Narendra Kusnur's music musings …



Ramon Ryder with Slash

A former colleague at EMI Music India, Ramon Ryder has been a huge Guns N’ Roses and Slash fan for years. He has a vast collection of their tees, and knows even the newer songs well. Best of all, he was lucky to meet Slash in a meet and greet session.

I personally didn’t attend the show, and going by the feedback, know I missed something great. So felt it would be ideal to ask Ramon to write a guest column in this blog. He agreed immediately and has described his meeting with Slash, besides reviewing the concert. Ramon’s account:

It’s still not sunk in, but November 7 2015 will be a memory I will never forget for sure. The wait was over… the longing to watch Slash play live in Mumbai was finally a reality.

Around 20 days back I woke up to an early morning Whatsapp message from a friend from Delhi. It was a screen shot of MTVixtreme saying Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators would play in Mumbai. Sleep was lost after that. The next few days were the most exciting as I waited eagerly for time to pass, doing a countdown on Facebook and Twitter 15 days before the show.

I also shared some links of Slash’s appearances on TV shows and movies including some behind-the-scenes gig footage. I took part in many contests by MTV on Facebook and Twitter and managed to win a ticket to the show. I had already bought mine online, just in case I didn’t win.

I paid around Rs 1300 inclusive of taxes for the early bird ticket. I bought an extra one at the venue which cost Rs 1824 inclusive of taxes. The promotion for this show was mainly done on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I didn’t see any print media besides a few Billboards.

Tried a lot to win the meet and greet with Slash, but I guess I just wasn’t good enough to be chosen. On the day of the show I got a call at 8 in the morning from an MTV rep saying that they have selected me for the meet and greet with Slash since they found me to be a really dedicated and diehard fan of Slash.

Everything changed after that. I reached the venue – Jio Gardens at Bandra Kurla Complex – at 11:30 am as requested. There I met the remaining nine contest winners. It was an instant connect and we spoke like we knew each other for really long.

By around noon we were taken backstage and got to see the complete 45-minute sound check. Goose bumps just didn’t leave me. We were briefed by MTV that we were not to ask Slash any personal questions or talk about Guns N’ Roses. When he finally came out we all just went blank. Just managed to tell him the sound check was super and I can’t wait to see him perform later in the evening. While saying bye I ended up saying Thanks for Being Slash. Which really felt weird later.

By the time we got out the lines had really got real long and were stretched all along the road around Jio Gardens. Gates finally opened at around 5 and everyone stormed in rushing for the fence in front of the stage.

The three bands that opened for Slash were Gingerfeet from the North East, Them Clones from Delhi and Thermal and a Quarter from Bangalore. While Gingerfeet got a good response, Them Clones was a bit quiet. Thermal and a Quarter did a brilliant set and got the crowd going.

By this time the venue was fully packed and the pushing was getting violent as we almost fell three times due to the pushing. By the time Slash was on stage it was uncontrollable as it became impossible to stand. We were pushed and squashed, resulting in a girl and boy passing out. They were pulled over the fence by the security and taken aside. Next person to pass out was me.. I was helped by a few guys back on my feet and every one made way for me to go out of the crowd.

Immediately I requested the head of security to help me pull my two friends out also who were visibly suffocating and on the verge of passing out. It took us a good 20 minutes along with four Red Bull drinks each and two bottles of water to come back to normal. I wish the crew had more security lined in the front to control the crowd. I kept telling the security to get one of the crew members to please make an announcement to control the crowd, but they just refused.

Anyway we enjoyed the rest of the show from the side of the stage which had more space and fewer people. The band put on a super show and were super-tight. Slash was fantastic and so was Myles. Superb vocals. He was hitting all the high notes without any effort. Slash did a brilliant 20 minute solo during ‘Rocket Queen’. I looked around and people were just staring in awe as to what was happening. Most of them were just nodding their heads in disbelief. This was the moment every fan at the venue was waiting for. All of them had a sudden jolt of energy in them after that.

The set list was dominated by songs from Slash’s solo album and ‘’Apocalyptic Love’ and ‘World on Fire’ with Myles Kennedy. Some songs they did were ‘Back From Cali’, ‘You Could Be Mine’, ‘Starlight’ and ‘World on Fire’.

Bassist Todd Kerns did vocals on ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘Dr Alibi’ and was very impressive. ‘Anastasia’ and ‘Rocket Queen’ being the ones with great Slash solos. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ saw the crowd go berserk and everyone sang as loud as possible. The encore and final song was of course ‘Paradise City’ which had the crowd jumping like crazy. Drummer Brent Fritz was brilliant throughout.

