METRO PLUS

`A concert is not a contest'

MUSICAL DUO Ronu Majumdar (left) and N. Ravikiran PHOTO: R. RAGU

MUSICAL DUO Ronu Majumdar (left) and N. Ravikiran PHOTO: R. RAGU  



At a time when many dismiss fusion music as a farce, American composer Robert Morris presented a paper recently in Boston on chitraveena vidwan N. Ravikiran's Melharmony concept. It deals with Ravikiran's compositions for Western orchestras, including the BBC Philharmonic. His work shows how fusion could be a rewarding exercise. Making people sit up and take notice has been a way with Ravikiran since he was two. As a kid sitting on the stage with biscuits in his hand, he astounded members of the experts' committee of the Music Academy as he identified more than 300 ragams and 150 talams. His musical style is soaked in classicism and his knowledge is impressive. From the ghats of Varanasi to the world stage, Pandit Ronu Majumdar's charm cuts across age and culture. He learnt to play the flute from his homeopath-father Dr. Bhanu Majumdar (disciple of Pandit Pannalal Ghosh) and later trained under Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao. From embellishing R.D. Burman's compositions (for more than 10 years) to accompanying Pandit Ravi Shankar at international festivals and recordings, and from being nominated for the Grammy Award for the album "Song of Nature" (with Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt) to performing with legendary American guitarist Ry Cooder, he has done it all. A portion of the album he did with Cooder titled "Facinoma" was used in the Hollywood film "Primary Colours". Ravikiran and Ronu Majumdar performed a jugalbandi recently in the city. Their on-stage rapport continued off stage too. Chitra Swaminathan listened in. Ravikiran: The photographer wants us to be at our natural best. Ronu: I think only music can make us look natural. Ravikiran: Hey, please sing that song you played yesterday ( at the jugalbandi). It was fabulous. Ronu starts singing... Ronu: What I sang is a Kajiri, based on the Ras Leela and full of Shringara rasa. I learnt it during my early years in Benaras. With the Ganges flowing quietly and musical greats such as Bismillah Khan Saheb and Girija Devi living in the neighbourhood, Benaras was the perfect place to learn a classical art. My father was keen that I pursue music seriously. I was mesmerised by the sound of the flute. But I also trained in vocal music for a deeper understanding of the form. Ravikiran: I too had a great guru in my father Chitraveena Narasimhan. He wanted me to be a musician with a scholarly approach and not end up being just another child prodigy. He not only taught me hundreds of compositions but also the techniques of improvisation. Ronu: As my guruji was from the South, I always feel I am on a familiar ground while performing with the artistes here. Jugalbandis are joyous experiences that widen your horizon. Ravikiran: Collaborative works when treated with mutual respect can be extremely fruitful. It's not just the concert that matters but also the exchange of ideas between artistes. After all, it's a concert not a contest. Ronu: You need to approach such efforts with an open mind and a large heart to create something meaningful. Ravikiran: What's heartening is the increasing level of appreciation for the Indian arts all over the world. I know composers abroad whose understanding and explanation of a raga could give many here a complex. Remember our Singapore concert? Ronu: I can never forget the overwhelming response of the crowd. Ravikiran: Goes to prove that one can create quality music without compromising on traditional values. You just need to have trust and confidence. Ronu: But the growing pressure of the media is quite annoying. I don't think we could have ever imagined a music show being judged by a fashion designer in our time. I saw it happening on a TV programme. Youngsters who participate in such shows would benefit in the long run if interviewed by knowledgeable people. Otherwise, more than new talent, we would have young and depressed souls, who wouldn't know what to do once they faded away from the limelight. Ravikiran: You are right, premature stardom could lead to complacency. Sadly, some use fusion as an escape route from the rigours of tradition. I think like in other fields such as medicine and engineering, one should graduate from one level to another. There has to be a disciplined approach to learning. I have some pop singers-turned-classical music students in my classes, who have realised the mistake of jumping lessons. There are also classical artistes who resort to attention-grabbing tactics but a few years later find it difficult to sustain their position. Ronu: Come what may, I think we have a major responsibility of saving this ancient system from being trivialised by fly-by-night-operators. But at the same time, I want more and more people to attend concerts and experience the spirituality of classical music. You need not know the vaadi and samvaadi swaras or notations to enjoy the bhava. Ravikiran: You may not enjoy it immediately; allow the effect to seep in and then see the difference. So many of us appreciate the `Monalisa', but I wonder how many really understand it from an artistic point of view. Ronu: I should acknowledge that you have a way with notes and words.





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