Western instruments take on Indian stage

Western instruments take on Indian stage

By MAHIMA DAYAL | | 26 January, 2013
‘Drums in Dialogue’ performing at the IHC.

The term fusion has come to be used loosely for most compositions that incorporate instruments with contrasting regional flavours. How does one categorise a performance in which all instruments, regardless of their origin, follow a classical format, notation as well as the expressions?

Two instruments, the cajón and the saxophone were used in two different performances alongside Hindustani and Carnatic instruments, to produce not a fusion, but a masterful performance than if the traditional instruments would have played alone. The reason was that the cajón as well as the Saxophone were playing Hindustani/ Carnatic talas and ragas respectively. To elaborate this further, the first performance which took place at IIC on Monday, staged the sitar, played by Pt Prateek Chowdhary and the saxophone by Phill Scarff. "The string and the wind instruments have very contrasting qualities, so the notes are sustained for a greater hyperbole in a saxophone as compared to a sitar and it's a nice contrast", said Scarff

Phill Scarff, who is a pioneering proponent of North Indian classical on the Soprano Saxophone captured the depth of raga shri in vilambit ek taal (twelve beat cycle) and then followed by a chota khayal in drut teen taal (sixteen beats). Prateek Chowdhary performed raga yaman in a cycle of a rare nine beats. After presenting their individual styles they both performed an evening raga bageshwari together. Though both are adept in their styles and individual performances, it felt as though the sitar gave little space for the wind instrument to elaborate and they were not able to reach a common ground and be able to create an aura of perfection. "This is the first time in Delhi, that a performance combining a saxophone and Sitar is taking place. We could not practice together before so our performance was extempore", says Chowdhary.

The second performance this week showcased five different types of percussion instruments including a cajón, which traces its origins to Peru; and was played by Sujit Mukherjee; the mridangam, played by Vetry Bhoopathy, pakhavaj by Harish Chakrapati, ghatam by K Ramamoorthy , tabla by Durjay Bhaumik and sitar by Amitabh Mukerjee .The performance began with raga bihag in mid tempo teen taal, which was maintained by the sitar and sounded surprisingly mellow and ambient. After establishing the raga, the sitar began a gat in which each instrument displayed its characteristics. Based on the sixteen beats of the teen taal, a dual cadence came about, were each percussionist deviates from the metric accent but follows phrases and returns to the pattern after their solo. The cajón in this case was the instrument that provided for world percussion amid the four classical instruments, yet played along the same patterns. Sujit also recites the tala phrases in accordance with Carnatic enunciation of the rhythm. "I am with an ensemble called Temple of Drum which showcases drums and repertoire from across the globe and explore the various facets of percussion. Durjay had heard about it we have tried to bring world music flavours into the table with the cajón and find its own vocabulary here."

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