Slash was visibly overjoyed by the crowd’s response and said he was extremely happy to finally perform in India, and showed eagerness to be back again next year.

All in all, it was a concert that will be talked about by rock fans for the next few days to come. Besides the violent crowd, I’d say that it was very well managed and a excellent venue. I may just go for the Bangalore gig also. If only I can manage leave from work.

Set list

1 You’re a Lie
2 Nightrain
3 Avalon
4 Standing in the Sun
5 Back from Cali
6 Wicked Stone
7 Too Far Gone
8 You Could Be Mine
9 Doctor Alibi
10 Welcome to the Jungle
11 Beneath the Savage Sun
12 Starlight
13 The Dissiident
14 Rocket Queen
15 Bent to Fly
16 World on Fire
17 Anastasia
18 Sweet Child o’ Mine
19 Slither
20 Paradise City

deepa nair

Album: Destination

Singer: Deepa Nair Rasiya

Genre: Sufi/ mystic music

Label: Asli Music

Price: Rs 299

Rating: *****

FOLLOWING the success of Pakistani singer Abida Parveen in the late 1990s, many female vocalists have entered the Sufi and mystic music arena. However, a large number depend on powerful renditions in the higher octave to create an impact. The first observation one has after listening to British Indian singer Deepa Nair Rasiya’s album ‘Destination’ is that her style is different, banking on pleasant, raag-based melodies with subtle nuances. The fact that she mainly uses western arrangements makes this recording even more special.

Besides the Sufi verse of Baba Bulleh Shah, Hazrat Shah Hussein and Hazrat Sultan Bahu, Rasiya presents the spiritual poetry of Bhagat Kabir, whose work has been sung for years, and Baba Naamdev. While her singing is soulful throughout, the technically brilliant use of guitars, bass, violin, keyboards and KJ Singh’s drum programming gives the album a wonderful feel. The arrangements have shades of soft rock, jazz and lounge, and yet the songs retain their Indian flavour.

The album begins with ‘Main andhle ki tek’, in which Baba Naamdev writes, “Main andhle ki tek tera naam kundhakaaraa, main gareeb main masakeen tera naam hai adhaaraa’. Sanjoy Das’s catchy guitar riff and Manas Kumar’s violin add to the tune’s beauty.

‘Man atkeya’, written by Hazrat Shah Hussain, is an uptempo song, the kind which seems perfect for ending a concert. Kabir’s ‘Lagan bin jaage na nirmohi’ has been sung gracefully, and is the kind of tune that lingers for hours.

Kabir is also represented through ‘Moko kahaan’, which has the lines, ‘Moko kahaan dhoondhe re bande, main toh tere paas mein, na teerath mein na moorat mein, na ekanth niwas mein, na mandir mein na masjid mein, na Kaabe Kailaas mein’. This song has a more Indian orchestration. The Gwalior gharana composition ‘Man laago’ has jazz-inspired keyboards by Harshavardhan Dixit, with a guest appearance on bass by Rahul Ram of the band Indian Ocean.

One of the highlights is Bulleh Shah’s ‘Aao saiyyon’, which was also recently rendered smoothly by the Mekaal Hasan Band. Rasiya’s version is fantastic too, and the arrangements lend a completely new dimension. The Bulleh Shah repertoire also includes ‘Tera naam dhyaida’, which reflects devotion towards one’s Lord, and ‘Ab toh jaag’, which advises a traveller to move on.

Rasiya’s rendition of Sultan Bahu’s ‘Eh tan mera’ wonderfully expresses the words, where the poet wishes he had a million eyes on every pore of his body to see his master with untiring zeal.

The album concludes with ‘Aa pir moreh Auliya Nizamuddin’. It’s a vibrant tune but strangely, it has been mentioned only in passing in the album credits, and not on the back cover or song list.

On the technical side, KJ Singh’s production is first-rate. What’s also welcome is the detailing of the inlay card. Barring ‘Aa pir morey’, the meanings of all songs have been explained in English, making it easier for those who don’t follow the language to understand.

