Music

Fusion that worked

Photo: K.V. Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

There is a deliberately impish ring to the beginning of “Innum Konjam Naerum...” composed by A.R. Rahman for the film ‘Maryan.’ The way the opening beats are built on top of each other conveys a sense of mirth essential for the song's context in the film. But what is not emphasised is that it is the ghatam that is instrumental in creating this playfulness. Like most of Rahman’s songs, this one too is difficult to re-create on a live stage. However, last week, a particular group of musicians brought this song alive at The Music Academy. At ‘Atmospherics’, a world music fusion concert, organised by Elixir Management India, a band comprising Vijay Prakash on the vocals, Stephen Devassy on the keyboard, Josy John on the bass guitar, H.N. Bhaskar on the violin, Karthick on the ghatam, Arun Sukumar on the drums, Santhosh Chandran on the guitar, Ustad Dilshad Khan on the sarangi, Chandrajit on the tabla and Sai Giridhar on the mridangam attempted many genres of music - from core classical to film hits.

So, it was Ghatam Karthick who re-created the original beats of the ‘Maryan’ song and as he improvised on the rhythm, Ustad Dilshad Khan used his sarangi to dream up an impromptu musical portion which felt as if it had always belonged to the song. Vijay Prakash, who is the original playback singer of the song, sang beautifully.

As a concept, a world music fusion concert would make sceptics out of purists. However, thanks to the kind of training and talent that each of these artists possesses, the concert managed to fuse genres successfully. For instance, the percussion conversation between Karthick and Arun Sukumar during a song was fascinating to say the least or the manner in which Stephen Devassy and H.N. Bhaskar responded to the vocalist with their instruments was a delight. And, this was possible because each of them is a fantastic performer in his own right.

The concert was specially held to support Down Syndrome Federation, an organisation that offers day-care services to patients with Down syndrome. Dr. Surekha Ramachandram, co-founder and chairperson of Down Syndrome Federation of India, opened the concert by saying “Our organisation represents a population that has not been recognised. Those afflicted by Down syndrome need to see people. There is an attitudinal problem in our society that makes people wary of these patients and that definitely needs to change.” She encouraged people to come visit their centre in the city and log on to www.downsyndrome.in.

The evening began with a Saveri varnam that did not work well mainly because of the microphone arrangements. One could barely hear Prakash sing when Sukumar played the drums. This was followed by ‘Mahaganapatim,’ which has been rendered as a fusion before and hence was not alien to the listeners. When the next piece in Raga Durbari Kaanada began, the concert became interesting.

The manner in which Dilshad Khan presented the raga was unmatched. H.N. Bhaskar too was exceptional in this piece. After the vocal-centric pieces, there was a pure instrumental piece which gave ample opportunity to all the musicians to showcase their calibre. Arun Sukumar’s drums, Sai Giridhar’s mridangam, and Karthick’s ghatam stood out. Then came ‘Yaad Piya ki aaye’, a thumri which yet again showcased Dilshad Khan’s genius - particularly the collaboration between his sarangi and Chandrajit’s tabla. ‘Enna Thavam Seidhanai’ seemed like an extension of the MTV Coke Studio format.

The highlight of the evening was the instrumental piece led by Stephen Devassy steeped in Raga Rasikapriya. The piece even had Devassy and Karthick verbalise beats. Santosh Chandran and Josy John, who were until then conspicuously strumming at the back, were given a chance to highlight the strings in this piece. But the real credit goes to Bhaskar and Devassy for keeping the piece together.

The show ended with ‘Jai Ho’ which was so upbeat that it encouraged one of the patients from Down Syndrome Federation to come up on stage and dance, a heart-warming experience, indeed.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 6:02:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/fusion-that-worked/article6548152.ece

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