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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Sublime strings: Our review of 'Pravaasa – A Sitar’s Journey'

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Sitar player Kumar Karthigesu and friends brought on the smiles with a show powered by tradition and collaboration.

Certain string instruments have such a strong flavour that without them, there is no depth to the music being played. The sitar falls into this category

Scintillating on its own or with "friends", the sitar always hogs the limelight and can be exotic or transcendental to the ear. This was the case at Pravaasa – A Sitar's Journey held at the Temple Of Fine Arts in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday night.

Sitar player Kumar Karthigesu and 11 collaborators took to the stage to show the versatility of the instrument. Like he mentioned in an earlier interview, the performance told a story of the sitar from its ancient existence in the form of the majestic rudra veena — created by Lord Shiva — to its present lithe, form.

It also chronicled the story of Kumar's musical voyage, from being taught the traditional and orthodox way to play to how he has been influenced by Malaysia's rich, cultural, social and musical heritages. His journey came to a full circle last weekend.

On stage with him were Prakash Kandasamy (tabla), Ravindra Parchure (dhrupad vocals), Praashekh Borkar (sarod), Achyutan Sashidaran Nair (violin), Sivabalan Shanmuga Sundram (mridangam), Hariraam Tingyuan Lam (gambus), Ng Siu Yee (Chinese drums), Kamrul Bahri Hussein (gendang and rebana), Jamie Wilson (steel/nylon guitar), Eric Li (jazz piano) and Badar Ben Taleb (djembe/cajon).

In the early days, the sitar was used to accompany dhrupad singing (a vocal genre in Hindustani classical music). To project this, vocalist Ravindra Parchure began the performance by singing the classical Hindustani raag Hameer.

The young Praashekh Borkar with his nimble fingers was exceptional in his mastery of the sarod.

The young Praashekh Borkar with his nimble fingers was exceptional in his mastery of the sarod.

With his melodious voice building the spiritually evoking raag, it was an apt opener before the sitar joined in moments later. The raag rose and fell, hitting crescendos and resonating deep. Soon, the tabla (Prakash) and sarod (Borkar) joined in to share musical space and alternated with the sitar to accompany the vocalist.

Improvisation is an essential feature of Indian music, depending upon the imagination and the creativity of an artist; a great artist can communicate and instil in his listener the mood of the raag. Each raag is associated according to its mood, with a particular time of the day, night or a season.

Together, the quartet was sublime as they improvised and brought out the essence of Hameer, which is a nocturnal raag. The duelling of the strings was a delight as Kumar and Borkar took turns to show their flair on the strings.

Jamie Wilson's bit of scat singing took the energy level up a notch.

Jamie Wilson's bit of scat singing took the energy level up a notch.

The young Borkar was exceptional in his mastery of the plucked instrument, fingers moving with such dexterity, you could hardly make out his plucking of the string. Like the sounds emitted from the sarod, he was introspective and deeply entrenched in the raag.

In the second half, the sitar travelled south and met with some Carnatic friends, namely the Carnatic violin and mridangam. Featuring the song Nagumomu Kanaleni in Abheri raga, a popular composition by prolific composer Tyagaraja, the sitar added a touch of sweetness when played together with the violin.

As the strings collaborated, so did the percussions. At one point, it seemed as if the percussionists Prakash and Sivabalan were trying to outdo each other in a friendly banter.

Once the Indian odyssey was over, the sitar was on the road again, this time, meeting with the gambus (Hariraam), Chinese drums (Ng) and the gendang and rebana (Kamrul). They weaved more stories before the sitar journeyed west to meet other friends.

"I am a sitar. I wear my heart strings on the outside, always ready to sing you my song," said Kumar.

With that, guitarist Wilson launched into some scat singing, getting the crowd excited. Since a number of the musicians were from AkashA, they read each other well and the energy was infectious. Kumar was in his element and synched admirably with everyone. It was a merry collaboration, building up to a climax.

Finally, all 12 musicians came on stage and jammed on their respective instruments, proving that music is indeed one. "It is who I am and it is my journey thus far," Kumar concluded.

And the journey continues.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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