The best thing about ‘Destination’ is that one can play the songs repeatedly, and if one really gets into their meaning, they grow even more. Rasiya’s singing style and the overall simplicity of the album add to the charm.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding

For this writer’s interview of singer Deepa Nair Rasiya, published in Mid-Day newspaper, Mumbai, check


Jayateerth Mevundi

Concert: Bolava Vitthal

Singers: Jayateerth Mevundi, Devaki Pandit, Shankar Mahadevan

Date and Venue: July 26, Shanmukhananda Hall, Mumbai

AS expected, the Shanmukhananda Hall was jampacked on Sunday evening. In fact, many were forced to walk in 15 or 20 minutes late because of the bad traffic outside and the serpentine queue at the gate. But then, this was the Bolava Vitthal concert of abhangs, which over the past 10 years has now established itself as one of the most awaited annual concerts in Mumbai.

Organised by Pancham Nishad to mark Aashadhi Ekadashi, the festival has evolved into a 12-city tour this year, with the addition of Vadodara and Ahmedabad. While the Shanmukhananda show featured Shankar Mahadevan, Jayateerth Mevundi and Devaki Pandit, the concert at Thane the following day was to have Suresh Wadkar, Ranjani-Gayatri and Mevundi.

Like is the case every year, many similar abhang concerts are held in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra around this time. On Sunday evening, Happy Lucky Entertainment hosted an evening featuring Wadkar, Manjusha Kulkarni-Patil, Mandar Apte and Amruta Kale at the Dinanath Mangeshkar Hall in Vile Parle. On Monday, Pt Bhimsen Joshi’s son Shrinivas was scheduled in a show organised by Shanmukhananda.

Sunday’s event in Sion lasted over four hours. This included the launch of the book ‘Bolava Vitthal’, and the guests of honour were minister of state Prakash Javadekar, Vidyachaspati Shankar Abhyankar and noted theatre and film personality Vijaya Mehta.

The evening began with the customary ‘Gajar’, where all the musicians got together and chanted. However, this writer was still stuck in the queue at that time, and reached his seat only when Shankar Mahadevan was about to begin.

Mahadevan’s fare did not restrict itself to abhangs, as he began with his popular ‘Gananayakaya Ganadaivataya’, dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Next up was ‘Baaje re muraliya baaje’, which had a wonderful sawaal-jawaab with extra-talented flautist Varad Kathapurkar.

Mahadevan’s last piece was a beauty. A unique composition depicting a devotee’s journey to Pandharpur, it was structured wonderfully by Mahadevan who incorporated well-known pieces like ‘Bhagyada Lakshmi baarama’ and ‘Maajhe maaher Pandhari’, before ending with a brilliant ‘Vitthal Vitthal’ climax. The inclusion of Raj Sodha on saxophone lent an interesting twist.

Devaki’s recital came after the book launch. She was technically in fine element on two pieces regularly sung by her guru, the late Pt Jitendra Abhisheki – ‘Natha ghari nache mazha sakha Pandurang’ and ‘Tati ughada Dhnaneshwar’. But the maximum applause was reserved for ‘Bolava Vitthal pahava Vitthal’, which the crowd asked her to repeat.

Mevundi, as always, was a treat to hear. Since he arrived on the scene in the early 2000s, the Kirana gharana exponent has really evolved as one of India’s leading male classical singers. The Bhimsen Joshi influence is there undoubtedly, but Mevundi has matured tremendously and developed his own style and identity. His command over the swaras and those sudden bursts of energy in the higher register are simply outstanding.

The only complaint, probably, was that Mevundi repeated last year’s set list, singing ‘Visava Vitthal’, ‘Akaar ukaar makaar’ and ‘Rajas sukumar’, before concluding with the crowd favourite ‘Bhagyada Lakshmi baarama’. Each song was stylishly and perfectly rendered, though one missed the other great song ‘Teertha Vitthal’.

In the end, it was another memorable evening that left music lovers on a high. This concert – and for that matter any evening of abhangs – has the ability to take you to another planet, another universe.

chand aahen

ON the occasion of Eid, I thought it might be interesting to compile a random list of Hindi film songs which talk about the moon. Most of them would have the word ‘chaand’ in the mukhda, besides variants like ‘chaandni’ and ‘chanda’. And from the names mentioned below, it is obvious that the moon inspired most lyricists to write at their romantic best.

The idea struck me when I suddenly remembered the Lata Mangeshkar classic ‘Chaand phir nikla’, composed by SD Burman, written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and picturised on Nutan in the 1957 film ‘Paying Guest’. Slowly, other songs came to mind, and after some research and Whatsapp chats, I managed to get a fairly fantastic list. Of course, most of these are top-of-the-mind songs, and there may be many rare ones which I may remember later, or which readers may point out.

