Fusion, Confusion, Tricks and Gigs

RShankar and George HarrisonAfter the recent spate of classical mixes heard in Sydney during the weekend of the 8 November and 9 November I cannot  but help muse about the future of Indian Classical Music. Recently there has been an increasing awareness of Classical music systems, generally whether Indian or Western. Despite mourning organisations worldwide complaining about the sad  non profitability of these collaborations

Perhaps out of the frustration built up over a century or more or perhaps it is the result of globalisation or better still may be there is a cross cultural dialogue happening in different layers and regions out of which Classical mixes like no other is developing.. what better term but Raga Gigs!!

L Subrahmaniam and OrchestraThis new genre I hasten to add does not depart from the Indian Classical systems  too far. Such ventures have been seen in the past. Such as the collaboration between Ravi Shankar and George Harrison; and  L Subrahmaniam and Yehudin Menuhin may be in the 1960’s. Whilst these ventures popularised the Raga in the Western World. Now we see a different trend where music is being explored with more confidence and yet ever so delicately. Dr L Subrahmaniam performs with his son Ambi Subramaniam in a collaboration with the Balatica Symphony Orchestra. Read more about L Subramaniam here.

The Great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan collaborated with Jan Garbarek Saxophonist and has produced several songs under a record called ‘Ragas Sagas’ . Thanks to You Tube we can now hear any musician perform from any part of the world. And so I bring you some delightfully refreshing "Raga Gigs"

One of them is Narasimhan with his Quartet playing the Carnatic Keerthanam ‘Mokshamu Galadha’ with exquisite perfection. A delicacy  I call it ‘Like a Morning Dew’


Listen to Ajay Pohankar sing Paayaliya Jhankar Mori in Pooriya Dhanasri with the jazzy beats of the drum kit, tabla and sounds of the piano.. whilst limited in his improvisations makes a good listen nevertheless http://www.esnips.com/doc/5a7f051f-d8f5-4151-a9da-13ccd6eb6f4a/Ajay-Pohankar—Piya-Bavari-Again—02—Payaliya-Jhankar

And here is another kind of Entharomahanu bhavulu by Karnatriix. A band made up of an Electric Guitar, a Sarangi and Drums. I have not a clue of who the artists are sadly !! an upbeat Thyagaraja gem. Cant help grooving to this one!!


Ofcourse Ravi Shankar’s daughter Anoushka Shankar is at the forefront of adventurous musical experiments. Here’s a rhythmic vocal experiment called the RED SUN – bringing the artform of Konnakol [Vocal Percussion]  back to life.


IMG_5259 On the 8 November Sydney witnessed the great Guru Kaaraikudi Mani Iyer perform with his team from India called Shanmukha, like the six faces of Muruga he said the name of the team represented six instruments which were played by six excellent musicians. Balasai on the flute was exceptional with his jazzy improvisations proving that the flute could be used for both gamakas and harmonic effects and jazz rhythms. http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=oVgI86zbNyM&feature=related

Raghavendra Rao on Violin was not missed during the times he did play, and UP Raju’s mandolin was memorable with its entries and exits. Suresh on the ghatam provided an excellent partnership for Guru Kaaraikudi Mani Iyer. The Karnatic composition of "Sharavana Bhava" in a rare  raga Madhumathi Priya composed by Muthiah Bhagavathar from Travancore was the first item in the concert. The composition was rendered to the beats of the Mridangam played by Guru Kaaraikudi Mani Iyer which was accompanied by the melody of the song by Balasai on the Flute rather than the other way around. A crispy upbeat piece it help warm up the audience for the rest of the concert.

The concert took on an expectant waiting when Sandy Evans on the saxophoneIMG_5253 entered. She opened the piece with a soulful rendition of the melodic scale of Raagam Natai which was followed by a rhythmic arrangement that took on the phraseology with all instruments playing a melodic expression interspersed with rhythmic beats played by all percussionists. An interesting concept however the sounds seemed to be a little imbalanced. The concert gave the audience what they came for classical music clothed within a modern arrangement.

Sarangan Sriranganathan’s quartet called Unity in Diversity  reflected the North Indian Classical style of music played in a format where he and Sandy Evans took turns to express their melodic journeys. Their item finished with a sawal jawab between himself on the sitar and Sandy Evans on the Saxophone followed by Bobby Singh and Ben Walsh on the Tabla and Drum kits making for an entertaining finale.

ZakirThe next day’s concert at the Opera House was an evening with Ustad Zakir Hussain who performed with his Masters of Percussion. It appeared that the ustad took little risk with his collaborations as he engaged in meeting hands and thought with one musician at a time before the finale when the Manipuri Drummers joined with their rhythm and dance.

How do I feel about all of the above – watch this collaboration between two western classical musicians Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli .. entitled Jealousy !!