IIT Madras releases a music video on river conservation

Bomaby Jayasri with son Amrit Ramnath  

Rivers are exemplars of life. Indian culture popularly refers to water as amritham or nectar. But across the world, and closer home, rivers are under threat. Why are rivers so important? And what are we doing to protect them? To promote awareness on river conservation, the International Centre for Clean Water (ICCW), IIT Madras, has launched a six-minute music video.

Released on Earth Day, April 22, as part of ICCW’s second anniversary celebrations, the music video showcases the beauty and might of rivers across the country as they originate from the mountains and flow through various landscapes. The video uploaded on the IIT Madras YouTube channel has already garnered more than 50,000 views and continues to draw people’s attention.

Bombay Jayashri with son Amrit Ramnath and Kaushiki Chakraborty with son Rishith Desikan are the lead singers, with a chorus featuring Global IIT Madras alumni and other fellow singers. The music video is conceived and created by India-American musician Dr. Kanniks Kannikeswaran, a former student of the institution, and it is directed by music producer Sai Shravanam. Set in ragas Yamuna Kalyani and Kiravani, the lyrics include the names of 51 Indian rivers.

Music with a message

The idea was sparked during the 1984 batch reunion in January 2020. “I discussed with E. Nandakumar, CEO, ICCW,” says Kannikeswaran, a pioneer in the Indian-American choral movement, who has many musical theatre productions and choral symphonies based on ragas to his credit. “We discussed it with T. Pradeep, professor in-charge, ICCW, who suggested the video could focus on contamination and the need to preserve rivers,” says Kannikeswaran. Initially, the project was conceived as an offline production, but the pandemic ruled that out.

The project was planned along the lines of the famous national integration song, ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara,’ which brought together singers from various parts of the country. The opening lines of the song are inspired by a Sanskrit sloka that mentions seven major rivers of India — Ganga, Yamuna, Sindhu, Cauvery, Narmada, Godavari and Saraswathi. “When I started composing, the lyrics fell into the seven-beat cycle (Mishra Chapu) and the tune too fell into place. The whole production flowed smoothly like the rivers,” he says. “To highlight the issue of river contamination and pollution, I used raga Kiravani, a minor scale in Western music. A line from Silapadhikaram, ‘Nadandhai vazhi’, has been used to strike a note of hope in the end.

Ode to Mother Earth

“Civilizations have grown on river banks. This is a moment when we all need to come together to pay tribute to earth,” says well-known vocalist Bombay Jayashri. “It is the first time that Amrit and I are singing together in a production. When I first heard the song, I felt that the lyrics and ragas merged so well that I instantly connected with the idea,” she adds.

Dr. Kanniks Kannikeswaran

Dr. Kanniks Kannikeswaran  

“Rivers are a crucial link to our past,” says Shravanam. Speaking about the collaborative project, he says, “I was overwhelmed to be a part of it and wanted it to connect generations and geographies.”

ICCW, which works towards making India water-secure, is coming up with another music video, ‘Monsoons of India’, to celebrate rains and to create awareness around preserving rainwater. Featuring eminent singers Ranjani- Gayatri and Ajoy Chakrabarty, the song is set on ragas Amritavarshini and Miyan Ki Malhar. The video will be released in June.

The Chennai-based author writes on Carnatic music.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 11:11:38 PM |

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