Remarkably, some of the best ‘chaand’ songs have been sung by Mukesh. These include ‘Woh chaand khila’, his duet with Lata and written by Hasrat Jaipuri in ‘Anadi’, which had music by Shankar-Jaikishen. Then there are ‘Chaand aahein bharega’ (‘Phool Baney Angaarey’, Kalyanji-Anandji, Anand Bakshi), ‘Chaand si mehbooba ho meri’(‘Himalay Ki God Mein’, Kalyanji-Anandji and Bakshi again), and ‘Chaand ko kya maloom’ (‘Lal Bangla’, Usha Khanna, Indeevar). All of them beauties.

Mohammed Rafi also had some great songs, specially ‘Khoya khoya chand’ (‘Kala Bazaar’, SD, Shailendra), ‘Chaudhvin ka chand ho’ (‘Chaudhvin ka chand’, Ravi, Shakeel Badayuni) and the Lata duet ‘Dheere dheere chal chaand gagan mein’, composed by Shankar-Jaikishen and written by Hasrat in ‘Love Marriage’. He also had gems like ‘Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra’ (‘Kashmir Ki Kali’, OP Nayyar, SH Bihari), ‘Chaand mera dil’ (‘Hum Kisise Kum Nahin’, RD Burman, Majrooh) and ‘Maine poocha chaand se’ (‘Abdullah’, RD Burman, Bakshi).

For his part, Manna Dey had two outstanding songs sung with Lata and picturised on Raj Kapoor in the film ‘Chori Chori’. While ‘Yeh raat bheegi bheegi’ goes on to say ‘Yeh chaand pyaara pyaara’, the other song begins ‘Aaja sanam madhur chaandni mein hum’. The tunes have been composed by Shankar-Jaikishen and written by Shailendra. In ‘Ek Phool Do Mali’, under the baton of Ravi, he sang ‘Tujhe suraj kahoon ya chanda’.

And how could one forget Hemant Kumar? Two songs in ‘Shart’, ‘Dekho who chaand chupke karta hai kya ishaare’ and the immortal ‘Na yeh chaand hoga’, were composed by him and written by SH Bihari. In ‘House No 44’, he sang ‘Chup hai dharti, chup hai chaand sitare’, and in ‘Jaal’, he had the famous ‘Yeh raat ye chaandni phir kahan’. Both tunes were composed by SD.

Coming back to Lata, one of her early hits was ‘Chanda re ja re ja re’, composed by Khemchand Prakash in ‘Ziddi’. Then she sang ‘Dum bhar jo udhar moonh phere, o chanda’ with Mukesh in ‘Awara’, a number composed by Shankar-Jaikishen and written by Shailendra. Then, she had ‘Ruk ja raat theher ja re chanda’ for Shankar-Jaikishen and Shailendra in ‘Dil Ek Mandir’, and ‘Chanda hai tu’ for SD and Bakshi in ‘Aradhana’, besides the duet ‘Chanda o chanda’ with ‘Kishore Kumar’ in ‘Lakhon Mein Ek’.. Asha Bhosle had ‘Kyon laga pyaar ko chaand grahan’ in the unreleased film ‘Chaand Grahan’, which had music by Jaidev.

The list is pretty long actually. There are older songs like the Noorjehan masterpiece ‘Chaandni raatein’, and ‘Tu mera chaand mein teri chaandni’, composed by Naushad and written by Shakeel in ‘Dillagi’, with versions by Suraiya-Shaam and Geeta Dutt. In the 1950s, there was ‘Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni’, sung by Talat Mahmood in ‘Sangdil’, with music by Sajjad. In the 1970s, we had Yesudas singing ‘Chaand akela’ in ‘Alaap’, with music by Jaidev, and Kishore singing ‘Chaand churake laaya hoon’ for RD Burman in ‘Devata’. And there’s the unforgettable ‘Abhimaan’ song ‘Tere mere milan ki yeh raina’, which has Majrooh’s line ‘Chandaniya gungunayegi, tabhi toh chanchal hai tere naina, dekho na, dekho na’ set to tune by SD.

Later, there were ‘Chaandni raat hai tu mera saath hai’ from ‘Baaghi’, and ‘Chaand chupa baadal mein’, by Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik in the Ismail Darbar-composed ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’. Not to forget Jatin-Lalit’s ‘Chaand sifaarish’, sung by Shaan and Kailash Kher in the 2006 film ‘Fanaa’. And just in case you thought of the title song of ‘Chandni’, it was based on the name of the heroine, and not on moonlight.

