Noted Carnatic musician Dr Vasumathi Badrinathan speaks to Nikhil Taneja on being invited to sing in Azerbaijan...
How did you get the invitation to the first international Mugham festival in Azerbaijan?
I’ve been performing regularly for the last couple of decades. So even though I’m very much an international artiste, this time it’s very special as it’s the first time an Indian artiste is singing there.
Is a fusion between Mugham music and Carnatic music possible?
I’d rather call it a collaboration than fusion. Mugham music is the oriental and sacred music of Azerbaijan. In that way, it bears resemblance to Carnatic music. It will be beautiful to explore it musically.. as the beauty will lie in both the similarities and the
You have been collaborating with a number of musicians in the past as well.
I’m not happy being just another concert musician. I like to work with different themes and take on new frontiers. Carnatic music is a treasure trove of unlimited potential. At the same time, I wouldn’t like to project that I compromise on the traditional Carnatic background. Whatever I do is within a framework.
You’ve worked with jazz musicians in Paris. Do jazz and Carnatic music have a common point?
Yes, there are lots of points in common. Ours was an improvisational style of music. Jazz music is not totally disconnected with Indian music.. the way they associate their notes is very similar.
A lot of your international work has been in and around France. How did you become associated with the country?
I can speak French well.. and when there is no linguistic barrier to the country and understand their culture better. Over the last decade, I’ve been performing very regularly at France and there has been a lot of empathy and cultural give-and-take. In fact, even my doctoral degree is from a French university.
Though you’ve been promoting Carnatic music so strongly, do you feel it has been getting less recognition?
Yes, there is much less media awareness now. Newspapers and press doesn’t give space to it. Since the stress is on Bollywood and pop culture, classical music isn’t considered very ‘modern’. In fact, people are hardly aware of the distinction between Hindustani and Carnatic music, while countries abroad aware of it.
So I’m really happy to represent the music abroad as a cultural ambassador. If I keep working honestly and sincerely, hopefully Carnatic music will also gain more recognition.