It’s high time India had its own piano tradition: Anil Srinivasan
The magic is not just in his fingers, but also in his words. Acclaimed pianist Anil Srinivasan opens up on his diverse influences, collaborating with Devdutt Pattanaik and being a TED speaker
There’s a certain joy that infuses the air when you first hear the strains of a piano. And when it’s Anil Srinivasan working the instrument, the joy is only bumped up. The lilting tunes range from the classic to the popular – he goes as easily from Mozart to Bollywood as he does from Guns N’ Roses to Bhairavi. The Chennai-based pianist, known for his distinctive aesthetic of marrying Indian classical with Western classical styles, believes that there are possibilities in everything.
Myth and music
In fact, it was at the first edition of TED India in 2009 that he met author and mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik, with whom he would go on to collaborate. For instance, at the Festival of Parallels in Chennai two years ago, Pattanaik’s narration of Sati’s ordeal was accompanied by Srinivasan’s musical notations. “Mythology is very much the core of south Indian classical music. If you look at Carnatic music lyrics, it’s inspired by mythology, be it the characters, or the incidents in the epics. And Devdutt is not just a specialist; he puts it in a way that everyone understands. I use the storytelling, including the way he speaks, to construct melody,” he says. The two also performed at the Singapore Arts Festival a few months ago.
“I think it was one of the most moving and authentic renditions I have ever done. If I contrast this with the Southbank concert, which was very prim and proper, this one was casual, people were sitting down with a drink. But you still had the same kind of engagement and pin-drop silence. Music gives me the ability to think limitlessly, whether that’s playing with an author or a painter,” he says.
Come March, he’s set to release a tutorial series on his aesthetic of blending two traditional schools of music. “I’m codifying it by doing individual sessions with Devdutt and the others I’ve collaborated with, where we speak about how we did it. I think it’s high time we had our own piano tradition.”