There have been dozens of great ‘chaand’ songs. And while this list mentions songs that came early to mind, there may be many more such songs. And if we’ve stuck to Hindi film songs so far, there are some non-film ghazals and nazms which portray the moon eloquently. Examples are Anup Jalota’s ‘Chaand angadaaiyan le raha hai, chaandni muskurane lagi hai’ and the Ghulam Ali charmer ‘Ae husn beparwah’, which has the lines ‘Chanda ki tu hai chaandni, leheron ki tu hai ragini, jaane tamanna main tujhe, kya kahoon, kya na kahoon’.

The west has had its share of moon songs too. Beginning with Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight sonata’, the list would include the popular standards ‘Moonlignt in Vermont’ and ‘Fly me to the moon’, Cat Stevens’ ‘Moonshadow’, Chuck Berry’s ‘Havana moon’ (with Santana having a song of the same name), Neil Young’s ‘Harvest moon’, Sting’s ‘Sister moon’, REM’s ‘Man on the moon’ and Savage Garden’s ‘To the moon and back’. And among albums, there was, of course, Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

The western list would be pretty exhaustive too, and this was just a teaser. The Hindi list will hopefully take you on a trip down melody lane. The songs are en-’chaand’-ting enough.


FOR the past few years, India has witnessed an increasing level of activity on June 21, to celebrate Fete de la Musique, also known as Make Music Day or World Music Day. Now, hardcore music fans will happily state that for them, every day is a music day, and some will say that we also have International Music Day on October 1, besides genre-specific days like International Jazz Day on April 30 and International Blues Day on the first Saturday of August. Others may insist that this day is meant only to celebrate the ‘world music’ genre, and wonder why everyone else who doesn’t belong to this genre is making a hue and cry.

Whatever the objections, the fact is that World Music Day, as celebrated on June 21, is getting increasing prominence in India, just like it is in many other countries. The good thing about this is that more musicians get a platform to perform and thus reach out to their audiences. From classical and folk to film and pop, one has been noticing an increasing participation. This year is no exception, and below, we list some of the things happening.

Before that, a bit about this World Music Day business. The concept of an all-day musical celebration on Summer Solstice Day was initiated in the late 1970s by American musician Joel Cohen, who spent two seasons as a producer for the France Musique radio station. In 1982, French minister of culture decided to make it a national celebration, and ever since, it has been celebrated in 120 years across the globe.

As conceived in France, the objective of this festival has been two-fold. One was to encourage amateur and professional musicians to perform in the streets. The second was to organise free concerts, making various genres of music accessible to the general public.

Times have, of course, changed. Today, the celebration of World Music Day has gone on to include paid concerts, shows at clubs, appearances on radio and even mobile phone promotions. There are no street performances, in India at least. The bottomline, of course, is that the music community has accepted the changes, simply because it helps spot new talent and gives performance or media appearance opportunities to those already established.

Keeping that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the activities taking place this year:

Radio City: The radio station actually began its celebrations on June 19 with a three-day musical affair. Now in its third year, this series on Radio City 91.1 FM will feature both established and upcoming musicians. Artistes like Kailash Kher, Raghav Sachar, Neeti Mohan, Akriti Kakar and Shibani Kashyap are part of this, besides acts like ‘a cappella’ teams Chai-Town and Penn Masala, and YouTube acts Shraddha Sharma and Hanu Dixit.

Radio City outlets in Chennai, Hyderabad and Vishakhapatnam will have special events the coming week. In Chennai, artistes like G V Prakash Kumar, Anirudh, D Imman and Sean Roldan will be on air from June 22 to 26. The Hyderabad and Vizag stations will be graced by music directors RP Patnaik, MM Srilekha and Koti.

Besides this, the web radio station will run a different range of specials across their 21 stations. On Radio City Freedom, RJ 2Blue will talk of 10 popular acts like Indian Ocean, Parikrama, Faridkot and Papon.

Artist Aloud events: This year, has got into a partnership with vH1 India to have a simultaneous event in five Hard Rock Cafe outlets across India. The event will feature Papon in Mumbai, Indiva in Pune, Parikrama in Delhi, Swarathma in Bangalore and Avial in Hyderabad.

The opening acts in each city were selected after online contests.

