I find classical a little more demanding of my concentration and comprehension than fusion music. But as a fan of music, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to attend good music presented in any form. - SAHANA GOPAL, college student
I have grown up listening to a lot of traditional music, thanks to my parents. Fusion music is something I was just recently introduced to because of my friends, a couple of whom are into fusion bands as well. The only problem with it is sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, so it’s always a gamble for a listener like me. - RANJITH K., college student