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CHITRA SWAMINATHAN
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Chat Viji Krishnan describes her album Malabar to Morocco as notes from her musical journey

Cultural voyageViji Krishnan
Cultural voyageViji Krishnan

The image of Viji Krishnan that comes to mind is of a quiet accompanist sitting beside her majestic violin virtuoso father T. N. Krishnan at concerts, a smile on her face as he makes the strings sing.

With the stage being her significant training ground, Viji’s understanding of the dynamics of sound and the essence of classicism have been through her steady accompaniment from age seven. Touring the world with her father since she was nine, Viji during her many travels seems to have silently studied musical cultures and discovered the significance of stylistic interpretations of genres.

Her latest album Malabar to Morocco sums up these experiences. Alchemy of contemporary tunes, the album is high on East-West creative barter. “The technique is definitely forward-looking but listen intently and you cannot miss the unmistakable connect to my roots. My father being a purist, the thought of looking beyond Carnatic music never crossed my mind all these years.”

Though most live concerts and recordings today are being labelled as ‘World music’, Viji says her 24-year-old son and his friends were her inspiration to come up with this album. “Since many youngsters find classical music un-engaging, it spurred me to revisit the traditional compositions with a fresh outlook. Instead of tweaking these hoary pieces to draw young listeners, l decided to juxtapose them with different sounds systems. And believe me it has worked to joyous effect,” says the violinist. “To put it simply, Malabar to Morocco is a roll call of influences.”

The albums’s nine tracks are like the navarasas — flitting between moods and emotions. It also features a host of accomplished artistes such as Naveen Iyer (vocals and flute), Keith Peters and Sonu Sangameswaram (bass guitar), Donan Murray and Krishna Marathe (lead guitar), and Dilshad Khan (sarangi), all whom enjoy a legitimate chemistry and bring in their own flavour to the collaborative endeavour.

Beginning rightfully with ‘Ganesha’ that is high on Indian melody, the album moves on to ‘Raag N Roll’ that coalesces ragas with rock while ‘Sufi Spice’, an ode to Sufi traditions abounds in long, expressive and soul-searching lines and then comes the interestingly titled ‘Mallipoo Tea’, a concoction of Indian, Chinese and Scottish tunes. Tracking musical trends apart, the album seems to reflect lifestyle changes too. For instance, the transition from kapi to cappuccino is the essence of ‘Kapi Reggae’, a brew of ethnic Indian sounds and foot-tapping Caribbean rhythms.

And going by the philosophy of Indian music — transporting listeners to the higher realms, the track ‘Nirvana’ is about finding peace in melody and rhythm in a world ridden with violence and greed. Then there is Kadambari…a woman’s search for true love that has always been conveyed beautifully through music as proved by our legendary composers. The final track ‘My Father, My Guru’ strikes a high note what with Viji’s venerated father lending his special touch.

Why the title Malabar to Morocco ? “Malabar is where we hail from and Morocco because my journeys to the Middle East and Maghreb known for its haunting melodies and landscapes have left a deep impression on my music,” says Viji. “The album is the outcome of my creative outings and my understanding of the world through music,” she sums up.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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