BB King tribute: In Mumbai, Blue Frog is hosting a tribute to blues legend BB King, who passed away on May 14, Organised by Mahindra Blues, known for its annual two-day festival in February, it will feature the Blackstratblues, the blues-rock project of guitarist Warren Mendonsa. Vocalist Tejas and keyboardist Loy Mendonsa will be among the musicians performing.

The Ragas Live Festival, New York: This unique 24-hour Indian classical music marathon will feature over 60 musicians. To be held at the Central Park, it is set to be broadcast in New York over the weekend, and streamed live on the Internet for listeners around the world.

The event will be streamed live on and it will be archived at the station’s website and at for listeners to hear it later. The performers include vocalists Mashkoor Ali Khan and Tripti Mukherjee, sitar player Krishna Bhatt and sarod players Aashish Khan and Tejendra Narayan Majumdar. Mailan kora player Yacouba Sissoko will perform with Jay Gandhi on bansuri and Ellenbogen on guitar. The Arun Ramamurthy Trio will play jazz interpretations of Carnatic compositions.

Music from Odisha: The Orissa government has planned a three-day festival featuring the essence of Odissi music at the Bhanja Kala Mandap, Bhubaneswar. A seminar on the state of Odissi music on the national and international arena will also be held.

Vocalists Lata Ghosh, Bijay Jena, Sangita Gosain and Minati Mishra will be among the performers.

Aircel promotions:
Aircel is offering its customers limitless music without any subscription charges. On the day, customers can dial toll free code 543213 or 543219 and listen to any music/ song/ album of their choice free of cost. The drive is powered by Hungama.

Aircel has also dedicated a month from June 21 to July 31, 2015 to celebrate World Music Festival. Each week will be dedicated to iconic artists and singers who have made a mark in different genres.

As one observed earlier, there’s plenty of activity this year. Whether or not you’re in a city affected by the rains, this is a great way to divert yourself.

Shashank Subramanyam,Flute Artist,in his house,at Mylapore,Chennai,on 4thDec2014.

Shashank Subramanyam in his house,at Mylapore,Chennai

THE audience is dominated by hardcore Carnatic music aficionados. The venue is the prestigious Shanmukhananda Hall in Sion. The date is June 13, and flautist Shashank Subramanyam is ruling the stage.

In his mid-30s, the musician is a picture of immaculate class and perfection. He’s been playing in front of gatherings since the age of six, and at 12, created a still-unbroken record of being the youngest to grace the seniormost slot at the Music Academy, Chennai. Today, he makes the flute sound so effortless, displaying remarkable phrasing and breath control.

He plays non-stop for close to three hours, and the coordination between him and extra-talented violinist Akkarai Subhalakshmi is simply amazing. Mridangam player VV Ramanamurthy and ghatam exponent Tripunithura Radhakrishnan control the rhythm section. All the way, it’s sheer magic.

From the varnam in Kaanada to the Purandara Dasa composition in raga Nata, Thyagharaja creations in ragas Devamruthavarshini and Saramati, and the raagam-taanam-pallavi, Shashank is in total control. He’d have probably gone on playing, if he doesn’t have to catch a flight to Germany later that night.

A few days before his Mumbai concert, Shashank gave this writer an interview. A part of it was published in the June 12 edition of Mid Day, Mumbai, the link to which is pasted below. For all his fans, the following is the complete text of the interview.

What are your observations of the audience for Carnatic music in Mumbai?

Mumbai has a substantial south Indian music loving community that is extremely qualitative. Institutions like Shanmukhananda, Chembur Fine Arts Society and scores of smaller organisations around the city have been promoting Carnatic music concerts and teaching activities during the past 80 years. This gave an opportunity for the non-south Indian audience to also get an exposure to south Indian classical music, with Mumbai becoming a melting pot of south and north Indian music and culture.

In recent years, Mumbai has witnessed many north and south jugalbandi concerts attracting different kinds of audiences. Among the organisers promoting such events, there are Banyan Tree, Idea Jalsa, Pancham Nishad and many others. In my own experience, I have committed listeners both from the north and south of India equally. Factually I have performed more for north Indian organisations in the city of Mumbai.

Let’s look at how your career has evolved. You started playing at the age of six and were hailed as a child prodigy. How did the early attention affect you?

Given the short learning time span for a human being, the focus on one thing takes a toll on other aspects of life. In my case, I used to work on music for more than 10 hours a day, even as a five-year-old. Therefore, my academic achievements became a casualty. Looking back I don’t regret this. Honestly, if one wants to super-specialise, the only way is to begin very young and achieve as quickly as possible to stay put in one’s career for a very long time. There are many examples of this kind of career graph from around the world in many fields, including the arts.

