Two cultures, one beat: Carnatic to meet rap

Fusion concert Mridangmela to feature classical music, vocal percussion, street rap

Published - January 17, 2020 01:31 am IST - Mumbai

 Viveick Rajagopalan with the Ta Dhom Project

Viveick Rajagopalan with the Ta Dhom Project

Using the mridangam as a pivot between cultures, producer and composer Viveick Rajagopalan plans to bring together Carnatic music and contemporary rap at a fusion concert at Royal Opera House on Friday. The concert called ‘Mridangmela’, aims to celebrate the unique elements of the percussion instrument, in both traditional and contemporary music.

The concert will feature musicians Anantha R. Krishnan (mridangam), Charumathi Raghuram (violin) and Mr. Rajagopalan, who has composed and produced the event.

Charumathi Raghuram

Charumathi Raghuram

“I am looking forward to my collaboration with these musicians as this will be for the first time ever,” said Mr. Rajagopalan. The first act, ‘Dvita-Dual Elements’ will be performed by Mr. Krishnan and Ms. Raghuram. This act is a highly energetic performance that will see the parallel development of melody and rhythm. “The performance is specially designed for mridangam and violin,” said Mr. Krishnan. “It is unique in the sense that ancient and possibly centennial compositions in mridangam are reformatted and re-contextualised for modern-day performance practice.” Mr. Krishnan believes that no music can be pure or impure. “It is up to people to be honest enough to either like or dislike what they see and hear as art. Creative people just do what they desire,” he said.

The second act will feature Mr. Rajagopalan with his rap collective, the Ta Dhom Project. This performance brings together Carnatic classical rhythms, vocal percussion and street rap together. Mr. Rajagopalan believes the project is an attempt to explore opposite genres classical and hip-hop. “What started as Sunday morning classes to share the art of understanding rhythm through konnakol is somewhat a regular affair now, with more showing interest in learning. As a mridangam player, I used my experience as a composer and producer, to use the sound of the instrument, to emulate beats from other genres. We also explore different time signatures, which are not so common in hip-hop and rap,” says Mr. Rajagopalan.

Anantha R. Krishnan

Anantha R. Krishnan

Konnokol is an over 5,000-year-old vocal percussion art form from South India which is a part of the Carnatic genre. It has been used by Carnatic musicians to teach the mridangam and Bharatnatyam. “What is unique about it is that you can adapt it to any form or genre of music from around the world, which is one reason why so many artists globally are drawn towards it,” says Mr. Rajagopalan.

Mr. Rajagopalan, who is best known for his popular track, ‘India 91’ in Zoya Akhtar’s critically-acclaimed movie Gully Boy , stresses on the fact that the voices of Indian rap artists are being heard in the present time.

“I think it would be fair to say that only the ones [rap artists] who have depth will stick around and the hype will become mellow after a while,” says Mr. Rajagopalan.

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