Musicians explore new avenues of creativity

For years, one has trained and honed a skill to be able to perform. Slowly, over a period of time, performances become one’s life; it’s hard to suddenly bring it to a halt . Many musicians are floundering, not knowing which way to turn and how to remain connected to their audiences. Some like well-known Hindustani vocalist Ulhas Kashalkar prefer to sit it out and wait for normalcy: “Singing without a live audience doesn’t appeal to me,”, he says. “Our music feeds on the impulses one receives from the listeners.”

Many others are trying to find that audience connect differently, through the new opportunities presented by a virtual, enormous and physically unrestricted audience.

Sudha Ragunathan, senior Carnatic vocalist, has for the past four months started an interview series named ‘Expressions Espresso’, in which her role is confined to drawing out her guest, usually but not always a fellow musician, subtly and unobtrusively to reveal hitherto unknown facets of their personalities. The vibe shared between two musicians has resulted in some interesting interactions, especially with Ustad Zakir Hussain, Malavika Sarukkai, and Chitra Visweswaran. Says Sudha, “I thought I should make good use of the lockdown to give back to the audience that has given me this stature as a musician. The conversations with the 22 achievers have been about what they do, what they have done and what they will do — it’s about them re-inventing themselves during the pandemic. I now have a sense of fulfilment.”

Serious interactions

Kolkata-based sitariya Kalyanjit Das’s inventiveness has moved in another direction — for the last four months he has put together thought-provoking online interactions between musicians of different genres. His latest venture is a monthly series of online paid concerts, beamed through a U.S.-based facilitator to a worldwide audience.

Kalyanjit confesses it was a huge challenge. “As a musician, of course I connect with my audience through my music, but during the lockdown, I felt the need to communicate differently. My father and I are presenting paid online concerts as I feel free concerts should now stop and someone has to take the initiative.”

Chennai-based Carnatic vocalist Girijashankar Sundaresan is exploring creative new ideas. He recently created an unusual song that is inclusive and unifying. Sung by him in Raga Desh, in the Carnatic idiom, the Hindi poem, ‘Pushpa Ki Abhilasha’ (the dream of a flower) is written by the celebrated poet Pandit Makhanlal Chaturvedi. The novel idea of reaching out to a non-Tamil speaking and non-Carnatic music listening audience was meticulously executed through a thought-provoking video.

As Girijashankar puts it, “I wanted to create something that inspired a patriotic sentiment. My wife Rajya, who has lived all over India as her father was in the Air Force, suggested I choose something with a pan-India appeal. We decided on this Chaturvedi poem that we had both studied in school and it touched a chord. The song talks about a flower’s desire to be strewn on the ground on which soldiers walk, those who sacrifice their lives to protect the motherland. I chose Raga Desh, a Hindustani raag. Expectedly, the song has been well received.”

Kashmir-born, Delhi-based santoor exponent Abhay Rustom Sopori has channelled his energies into trying to improve the classical music environment. Says Abhay, “While for me, as a musician the first task is to perform, during the lockdown I realised the need to also try and create meaningful dialogue on issues that impact the world of music.”

As a start he has initiated online concert reviews. “Another is a dialogue on the very issue of reviews and critiques,” he says. “Over the years, critiques have not been taken seriously and very little space is given in print media to them. Our organisation SaMaPa has taken the lead to start a weekly discussion on this on an online platform. I hope it will yield a healthy and constructive outcome.”

And then there’s sitar exponent Niladri Kumar, who has used the downtime to fulfil an unusual goal. Niladri confesses with a laugh, “It’s not that I haven’t felt the need to do something different, but these past few months I haven’t done anything except grow my hair — a childhood dream.”

The Delhi-based author writes on classical music.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 8:44:54 AM |

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