A new series of concert day pre-show blogs, giving you an insight into the planning and preparation ahead of Milapfest productions. The first comes direct from the Purcell Room on April 2nd 2014, featuring Anil Srinivasan, Rakesh Chaurasia and Kousic Sen.
By Alok Nayak
Many Indian classical music concerts require little curation or planning beyond the idea and theme, because artists are so adept at improvisation, and reflecting the mood of the day, season, audience and venue. In a concert like this, bringing together artists who have never played together before, the theme became more important. Apart from the on-stage chemistry, our artists have developed an off-stage friendship and mutual respect, so important in the success of an ensemble. Milapfest has seen this duet grow in just under 2 years, in in April 2014 a new digital only audio recording will be released by Milapfest. Before the concert, I chatted with Rakesh Chaurasia, Anil Srinivasan and Kousic Sen, to find out how they prepare and anticipate the performance.
RC I always look forward to performing in London, to an audience who loves Indian Classical Music in a venue like the Purcell Room, with good acoustics, and a great venue. This is the first time we are doing this collaboration in London.
What is special about this collaboration?
RC What I can do on my instrument, Anil can’t do, what Anil can do, I can’t do. It’s really interesting contrast of styles.
KS Because I’m in it!
RC Piano has been one of my favourite instruments and on top of that Anil’s playing and understanding of the music makes it special.
AS Both of them are fantastic performers, but over and above that, the music we are creating is new and unique. It’s experimental but it has it’s own charm because the instruments compliment each other so well. Rakeshji is used to playing with so many formats so it’s good to play with someone who is used to and attuned to playing with so many styles and genres of music. I’m not just accompanying Rakesh, we are really complementing each other. The Southbank Centre is always a special place to play. This collaboration has gone full circle, you (Milapfest) started us off on this journey, and we’ve played in many interesting venues in India and now we’re back to England with Milapfest.
Considering that Indian Classical Music is generally an improvised form, how do you prepare for a collaboration – how much planning do you do?
RC We plan different pieces, ragas and rhythmic cycles only and improvise on those themes.
KS ….and I don’t even know the rhythmic cycle yet! This is really challenging because it’s not the usual Indian classical format, with an Alap, Jhor, Jhalla etc!
Do you have any pre-concert routines?
AS: You have to be really relaxed before a concert. It’s important to be happy, relaxed and try to be in our element before a concert.
KS: We have to travel a long way!
What kind of music are you performing in your concerts together with Milapfest?
AS: The concert is based on the seasons, representing the Indian Summer, Monsoon, Winter and Spring. Ragas have been chosen to represent those seasons. One one level it’s Indian in design, but because of the piano and because of the design, there’s a lot of change and contemporary ideas in this concert, and we’ve mixed it with improvisation, following the Hindustani pattern of improvisation, and two pieces are compositions, one of Rakeshji’s and one inspired by the great Shakti ensemble, which Hariji (Hariprasad Chaurasia) performed first in the 1970’s at the Southbank Centre.
The backstage atmosphere is relaxed and enjoyable, and features a great range of conversational topics, from the best way to iron a linen shirt, to the latest Facebook posts from the Indian music sector. When we reach 7.45pm, the artists reach their element for their on-stage performance!
In 2012, Milapfest brought together Rakesh Chaurasia and Anil Srinivasan for the first time in a beautiful duet, during the Indika festival in Liverpool. Starting with a memorable early morning concert, they have performed all over India, and return to England with two concerts with Milapfest, at the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, and in the Barbirolli Room, at the Bridgewater Hall, accompanied by the brilliant tabla player Kousic Sen.