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Collaboration revived

Posted on 02/02/2018 in The Hindu

  • By: V.V. Ramani

    ‘Heaven and Earth’ finds Aruna Sairam and Dominique Vellard back together for the ‘Bonjour India’ festival

    The power-packed rendering of ‘Shabdha Brahmamayi ‘in the Carnatic style by the female vocalist found resonance in the meditative rendering of ‘Ave Virgine,’ a Gregorian chant, by the French male singer. It was the year 2000 and this musical initiative between the two artistes received thunderous ovation in Chennai and lingers in the mind of music lovers.

    The two artistes — Aruna Sairam and Dominique Vellard — are back together to recreate the magic with their new concert series, ‘Heaven and Earth,’ for the Bonjour India festival.

    Recalling their first meeting, Dominique says, “I was scheduled to perform in a beautiful abbey in the south of France with a friend of mine, but the friend had to opt out of the show and a student of mine, Marco, who was learning Indian music urged me to listen to a Carnatic concert by his teacher Aruna Sairam at the Theatre De La Ville. The instant connect to her singing made me approach her and soon we found resonance in each other’s musical styles and sensibilities, which led to our first collaboration. It was an attempt to look into the vast sources of our repertoires and conceive a presentation that would converse with the audience.’’

    One meeting led to another. There was an explosion of musical exchanges, debates, question-answer sessions... it was thus a whirlwind romance between two cultures. Two kinds of music attempted to make the twain meet.

    The two artistes’ journeys were on parallel tracks. Aruna’s foundation in music rested on the learning from great masters of the style, while Dominique’s pioneering work in reconstructing and recreating the music of a period spanning four centuries — the 10th to 14th — born out of researching manuscripts and documents in the Bibliotheque, led him to specialise in Medieval music.

    “Unlike our system of music which is predominantly aural, where the music from one generation to another merges and continues to evolve, their history is truncated, where each era is distinct from the other,” says Aruna and continues, “and there are not many who have pursued medieval music which Dominique has. The music of the pre-14th century that he has specialised in, is rich in melodic aspects very similar to our Carnatic music.’’

    In commemoration

    The project arose out of a discussion Pierre Emmanuel Jacob, director of Alliance Francaise, and the culture director of French Consulate had with Aruna, wanting the two artistes to collaborate once again to commemorate the Bonjour India Festival. The two artistes ideated for many months to come up with this work — ‘Heaven and Earth,’ which delves deep to find the connection between the two cultures. The work seeks to take a comparative look in terms of melody, content, mood, lyric and rhythm.

    The programme is conceived in two parts — musical and narrative. I have chosen Tirukkural, Silapadikaram, Sangam poetry for the narrations and it will find its reflection in French maxims, poems of the famous French poet Guillaume De Machaut, Latin, Oxyfam and others for the narratives. Songs like ‘Vishweshwara’ in Sindhubhairavi, ‘Mohamana’ in Bhairavi and Bharathiar songs too will find resonance in his Gregorian chant and other songs of the Medieval period.

    “The idea of human love and love for god akin to our own Jeevatma Paramatma concepts, which forms the focal point of the repertoire was the inspiration for the title ‘Heaven and Earth.’ Two other artistes Sundar Kumar playing the ganjira and Padma Shankar on violin will enhance the musical experience with their interface with the vocalists.”

    “The programme is designed to be a wholesome experience, a harmony between two styles of music enriching each other to produce music that is sublime,” say Aruna and Dominique.

    This musical collaborative journey will be touring different places — Thanjavur, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Udaipur and finally Chennai. music.

    Concert schedule

    The opening concert of the duo is on February 4 at the Sacred Music Festival taking place in Tiruvaiyaru under Prakriti’s banner. On February 7, they will perform at Bharat Bhavan, Thiruvananthapuram, on February 9 at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, at Jagmohan Lake Palace, Udaipur, on February 11 and in Chennai on February 14 at Rukmini Arangam, Kalakshetra.


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