What made you choose the flute and who were your biggest influences as a child?

My father Subramanyam was an amateur flautist and I mostly learnt watching him practise at home. At the age of six, when I began performing for the general public, my biggest influences were my father who was my first guru, and my vocal gurus Palghat K V Narayanaswamy and others.

As you grew up, were there any special pressures to keep up with the adulation you received as a child?

Although I began performing when I was six, I got into the big circuit at the age of 12 with a performance at the Music Academy, Chennai in the seniormost slot called the ‘sadas’ during the 1990 music season. Since the expectations were sky high, and also considering the fact that I was relatively young, my father contained and restricted my public performances, thereby making sure that I lived up to the expectations of the audience every time I performed. This also ensured that I could continue to develop and evolve as an artiste.

Who have been your favourite flautists?

From amongst the Indian classical flute players, legends T R Mahalingam from the south and Hariprasad Chaurasia from the north are certainly my favourites although I have followed my own instincts and technique to play the instrument.

Besides pure Carnatic music, you’ve performed at various jazz festivals. What line-up of musicians have accompanied you?

I have been a part of many jazz bands from around the world of which my brief association with guitar legend John McLaughlin is worth taking note of. I was a part of the Grammy-nominated album ‘Floating Point’ along with him. I also perform with well-known European bands including The Jungle Orchestra, Blue Lotus and many others. Some of the festivals that I have performed in include the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Skopje Jazz Festival in Macedonia and Delemont Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

What has been your experience with the Jungle Orchestra?

The Jungle Orchestra, a concept that was initiated by Duke Ellington in the 1920s and further developed by Pierre Dorge, a composer and guitar player from Denmark, is inspired by sounds of the jungle that are incorporated into a concert of jazz music. I met Pierre Dorge when I was teaching at the Rytmisk Conservatory in Copenhagen in 1997. In 2007, we thought of performing at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. It was a very nice interaction with 10 musicians in the band playing drums, percussion, guitar, piano, saxophone, trumpet, flute, etc. Ever since, we have performed around the world including in India.

What is the response of foreign audiences to Indian music?

Many of those who attend our performances in the West or East are either musicians themselves or highly knowledgeable music lovers who are exposed to many genres of music from around the world. They particularly appreciate the complex rhythmic content and the meditative aspects in Indian classical music. They also appreciate the creative blending of melody and rhythm in our system.

What level of interest do youngsters show in Indian classical music?

Although we can’t assign a number or percentage to the decline in interest amongst youngsters, it could be emphatically stated that the decline is very alarming. One example of this could be seen in the age group of people attending live performances. However, it is a little more encouraging to see the growth of interest among Non Resident Indians in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. Most Indian kids would try to pursue one or the other form of classical music or dance and some of the young musicians from the countries mentioned above are making names as performers in south India.

Could you tell us about your concept ‘Spirit of Krishna’?

‘Spirit of Krishna’ is an amalgamation of the traditional folk and classical music. The Manganyars of Rajasthan and myself are a constant part of the team. The percussionist and the sitar artistes are mostly guest performers who are invited to be a part of the team from time to time. We present traditional compositions on Lord Krishna in many languages and also incorporate a big section wherein the musicians indulge in creative improvisations. In addition, at times, we also include classical dancers to enhance the presentation.

Do you think collaborations with Hindustani musicians will help expose more north Indians to Carnatic music?

For the past five decades, jugalbandi concerts have been taking place both in the north and south. Citing from my own personal experiences, the audiences have immensely enjoyed both systems equally. However, when it comes to presenting a Carnatic solo to a conservative Hindustani music audience, many in the concert establishment have apprehensions about its success. This is grossly unjustified though. I am of the firm opinion that Carnatic music, if packaged to suit Hindustani music lovers, will be greatly appreciated and right from the beginning of my career, I have been doing just that.

The north Indian music festivals where I have performed Carnatic recitals include Dover Lane (in Kolkata), Hariballabh festival (Jalandhar), Saptak (Ahmedabad), Sawai Gandharva (Pune) and concerts at NCPA (Mumbai). It is time that organisers in the north become more open minded and present music lovers with at least one Carnatic music concert in any series or festival. In some ways, this will be a reciprocation of how south Indian organisations have been offering Hindustani musicians to their audience for quite some time now.

What projects are you working on now?

