When Band Agam met Ranjani and Gayatri

Classical music was the winner at the collaborative Aikya show held in Chennai recently

March 21, 2019 03:52 pm | Updated 03:52 pm IST

Carnatic exponents Ranjani and Gayatri with Harish Sivaramakrishnan and other members of Agam

Carnatic exponents Ranjani and Gayatri with Harish Sivaramakrishnan and other members of Agam

Genre mashups not only define contemporary musical culture, they are the way forward for musicians and bands constantly in experimental mode. Taking a cue from the way Metal meets Mozart in the West, in India too, ragas and rock seem to make a popular combination.

Though there are many bands in the country that have journeyed into the classical-contemporary soundscape, Agam is the front-runner.

Its lead vocalist Harish Sivaramakrishnan, with his passion for Carnatic music, renders traditional masterpieces backed by modern orchestral arrangement, making them the single-most selling point of the band.

That Agam endears itself to both progressive rock and metal fans and classical lovers was apparent at its jam-packed recent concert for Aikya at The Music Academy in Chennai.

Adding to the evening’s excitement was the presence of Ranjani and Gayatri on stage. The sisters, seated on a stool, exuded elegance in brightly-hued saris, with a beautiful image of Siva in the background.

The concert titled ‘Ragam and Oneness’, (concept ideation by Sai Shravanam) raised expectations a notch higher because of the names involved. But as the show progressed, you realised it wasn’t easy for them to live up to it.

The sound design (Manoj Siva on mridangam, Sivakumar Nagarajan on percussion, Swamy Seetharaman on keys, Yadhunandan Nagaraj on drums, Aditya Kashyap on bass, T. Praveen Kumar and Jagdish Natarajan on guitar) didn’t evoke a balanced and harmonised effect — the frenzied guitar riffs and vigorous drumming often drowned the voices, especially of Ranjani and Gayatri in some compositions, including their opening piece ‘Marivere’.

The sisters, however, brought immense joy to their singing, clearly displaying their enthusiasm for taking on such challenges.

Their brisk swaras and heartwarming alapanas stood-out even in the unconventional musical setting. They even joined in Agam’s all-time favourites ‘Boat song’, ‘Bantureeti’ and ‘Swans of Saraswati’, enhancing them in their own distinctive style.

The highlight of the evening was the abhang ‘Vithoba Chala’ by the sisters before which the three singers individually rendered a short and soothing prelude in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada.

As for Harish, the rockstar techie’s singing of the Carnatic kritis is lapped up by Gen Next.

With a voice so powerful that each word is audible to those in the last row of the balcony, Harish’s understanding of the ragas and their contours comes through in his singing.

His concerts are never complete without paying a tribute to the legendary M.S. Subbulakshmi, which he did at this show too, with the Agam chartbuster, ‘Sri Rangapura Vihara’. Consistency, however, was missing with the voice showing signs of strain at some points.

But nothing seemed to matter to his fans, young and old, who were not ready to let him wind up the show, coming up with incessant requests of their favourite Agam numbers. Responding that he loves the discerning Chennai music afficiandos, Harish rendered a mix of kuthu beats and Kapi raga as his final offering.

The show was presented by Global Adjustments

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