I don’t have a retirement plan: Niladri Kumar

Famed for inventing the zitar, a cross between a sitar and a guitar, Niladri Kumar occupies a unique place in the fusion music space. A prolific recording artiste and concert performer, Kumar will perform a charity show in the city as part of his outfit Sitar Funk. The line-up features Gino Banks (drums), Satyajeet Talwalkar (tabla), Sheldon D’Silva (bass guitar) and Agnelo Fernandes (keyboard). The event, titled Fusion For A Cause, is organised to aid the Marathwada drought victims.

Tell us about how you came to be part of the charity show.
They (the organisers) were collecting funds to buy storage water tanks for drought victims. I was asked if I could help with the relief efforts. As a band, we realised that if we need to raise funds, we have to perform music that has a wider appeal. That’s how we came together for this. Also, since the concert season is almost over, it made sense to play here. Louis Banks (veteran jazz keyboardist/pianist) has been very kind to play a few pieces with us as a guest performer.

You’ve come to be recognised most strongly with fusion music. What kind of music do you associate with the most?
Slotting music into genres is done for marketing reasons; for example, when it needs to be decided what bracket to put an album into. But I am crisscrossing between many genres. I am playing a classical concert one day and a folk/ fusion show the next. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do that, but I feel blessed.

Does that put more pressure on you as a musician?
As musicians, we live by the day. We don’t have a retirement plan. There’s always pressure every time one goes on stage because at that point, your past, no matter how great, doesn’t matter. What counts is what you can make of the present. Being a concert musician is a risk.

But most artistes also say that music makes their lives more fulfilling.
Yes, but people who say that are either those who aren’t practising musicians or those who are at such a level of seniority that they start connecting with ‘nada brahma’ (means the sound of the Universe). There’s a lot of romanticism attached to music. I’m in a space where I have a lot to achieve. A lot of people ask me if I feel a spiritual connect when I play music. You know, when I perform, it’s not like I’m meditating. Of course, there is devotion, hard work and expertise that is required. For me, being a musician is satisfying because it is not something I was forced to do; I chose it.

What are the recording or touring projects that you are working on currently?
I have a few solo concerts abroad. I will also be releasing a couple of albums this year. We (the band) are also doing a live audio of tomorrow’s show. And, in case it turns out to be good, we will release the recording as an album.

Catch Sitar Funk on April 25 at Shanmukhananda Auditorium, Sion, at 7:30 pm. Tickets available at the venue, Rhythm House, Fort and Maharashtra Watch Co Dadar (W), call 6662 5661 or 4322 2727 for details.


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