Perfect Amalgamation

What a remarkable week it has been. For starters, a college mate, Ninad Karpe, who produced a Marathi play based on Hitchcock’s ‘Dial M For Murder’, ‘A Perfect Murder’, convinced me to attend it following his perseverance, keeping in mind the innumerable occasions on which I was unable to patronise it earlier. In viewing the play at Mumbai’s Yashwant Natya Mandir on 27.07.19, while the acting/script/direction was outstanding, for me what was really a revelation was that a song had been composed specifically for the play. Titled “Sawalya” and sung by Mugdha Karhade, it was a superbly composed song by Ajit Parab, who started his career as music director with the Marathi film ‘Huppa Haiyya’. The background score by Parab was effective too, supporting the musical vision of Hitchcock of being minimal. Undoubtedly, the composition is a boon/boost for the musical movement for independent music.

Before the week was out, a fellow musically inclined friend, Narendra Kusnur, convinced me to attend a concert at Mumbai’s St. Andrew’s Auditorium on 02.08.19, ‘Perfect Amalgamation’, “a tryst with contemporary fusion” is how it was promoted by its composer, Siddharth Kasyap. And that was precisely how it was presented at showtime, originally scheduled for an 8pm commencement, which finally got musically rolling at 8:50pm with 13 musicians performing on stage by the end of the musical evening.

Along with Kasyap, who conducted the performance, and orchestra-in-charge Atul Raninga, both on keyboards, the line-up comprised of sitar player Ravi Chary; bassist Aakashdeep Gogoi; Jayanti Gosher on mandolin, rabab, oud, and banjo; Vinnie Hutton and Prabhat Raghuvansi on guitars; Momin Khan on sarangi; Tejas Vinchurkar on flute; violinist Kushmita KC; and drummer Chiranjit Sinha with percussionists Girish Vishwa and Gautam Sharma.

In bringing Indian classically influenced symphonic qualities to modern instrumental music, ‘Perfect Amalgamation’ was quite like a highly charged film score, except that it ran without a movie. The musical images comprised of India, and from the Middle East to the West, that were not only inspired but, the manner in which the soundscapes were performed, featured the immense talents of the musicians present. Specifically focusing on sitarist Chary on “Mystical Sitar”; violinist Kushmita, from Darjeeling, on “Strings On Fire”; Gosher’s oud playing on “Oud Taqsim”; flautist Vinchurkar on “Floating Winds”; 19-year-old Khan, from Jaipur, playing the very instrument described in the song titled “Mellifluous Sarangi”; an a capella piece from percussionists Sinha, Vishwa, and Sharma, who provided a fitting vocal response to Kasyap’s calls on “The Ensemble”; the Latino-feel of percussion interplay on “Rhythm Royale”; and the logical conclusion with all the instrumentalists playing in unison on “The Concerto”.

One of the most impressive aspects of team leader Siddharth Kasyap in this live setting was the manner in which his beautiful keyboard-led compositions blended with the instruments of his fellow musicians. ‘Perfect Amalgamation’ epitomized the musical balance across genres and through musical adventure not quite seen before in an Indian content. No doubt, this event needs to be viewed to be musically satiated, and taking the troupe pan-India and, eventually, globally appear to be next obvious steps for Siddharth Kasyap to follow.

In fact, as a food for musical thought to broad base the appeal of ‘Perfect Amalgamation’, the contemporary instrumental composer should consider collaborating with singers too. Upon first glance, singing may provide ‘Perfect Amalgamation’ an appearance of tilting towards the popular side of music, but there are some great tracks in Kasyap’s repertoire that are structured in that manner, and will certainly not be too far removed from the increasingly rhythmic worldbeat that Kasyap has created. Nevertheless, Kasyap’s music would still continue having a deliberately exotic and ethnic multi-cultural feel with the emphasis on not only melody, but texture too. The introduction of vocal transparency would certainly not be by accident, but by Kasyap’s design, because this would still remain a Siddharth Kasyap initiative wherein he features singers, but he is the frontman, the one responsible for the form and feel of the sound, which remains paramount.

With such innumerable musicians supported by the orchestration of Atul Raninga and a wide assortment of musical instruments, ranging from the sitar, flute, violin and sarangi to keyboards, oud, guitar and drums, the 75-minute musical journey’s eight selections featured in a supremely structured manner and, unlike conventional fusion concerts, composer Kasyap ensured that there was no scope for free flow or improvisation.

In all this, it was not only the music that left an indelible impression, but the tight production also featured suitable lighting and astonishing animated visuals as the backdrop. While most of the performers were comparatively new to listeners, nothing should take away from their impressive work within the confines of recording studios. Yes, ‘Perfect Amalgamation’ lived upto its name and, with the other musical initiatives referred to earlier in this review, it only goes to show that independent music is on the verge of flowing mainstream.

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