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The twain shall meet

CATHERINE RHEA ROY
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CHAT From his roots in western classical music, Bernhard has discovered a whole new tradition in Indian classical music and found a place where both co-exist

An equal musicSaumik Datta and Bernhard Schimpelsberger
An equal musicSaumik Datta and Bernhard Schimpelsberger

Bernhard Schimpelsberger was really young when he started to play the piano in the piano shop his parents owned, “At seven,” he mentions making the timeline more precise. It was his piano teacher then who said, “Maybe Bernhard has some talent in music, but it is not in piano.” Bernhard was not shattered, instead at 11 he took up the drums, an instrument he was always drawn to and spent a lot of time around by virtue of his brother and the rock band he was a part of.

Bernhard was in town for the Circle Of Sound, a multimedia show he put together with sarod player Saumik Datta. “Saumik plays an electronic sarod and I play percussion – that’s the musical component. There is also a parallel narrative, every piece has a story. The show was conceived in 2010 and we have brought in our own experiences into the show.”

Bernhard explained further as he began to describe the story of a Scottish mountain climber who was on a quest, fighting for survival in the middle of a blizzard and drew inspiration from a song of his childhood and how it reflected their own artistic journey, childhoods steeped in classical training, living in London and a quest for common ground, to meet somewhere.

“Circle Of Sound premiered in February and we played in front of Pandit Ravishankar ji which was special and it was interesting to see how people responded to this mix of art forms with contemporary sounds, music, audio visuals and narrative.”

Bernhard came to India at 18, after his guruji made him fall in love with Indian music. “My initiation was in Austria when I met him at a workshop and it was an instant connection. I was into jazz drumming at the time and I saw that there was so much to learn – a systematic, dedicated way of thinking, learning and performing. It was beautiful.”

He has been working on fusing Indian rhythm with western styles and his customised drum kit allows him to maintain the essence of the drums while incorporating Indian rhythms – sounds of nature, sound of bells, clay pots, gongs, bayan drums…

And under the tutelage of tabla master Suresh Talwalkar and percussion legend Trilok Gurtu, Bernhard found the space between western and Indian music, one which met in between, a relationship with no frustrations and worked out beautifully. “When you choose Indian music you are choosing not just the music, but also a lifestyle, a certain way of speaking, performing and I am a part of that tradition.” Bernhard and Saumik are working on a new album to be released in 2014 and will feature special guests – Nitin Sawhney, who Bernhard mentioned as a pioneer in electronic Asian music and the Icelandic legend, Bjork, who will collaborate on an Indian classical track.

CATHERINE RHEA ROY

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