An Equal Music
Carnatic classical vocalist TM Krishna continued his discourse on inclusiveness in the arts. He collaborated with artistes practicing Kattaikkoothu — a folk theatre form of Tamil Nadu which is not considered elite in comparison to the more structured and “pure classical music” to present a performance in Mumbai.
Through the third edition of Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha, he showcased classical arts in a fishing village, on train stations and in local buses. In the world of music, 2017 belonged to Krishna for being one of the strongest voices from the music community. He also came together with environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman, author Perumal Murugan, rapper Sofia Ashraf and Dalit activist-singer Sheetal Sathe to deliver a song on right to privacy.
The sound of a gavel beating the strike board, a reminder of a courtroom and the symbolic finality of a judgement, sealed the piece, which was punctuated by whisper raps put in by Ashraf. She recited the judgment delivered by a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court, affirming Right to Privacy as a fundamental right. It also tried to make the very aloof legal process come closer to people by celebrating the purple prose of the judgment.
Another musician who spoke up against the issues concerning Indian music and its musicians was Shubha Mudgal, who took on DD Bharti for unauthorised recording and telecast of her performance at Sahitya Kala Parishad. She wrote to Director General-Doordarshan, as well as the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, on how no permissions were sought or granted for audio-video recording or telecast and how the poor quality of telecast was “detrimental to reputations”. DD Bharti offered a written apology for the same.
Carrying the Tune
A terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena in May that killed 22 people, rattled the world. Grande returned to the city soon, for a special concert at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, as an ode to those who lost their lives. Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams and Robbie Williams also came together for the tribute.
Internationally, it was an year of interesting speeches. While it was quite heartening to see Adele holding on to her hallowed gramophone for the album 25 earlier this year and telling Beyonce that she deserved it more for Lemonade, Pink’s Video Vanguard Award speech at the MTV Video Music Awards was an eloquent take on body image and empowerment. What had the world talking, however, was Madonna’s fiery speech at the Women’s March in Washington, a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President.
The march was aimed to bring together women from diverse backgrounds and talk about issues concerning them. Madonna said, “Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House, but I know that this won’t change anything.”
Moment of Truth
In the much-hyped Justin Bieber India concert, those who came, paying between Rs 5,000 and Rs 76,000, saw technology’s age-old practice find unanimous disdain from the audience. When Bieber lip-synched through most of his gig, those who cared were left quite disappointed. Many opined that if a singer was on stage, the least he/she could do, was to sing. At one point, Bieber turned to wipe his face and the song just went on. It remains one of the more embarrassing musical moments of the year.
Post the fiasco, British pop star Ed Sheeran arrived in India, some months after his global smash hit Shape of You did. In delivering a song that certainly wasn’t written for the critics — with some basic guitar loops and lyrics that weren’t even close to striking — Sheeran’s pop hypnotism that began in 2016 continued well in 2017, and had everyone bonding over it in dance clubs and the Internet. There were many spin offs, too, and the most noteworthy was the Carnatic classical version by software engineer Vinod Krishnan and singer Aditya Rao.
Sheeran’s concert, attended by Shah Rukh Khan and Shahid Kapoor, among others, had the 26-year-old belt out some of his popular tracks including Thinking out loud, Perfect and Happier with much gusto, and live. The concert, however, was too short and could have done with some more numbers. Another popular artiste who visited India this year was 15-time Grammy nominee and five-time Grammy winner Jeff Bhasker. At MTV India Music Summit, Bhasker spoke of his mentor Kanye West, his Indian roots and how he had much to learn from Indian music.
Music to the Ears, or Not
When singer-composer Vishal Bhardwaj opened Paani paani re, the two-decade old wistful piece penned by Gulzar during MTV Unplugged Season 7, what surprised us, pleasantly, besides the presence of a male voice attempting the famed Lata Mangeshkar number, was the distinct sound of the mohanveena being played by Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt in and around this particular song. The twang with a meend which loosely revolved around raag Bhinna Shadaja complemented the notes Bharadwaj sang smoothly, in a way that it reinvented and embellished the well-known melody.
All the musicians presented at the concert were better than the vocalists, including Ut Rashid Khan who gave a dismal performance of the famed Naina thag lenge from Omkara. The star of the composition was Hindustani classical cello player Saskio Rao, who delivered robust interludes during the piece. Khan did redeem himself a little bit with a version of the thumri Hamari Atariya in raag Bhairavi. Overall, one of the more talked about MTV
Unplugged episodes was interesting but not beyond the first track. A huge dud this season was Pakistan’s Coke Studio, but it did show some sporadic brilliance. One such moment came through a version of the age-old Mujhse pehli se mohabbat by Nabeel Shaukat and Humera Channa. Even Ali Sethi failed to make an impact with his attempt at Mehdi Hassan’s famed ghazal Ranjish hi sahi.
The Voice of Anarkali
Pune-based a classical singer Priyanka Barve was Anarkali in Feroz Abbas Khan’s Mughal-e-Azam, the theatre director’s tribute to K Asif’s magnum opus. Barve, who is also trained in natya sangeet, wasn’t the greatest presence on stage in terms of acting but when she sang, in a silken voice that harked back to the days of traditional playback singing, the kind that would win the approval of commoners and connoisseurs alike, she found much appreciation and a number of projects for 2018.