Heartbeats, The Music Within!

I haven’t written all week, in case you’ve noticed! (I hope someone has!) Got busy with Life, reading the two new Pseudonymous Bosch books hubby got from Singapore and re-reading Harry Potter! Am on Book 3 now and enjoying myself thoroughly! On the bright side got the X’mas tree up; found two gifts to send to Ishaan’s Christmas party (No mean feat considering they were not supposed to exceed Rs.50/present. Finally settled for magnetic puzzles at Rs. 80/- each!); and attended a fantabulous concert called Heartbeats: The Music Within, featuring Ustad Zakir Hussain on the tabla, U. Srinivas on the mandolin, Selvaganesh on the kanjira, Siva Mani – percussionist extraordinaire and Shankar Mahadevan lending vocals. An excellent ensemble of musicians, that made for an intensely pleasurable musical interlude Saturday night, here in our very own backyard @ Kala Academy!! Their music is reminiscent of Shakti, a band that featured three current members Zakir, Shankar and Srinivas with John MacLaughlin.

PJ and I attended the performance together on a free pass (Thanks to Sushma, her Mom and my friend and the chap who gave it to her!), and consequently had fabulous seats…3rd row from stage, bang center 🙂  Being back here, at Kala Academy, after all this time, brought on wholesome nostalgia. I have great memories of the many concerts here, from school and college, some that I attended, many that I participated in. Nothing’s changed from all those years ago…the amphitheatre (where the performance was held), was just as I remembered it; the canteen outside has been spruced up and apparently the bathrooms are good, but that’s not something I’m about to test anytime soon 😛 (I have a thing about using public bathrooms anywhere, and especially in Goa!) The green lawns behind the academy stretch out to the Mandovi river and the atmosphere on this Saturday evening is buzzing. There’s a cool breeze, children running around on the lawns, people sitting around enjoying a snack before the performance, invitees like us standing in queue to be let in, others looking for the entrance to their seat-blocks, and almost everyone talking nineteen to the dozen 🙂 We do too…it’s a given, I’m with a teenager 😉 An opinion a second is how it goes 😛 I’m not complaining, just stating facts! I happen to enjoy teenagers – especially when they don’t belong to me 😛 But I digress…again…it’s a habit…yeah I know, am working on it!

To the performance then…in a word, Mesmerizing (this has become my favorite word with which to describe music that I like). Shankar is center stage with Srinivas on his right and Selva Ganesh on his left. The trio are flanked by Sivamani and his bewildering array of instruments and the Ustaad with his tablas! When Shankar starts to sing, you know right away this is going to be a special evening! His voice, smooth as honey, instantly transports me far from the madding crowd. The others join in and the head-bobbing, finger-clicking and foot-tapping starts instantaneously as the music takes hold, not stopping until the echoes from the last note fade away, two hours later. They play from the soul, weaving the performance together seamlessly, through various combinations, pairings of instruments or ‘jugalbandis’, and solos. Much as I enjoy their combined harmony, I’m blown away by the solos! Sivamani is a genius percussionist! That man can make music out of…well…out of most anything! He has a penchant for inventing instruments and this time is no different when midway through a performance I notice he’s making music on what looks like a ridged metal breastplate that he wears on his chest using spoons! He makes music among other things, with 4 bicycle bells on what appears to be a simple length of pipe, an empty 20 liter plastic container of water and on the speakers that line the stage! The man is 50 years old, tending towards rotundity, his trademark bandanna in place, playing with the infectious, youthful passion of a teenager! A teenager with genius, I might add 🙂 A performer par excellence! Here’s a glimpse of his talent, from a performance at a Rehman concert.

The ‘kanjira’ solo by Selva Ganesh is a revelation! I have never heard nor seen this instrument before but it’s now one I won’t forget in hurry! He plays the small, hand-held frame-drum with glorious panache. It’s a mystery how he makes that tiny, humble-looking instrument thrum the way he does…one-handed! Here’s what I mean!

The mandolin likewise is a revelation! I’m not familiar with the instrument, but in the blink of an eye I’m enamored of its mellifluous notes, as Srinivas’s hands caress the strings. It boasts killer looks too…this one is a snazzy black and turquoise affair that looks awfully like an electric guitar. The last piece is the ‘piece de resistance’…beginning with Shankar’s honeyed voice, incorporating a three-way jugalbandi between all three percussionists and ending in a crescendo of musical energy that washes over us all, at once wave-like and earthy. I could have sat there all night 🙂

Here is a clip of Srinivas and Zakir Hussain in a ‘jugalbandi’…

As I leave, I think about why the music has touched me so deeply and I realize that it’s all in the name really! Very aptly called, Heartbeats: The Music Within, that’s what resonates through the entire performance, the music they carry within. The camaraderie between the artistes is obvious and sincere. They compliment each other on stage and after a while, they seem lost in their own music, playing for themselves, oblivious to the effect on and response from their audience. And isn’t that the secret of making memorable music? To play like no one is listening, unfettered? That’s what comes through and that’s what I carry with me as we make our way towards the exit.

These chaps obviously Live their music, and this evening we’ve been given a glimpse of their passion – Of the Heart, For the Heart, From the Heart!

p.s. My only regret is that I didn’t carry a camera, coz I wasn’t sure about security and I had no intentions of being parted from it if the need arose. I have since scoured Youtube for videos of their performance, but can’t find any 😦 so am including one of Shakti just so you get a feel of their music.

Have a great week ahead, People 🙂

4 thoughts on “Heartbeats, The Music Within!

  1. Hi Harsha:

    Sounds like you had an amazing time at the concert! The mandolin is used here primarily in bluegrass music, but sometimes for country and folk.

    I’d never heard this expression before: “almost everyone talking nineteen to the dozen”. I like it!


    1. I did Wendy! Had to google ‘bluegrass’ and then had a listen to Bill Monroe on Youtube – I liked him and his music 🙂

      You haven’t? Maybe it’s a Brit thing? Will have to look that up to! Have been having a tough time getting online…am heading over now to read your latest!

      Have a great week 🙂
      Hugs, H.

  2. First, I definitely noticed you’d gone AWOL! I’m glad you’ve spent your time reading and attending concerts and doing what you love. Thanks for the post. It always makes me happy to hear others gush about music. 🙂

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