When Rudyard Kipling wrote, “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”, the Mumbai-born English poet surely didn’t foresee the efforts of Carnatic musician Chitravina Ravikiran, whose latest experiment continues to merge the Eastern and Western schools of music.
This week, the virtuoso will perform compositions to complement his award-winning approach to music called Melharmony. “I first tried out Melharmonic composition in 2000. I have collaborated with artistes from various cultures and genres including pop, jazz, blues, Chinese, Middle Eastern and African since the mid-1980s. However, I wanted to deepen the experience by approaching it as a composer,” he says. He defines his concept of Melharmony as “harmony with an emphasis on the melodic rules of evolved systems such as the raga system of Indian music”.
So, while experiments in the field of fusion have been on for over 40 years now, since British violinist Yehudi Menuhin performed with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar or John McLaughlin brought out his Shakti project, what makes the 21st century interesting is the scope. “Legends like Ravi Shankar gave the initial fillip to our system on the global platform. It is essential for the next-generation artistes to make Indian concepts equally appreciated. Owing to technological advancements, musicians now have that much extra time to prepare and present well-planned music with enough manoeuvring space for spontaneity and freshness,” feels Ravikiran.
For months now, the musician has been exchanging emails and notes with Brazilian American jazz musician, Jovino Santos Neto and others. “We all share some musical elements. Many of the ragas and rhythms used both in Hindustani and Carnatic music have counterparts in traditional Brazilian music, especially in the ‘baião’ style. This is my entrance point, and in my opinion, this will make our collaboration different from most jazz/Indian hybrids,” feels Neto, a three-time Grammy nominee, who will be performing at the concert this Friday.
Celebrating their musical synergy, the duo will be seen with tabla player Fazal Qureshi, violinist Charumathi Raghuraman and mridangam player Anand Anantha Krishnan.
Apart from seamlessly blending Carnatic with folk, sambo, choro, baião and marcha, the highlight of the evening will be the Breathless Slide, a special piece that features a non-stop-single-hand slide section, a technique patented by Ravikiran. “It’s the first time I’ll showcase the technique in Mumbai. I just hope it leaves my audiences breathless too,” he signs off.