Carnatic music at an eclectic festival

attracting newer audiences: Vasumathi Badrinathan feels it is important to get youngsters and those unexposed to Carnatic music interested in the genre.

attracting newer audiences: Vasumathi Badrinathan feels it is important to get youngsters and those unexposed to Carnatic music interested in the genre.  

For the first time, the Celebrate Bandra fest will have a classical music concert featuring vocalist Vasumathi Badrinathan

On Monday evening, the annual Celebrate Bandra Festival will feature a Carnatic music concert for the first time since its inception. Chembur-based vocalist Vasumathi Badrinathan will give a rare performance at the popular festival. She will be accompanied by Ramakrishna Sharma on the violin and Satish Krishnamurthy on the mridangam. “I will keep the format simple, presenting ragas which are more accessible to newer listeners,” says Badrinathan. “I will also make the experience interactive, and give small details about what I shall play.”

Brought up in the traditional style, Badrinathan has also collaborated with many international musicians while retaining her Carnatic roots. Initiated into music at an early age by her mother Padma Seshadri, Badrinathan was subsequently trained by the renowned T.R. Balamani. She also learnt the Thanjavur style of Bharatnatyam dance, but her focus was more on music. “It’s a bygone era I grew up in, listening to the likes of M.S. Subbulakshmi, D.K. Pattammal, M.L. Vasanthakumari, D.K. Jayaraman and M.D. Ramanathan,” says the singer. “Today, everything has become so mathematical, and there’s little effort to develop one’s own skills differently.”

The Carnatic vocalist’s quest for research and her desire to explore other musical cultures led to collaborations with renowned international musicians. Besides performing in festivals in Morocco, Azerbaijan, France, Switzerland and Austria, Badrinathan has teamed up with Haitian singer Mimi Barthélémy, Azerbaijani pianist Salman Gambarov and Azerbaijani Mugham singer Sakine Ismailova.

“My collaboration with Ismailova has been titled ‘Muraagam’, as it’s the combination of the Mugham music from that region and Carnatic ragas,” says Badrinathan. “Both of us felt we could blend perfectly together, and while studying each other’s culture, we have retained our traditional roots.”

According to the Carnatic singer, a musician has to have a perfect understanding of the musical dynamics of those they are interacting with. “You have to be open-minded, unbiased and mentally agile, and yet not compromise on your own art.”

One of Badrinathan’s projects was her five-month stint in the U.S. last year as a Fulbright Scholar, which culminated in shows including the Concerto Sangeetham along with Floridan jazz musicians. Here, they played French composer Maurice Delage’s ‘Ragamalika’, besides Badrinathan’s own piece ‘Sapphire’.

Besides this, the vocalist also had a thematic concert titled ‘Shree Feminine Divine’, where she celebrated Devi in her many facets, and ‘Catholic-Hindu Chants’, where the Benedictine Sisters sang Gregorian chants and she rendered Carnatic ragas. “While these collaborations have been very rewarding, I would also like to spend more time doing projects that are totally Indian in nature, and also focus on research activities,” says Badrinathan.

Thus, in 2012, she did the concert ‘Mahatmarpan: A Musical Tribute To Mahatma Gandhi’ in Dubai to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti. Plus, she’s produced ‘Stree Gaanam’, which explores women composers in Carnatic music; ‘Music Of The Mystic’, which is about Divya Prabandham verses in Tamil; and ‘Padams and Javalis’, on love lyrics in music.

Badrinathan is interested in a wide variety of subjects. “Yet, I feel the need to get more and more youngsters and those unexposed to such music interested,” she says. “It’s always good to attract newer audiences, and that will be my main focus.”

Monday’s performance will also feature a recital by Anuraaj, who plays the belabaharr, a combination of the violin and sarangi invented by his father Babulal Gandharv.

Supriya Sobti, who has curated Celebrate Bandra, says, “I was keen to bring in classical music to the fold because what we otherwise see in festivals is pop music! This time there’s an eclectic mix of Rajasthani folk artists, flautists, Sufi singers, Carnatic vocals and some new-and-upcoming bands and indie artists.”

As part of Celebrate Bandra’s roster, Monday evening also sees Smita Bellur rendering Sufi music, and Shannon Donald presenting Indipop tunes. Plus, Carlton Braganza & Friends will take listeners on a nostalgia ride with evergreen English songs.

The author is a freelance music writer

Vasumathi Badrinathan and Anuraaj will perform at the Bandstand Promenade at 7.30 p.m.

Smita Bellur and Shannon Donald will perform at Carter Road Promenade at 7.30 p.m. Entry to both performances is free.

Carlton Braganza & Friends will perform at Bandra Fort Amphitheatre at 7.30 p.m. Entry by invite only.

Event schedule and registration on

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 1:25:12 AM |

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