Fusion music connects with youth: Classical music maestros

Kolkata: Dismissing the notion that international collaborations dilute the essence of Indian classical music, maestros of the genre are rooting for world music - introduced by sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar - as an important vehicle to connect to youth by maintaining aesthetics.

Grammy Award winner and Mohan veena maestro Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, celebrated santoor player Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya and acclaimed shehnai exponent Pandit Daya Shankar - who took the world by storm as the `Golden Trio` (formed by Ravi Shankar) in the 1980s - have reunited after two decades to enthrall enthusiasts with a "fusion of Indian classical forms".

"Fusion music of any kind or world music is the coming together of two different streams of music.each artist combining the two should have an idea about the other form... Pandit ji (Ravi Shankar) started this and it is appreciated the world over and accepted very well...especially by youth," Bhatt told IANS.

"It`s not only that they like young musicians.they like the seniors.so even we are connecting via this brand of music with youth," said the creator of the Mohan veena, a hybrid slide guitar played lap-style.

Ravi Shankar`s lengthy association with American violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin began with their 1966 album "West Meets East" that spawned a new genre of music which had a "universal appeal". Carrying the legacy forward are Bhatt, Bhattacharya and Daya Shankar - Ravi Shankar`s three best disciples.

Fusion music`s USP, according to the musicians, is that it is not regimented like classical music and hence can be followed in a short span of time and so can cater to the generation next.

"If you see the sale of the recordings, solo music of Ravi Shankar is 20 percent and 80 percent will be in combination with Menuhin because it has a universal appeal. If it is only classical music it is only for one section. There are only a few people who can appreciate Indian classical music even in India," explained the tech-savvy Bhatt who uses the WhatsApp messenger as a teaching tool.

"There`s no set format in fusion, whereas you need an hour-and-a-half to listen to one raga and these days people don`t have much time. Now, they just want to jump...it`s the time of the remote control...they just want to change and have choices..," Bhatt maintained.

For ace percussionist Bickram Ghosh, who joined the Trio in 1994, certain musicians are unable to mould themselves according to the time - and so criticise those who can.

"Only some are able to do it...unless you are a maestro of one genre and have some kind of idea of other genre you can`t do it...so it`s very easy to be critical...so when they don`t do it they say we are diluting the purity of Indian music by collaborating with foreign artists," said Ghosh.

Bhattacharya stressed on being true to "aesthetics and grammar" of the music forms that are blended. This, he felt, would keep the essence of each form intact.

"Also, it should be kept in mind that it`s not making music on the floor...it`s not an impromptu jamming session. it should have a grammar. Artists should listen and understand the other genre... get to know each other... but some music is confusion... it starts with a composite aim but gets diluted," said Bhattacharya.

Daya Shankar, who is most content with playing the classical ragas on the shehnai, underscored the importance of tapping the similarities in the various forms to successfully fuse music.

But the exponent of the Banaras gharana cautioned about Indian music being influenced by Western concepts.

"There are influences in our music...this is not good...I am against too much of it.. but fusion theek hai (fusion is okay)...we have to give back to our audiences and play what they like..especially the youngsters as we have a big number of young adults," said Daya Shankar.

"It is pure satisfaction to play the original ragas.the classical form in its entirety. Our culture is very rich...and there is much to be inspired from in our own tradition and roots," Daya Shankar added.