Words are not enough

One voice, many languages... Cartoonist-musician-novelist Serguei in concert. Photo: Pierre Grard.

One voice, many languages... Cartoonist-musician-novelist Serguei in concert. Photo: Pierre Grard.  

`WE LIVE in a world where songs and music are superficial, just to make people dance or make them happy. Or to make them weep with crocodile tears. Very few people make music to raise consciousness,' says Serguei emotionally. His performances too, in which he blends music and commentary and sets them against a backdrop of his drawings and cartoons, reflect his passion to make people understand that all is not right with the world, that everyone has a duty to stand up for the right, not be lethargic and allow the immoral and the evil, the violent tendencies of humankind to take over the good.

But Serguei, born in Argentina, settled in France and currently on a tour of India under the aegis of the French Embassy and the Alliance Francaise network of India, is no woolly headed artist living on the clouds. As a cartoonist for the leading French newspaper, Le Monde, he has his finger on the pulse of political and social developments across the world. As a multi-talented artist - besides playing the piano, singing and drawing, he has published three French novels, writes his own lyrics in Spanish and French and has made animation films - Serguei uses his many skills in a complementary way.

"People think I am doing different things, but actually it is the same thing," he says. That's why he came up with his concept of "concert expo".

His aim is to communicate. "Drawing is a universal language," he points out, and as for music, even if people do not understand the language, they respond to the music. "The most spiritual of arts is music," he avers. Pages and pages of prose may mean nothing, but write the same idea as a poem, and it has an impact, he feels. "And a poem is like a song," says this activist artist who says in his quiet way, "I come from the Occident but I feel closer to India."

To raise public consciousness about the injustice being perpetrated by the rich and mighty upon the poor, including issues like the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the onslaught of its skewed cultural perceptions affecting all peoples in a big way through its television programming, he feels, "Words are not enough. In the 1960s, saying love and peace was enough. But now, if you just repeat words, people will laugh. People don't respect the power of words. It's the same with God. Repeat it too often, and God doesn't exist any more." Therein lies his need for creating meaningful songs and novels and complementing them with his drawings.

"What the words cannot express, the illustrations complete, and what the drawings cannot explain, the words do," says the artist who hails from a musical family but whose talents are self-honed - "Curiosity is the best teacher".

Disappointed that Indian television is increasingly following the path of Western entertainment, he exhorts Indians to enrich their programming with inputs from their own heritage.

Having seen some old mythological serial, he recalls fondly, "It was funny but at the same time instructive."

Though visiting India for the first time, Serguei hopes to come back soon, "If I don't stay, that is!"

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