Careers in music, like anywhere else, involve a constant and continuous evolution in progress and in that direction I keep working on many projects. One of them is to popularise a format of presenting Carnatic music to the north Indian music lovers and the uninitiated music lover as well.

When you aren’t involved with music, what hobbies and interests do you pursue?

Travelling, teaching students, aviation, cars and catching up with the news and happenings from around the world.

Could you tell me about your family’s support to your music.

For the past three decades, my entire family has been dedicated 24/ 7 to the cause of music. My father, a former bio-chemistry professor, has been my teacher. My mother has been a music lover, and sister Shantala an upcoming flautist. My wife Shirisha is a very talented Bharatanatyam dancer and daughter Swara a serious music student. They have all made up for a very healthy music environment.

Finally, as someone who began and succeeded so early, what advice do you give to youngsters who want to learn musical instruments and follow music professionally?

The success rate for a bright professional career in classical music is one out of a 10,000. This is because there is very little focused and committed patronage from the state and central governments. Although there is plenty of talent, parents are often haunted by the scarcity of opportunities and are thus apprehensive. Therefore children are advised to take up professions which ensure a stable livelihood.

My only suggestion to talented youngsters is to take up the arts as a career if they have sufficient financial backing to fall back on, in case of a failure in their arts careers. In spite of the uncertain future faced by students of the arts, if they still wish to pursue this field, it is their extreme passion that will have to play a role immaterial of the outcome. I am one who belongs to the latter.

The link to this writer’s article in Mid Day on June 12 can be found on


Album: And A Half

Artistes: Arka

Label: Times Music

Price: Rs 295

Rating: *****

WE’VE all known Selva Ganesh as an outstanding player of the Carnatic percussion instrument kanjira, and as one of the members of the group Remember Shakti. Now, the son of ghatam maestro Vikku Vinayakram adds another feather to his cap via the fusion band Arka.

Here, Selva is joined by five extremely talented musicians – vocalist Karthik, flautist Ravichandra Kulur, drummer Gino Banks, bassist Mishko M’ba and guitarist Santhosh Chandran. Recently, the group launched its album ‘And A Half’, which as its title suggests, contains compositions with odd rhythmic scales ranging from one-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half.

Blending styles as diverse as Carnatic, Hindustani, rock, jazz, funk and flamenco, the album is a symbol of mathematical precision. Technically, everything is bang on target, and the tunes grow on repeated listening. Karthik, well-known for his playback singing and his work with AR Rahman, excels on the sargam passages, presenting complex phrases with effortless ease. Though he is sometimes reminiscent of Hariharan and Shankar Mahadevan, he has a presentation style that’s his own, and a supreme command over the nuances.

The other musicians are in perfect sync, and there is some terrific interaction between them. Selva’s spoken konnakol portions blend smoothly with Karthik’s vocals, and the accompaniment of Ravichandra’s flute, Gino’s drums and Mishko’s bass is first-rate. If anything, one feels Santhosh is a bit underplayed, but wherever he appears, he’s a delight.

‘And A Half’ contains eight tracks, beginning with ‘Arka’, a piece in seven-and-a-half. With lyrics by Manoj Yadav, it has some incredible interplay between vocals and flute, and supple drumming by Gino. ‘Meera’s Maya’, set in two-and-a-half, is a melodious number with the lines ‘Mhaare ghar aao preetam pyaara’, sung to the backdrop of marvelous flute lines.

‘Mini Tiffin’ bubbles with energy, with its funk-filled groove and flawless coordination. ‘Chain ko diya’, written by Gayatri Ganjawala, has an infectious hook, with Karthik singing ‘Mera wajood tere bin kuchh nahin’. On ‘Flamingo’, guitarist Santhosh excels with his flamenco-based sequences.

‘Parmaatma’, written by Manoj Yadav, has been set in a five-and-a-half beat cycle. After a slow bass and flute intro, it suddenly picks up tempo. ‘Ca Va Bien’ has some superb coordination between bass, drums, kanjira and voice. Set in one-and-a-half, the final piece ‘Boom Shankara’ is filled with verve, with the lines ‘Boom boom Shiv Shankar Mahadev Shiv Shankar’.

Each of the eight numbers has been masterfully presented. A lot of thought has gone into composing these tunes, which demanded total perfection from each artiste. While that has come naturally on the CD, one also saw that quality during the live performance held at Blue Frog last week to mark the launch. Clearly, Arka is a group with a future. It’s one of the most eclectic and exciting sounds to have come out in the recent past.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding

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