The Twain meet as fusion ignites talent

A Correspondent – 

Musical evenings organised by local bodies bring together a host of talents inherent among the members of our community but programmes that create a veritable platform for demonstration of East and West cohesion have the potential to become a strong movement.

That was among the many comments that were sounded at a concert held at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre in the Auckland suburb of Blockhouse Bay on July 25, 2015.

The organisers and participants, who teamed themselves into the core theme of ‘The Global Indian Project,’ were obviously diffident, for, they expected no more than 200 persons to fill the modest auditorium. But even before the event began, they were confronted with an over-flowing audience, at least 75 of who preferred to stand and watch rather than go elsewhere.

Perfect Symphony

The Twain meet -Ashish, Akhila, Ravi and Akhil

It as an evening of melody, flowing from the words and tunes of the East and the West, culminating in rhapsody that is seen only in symphonies of grandmasters.

Representing a cross-section of the society, some of them wrote to us suo motto, expressing not only their appreciation but also their desire for another event with similar calibre.

‘Sargam Fusion’ as it was called, was the brainchild of Basant Madhur, the young Tabla Master who runs his ‘Sargam School of Indian Music,’ not far from the venue of his Global Project.

The Twain meet- Basant, Akhil and Deepak

Among the artistes were Akhila Puthigae, Ashish Ramakrishnan (Vocal), Akhil Madhur, Basant Madhur (Tabla), Deepak Madhur (Harmonium), Ratna Venkat (Kathak Dance), Ravi Nyayapati (Dholak & Percussions), Rushabh Trivedy (Keyboard), Saketh Vishnubhotla (Ghatam, Guitar & Mandolin) and Swap Gomez (Drums).

Innovative enterprise

The concert began with an instrumental piece of Hindustani Music performed earlier by the late Pundit Ravi Shankar (Sitar) and Yehudi Menuhin (Violin) in Raag Mishrapilu with a blend of Raag Kaapi of Carnatic Music containing excerpts of a song from the Hindi film ‘Roja.’ It was a rare combination of classical Hindustani being played on Keyboards, mixed with Veena, performed perhaps for the first time in New Zealand.

‘Mahaganapatim,’ rendered by Ashish was one of the best heard, comparable to some of the stalwarts of Carnatic Music. Remixed with a fusion of Western and Indian instruments, it called for an encore amidst a thundering ovation.

The Twain meet-Saketh VishnubhotlaHe followed with a duet with Akhila, extending ‘Tum Hi Ho and ‘Piya O Re Piya’ (popular Hindi film songs) to the Western tunes.

From ‘Mera Dil Yeh Pukaare’ and ‘Oh My Heart’ in Jazz, ‘Albela Sajan Aayo Re’ in improvised rhythm and Jugalbandi without sacrificing the original Raag Pahadi to merging Kailash Kher’s ‘Saiyaan’ with ‘Con Te Partiro,’ an Opera song by Andrea Bocelli, the evening was one of innovative enterprise.

Kathak extolled

The relationship demonstrated between these musicians on stage was unique and the theme was emphasised by the classical Kathak performance of Ratna Venkat, in which she danced and narrated stories that highlighted ‘relationships’ in everyday life. In addition, she contributed musically as a ‘foot percussionist’ to the beats of Akhil’s Tabla and to the claps of the audience.

The Twain meet-Ratna VenkatA renowned professional Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi artiste, Ratna’s emerging prowess in the North Indian style of Kathak is seen as a unique development of fusion within a dancer.

Public response

Members of the audience were particularly impressed by what they saw and heard.

Verena Mornhinweg, Marketing Specialist at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services New Zealand Limited said that it was a unique evening that balanced entertainment with education.

“Each artiste and their respective instruments added their spice to create an impressive, one-of-a-kind blend of traditional Indian customs with a Western influence,” she said.

Recalling Ananda

Wenceslaus Anthony, Chairman & Managing Director, WAML Group said that the event reminded him of his student days in Calcutta (Kolkata).

“I witnessed the likes of Ananda Shankar, an international figure who promoted fusion of Eastern and Western styles. It was a great day of celebration to witness the talented youth of our community,” he said.

Labour Party Policy Council member Priyanca Radhakrishnan, who has studied Hindustani classical music during her student years in Singapore, was impressed by the variety of musical styles and the risk that the band took in combining some of them.

Daring combination

“It was a superb merger of Italian Opera and Sufi music,” she said.

Ned Chou, Division Director of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Auckland, appreciated how a bridge was created which connected the audience with the performers.

“Every movement, rhythm and interpretation revealed a sentiment and a passion expressed by Sargam Fusion,” he said.

Diana Kotwal, Business Development Manager at The Advisor Channel said, “We felt as though we were on a journey, wherein we encountered many different experiences that made us emotional, laugh or enjoy.”

Photo:

  1. Ashish Ramakrishnan, Akhila Puthigae, Ravi Nyayapati and Akhil Madhur
  2. Akhil, Basant and Deepak Madhur
  3. Saketh Vishnubhotla, who rendered support on Ghatam, Veena, Mandolin and Guitar
  4. Ratna Venkat- Kathak in feet and words

Pictures by Van Vairavan

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