An Evening With Anoushka
- Sivaram Srikandath
Story Dated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 19:20 hrs IST
Last weekend, a reputed business house celebrated the 25th anniversary of one of their group companies by hosting a rather special evening.. Cocktails and dinner, and the music of Anoushka, the enormously talented daughter of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar at the Le Meridien Convention Center in Cochin. The evening was as near perfect as such an event could hope to be. Only the barest minimum of corporate PR; the rest was all about Anoushka's music.
And what a memorable evening of music it was.
There was an invited audience of about 400 including many foreign business associates of the hosts who had flown in from different parts of the globe to grace the occasion. In deference to the artiste's wishes, the organizers did their job well by by clearly laying down the rules of engagement, as it were. Guests were specifically requested to be seated on time to prevent members of the chatterati class from arriving "fashionably late;" cell phones were compulsorily on silent mode; and no food and drinks were permitted into the auditorium during the concert. The audience also responded suitably to the serene atmosphere by maintaining silence and decorum throughout the duration of the 90 minute concert
The stage was decorated sparsely, but elegantly. There was just a backlit image of a lotus and a few lights serving as a backdrop, and the stage was bare but for a small raised platform for the lead artiste to perform upon. Promptly at 7.45 pm, Anoushka walked briskly on to the stage, followed by her accompanying musicians. The last time I had seen her perform was in November 2008 at Calcutta, when she had teamed up Jethro Tull on their Indian tour. On that occasion she had been grandly dressed, bedecked in silk and glittering diamonds as she accompanied the incomparable Ian Anderson doing his mad-cap, one legged gig on the flute. This evening, in Cochin, she was dressed in a rustic manner, wearing a colourful mirror worked skirt and blouse, perhaps reflecting the music she was about to perform.
Anoushka was in India on a promotional tour for her 7th album, Traveller, and the show in Cochin was an unplanned stop after concerts in Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Chennai and Bangalore. From Cochin Anoushka was proceeding to Guwahati and Kolkata as part of her 7 city Indian tour.
In Traveller, an album described as a "raga-flameco journey," Anoushka continues her exploration of world music and tries to chart the links between Indian classical music and modern day flamenco, which has its origins in the music of the banjaras who migrated from Rajasthan and Punjab, around 800 or 900 AD and became the peripatetic gypsies travelling through Asia and the Middle East before settling down in Europe. As she says, she has been fascinated by "something I find very similar in flamenco to what I cherish in Indian classical music: a kind of uninhibited musicality in expression, whether it is a solo voice, a sitar or a guitar..."
Accompanying her were a group of highly talented musicians - Sandra Carrasco on vocals, Milon Jimenez on guitar, Ramon Porrino on the Spanish percussion instrument cajon, Tanmoy Bose on tabla, Sanjeev Shankar on shehnai, and Pirashanna Thevarajah on mridangam ghatam, ganjira, morsing and kunnakol,
Anoushka began the concert (which was spread over two sets) with a short sitar aalap of the Raag Bhairavi. For the next piece the tawny maned Sandra Carrasco joined the band on stage singing the cante flamenco; and after that there was no holding back. Between soaring flamenco vocals, inspired sitar riffs, seductive cadences of the tabla, the frenetic fretwork of the Spanish guitar, the high energy percussion of the cajon, mournful renditions of the shehnai and the mesmerizing rhythms of the mridangam, ghatam, ganjira and morsing, the audience was in raptures. In between there was plenty of opportunity for the Spanish musicians to put on a rousing display of palmas sordas, or the hand clapping technique that is a signature element of Flamenco music. The last number, and definitely the piece-de-resistance of the show was a fusion piece in Raag Jog, made so popular for Malayalees by the late Music Director Raveendran. It allowed the individual musicians to showcase their virtuosity through short, but inspired thaniyavartanams that fused together in a resounding finale.
And all too soon, the concert was over, leaving the audience thirsting for more. Just as she had walked in at the beginning of the show, Anoushka, after a brief round of curtsies, walked briskly off the stage at 9.30 pm sharp. The audience, in unison got up on their feet to give a standing ovation to a group of artistes who had mesmerized them for ninety minutes with their grace, elegance, virtuosity, professionalism and consummate artistry.
The contemporary artist Damien Hirst, in a recent interview described a good work of art as anything that was done "super- well ........ be it a great meal or a great meeting." In that sense, what we had witnessed was one of the finest works of art on display in Cochin in recent times. It was most definitely an evening to remember!
Kudos to the organisers.