In the 1960s, when sitar maestro Ravi Shankar first teamed up with British violinist Yehudi Menuhin and later with George Harrison of The Beatles, it was the first step in the burgeoning field of East-West collaborations. Since then, several musicians from the Eastern frontier have come together with Western classical musicians to integrate the two schools of music. Tonight, this collaboration goes a step further with a Western symphonic orchestra wielding its stick to pop-artist, Kailash Kher’s tunes. “Mine is a cameo. It’s a Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) concert and I’m just a guest singing one song,” explains Kher, who plans to sing Saiyan to the symphonic music produced by a entourage of musicians from Kazakhistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, UK Germany and India.
The concert, conceived by theatre producer Ashvin Gidwani, is a preview to the 13-day-long annual SOI season which kick-starts this Monday. “The Turf Club concert is an experiment. Bollywood is going global and requires appropriate music, so we thought of marrying the two forms,” says conductor of the SOI, Marat Bisengaliev.
The 75-minute preview will feature 65 musicians under Bisengaliev’s baton performing romantic, yet complex symphonies composed by Mahler and Brahms before jamming with Kher. “The Symphony Orchestra is not the common man’s music. It’s a niche club. Bringing my band Kailasa with the orchestra will help bring newer audiences to both the groups,” feels Kher.
While Hindustani and Carnatic musicians have successfully collaborated with orchestras internationally, this is the first time such an experiment has extended to Sufi and Bollywood music. But whether Kher’s raw vocals will blend with the harmonics is a mystery to the musicians as well. “We haven’t practised yet. It’s as much a surprise for us as it’ll be for the audience. Let’s see how the two wonderful forms come together,” adds Kher.
SOI performs with Kailash Kher at Royal Western India Turf Club, Front Lawns, 8.30 pm onwards. Call 6577 0000