Taking his grand piano to many venues — a few conventional and other most unconventional — Anil Srinivasan has been the centre of a music revolution. For, who would have thought of having a piano in Carnatic music? Or taking it to the paddock on a Sunday morning, in a concert that was a combination of compositions by Sting, Bharathiar and retro numbers?
Srinivasan, who performed at the Madras Riding School in a concert titled ‘Piano by the Paddocks,’ did have another objective when he strung together an array of genres. The show organised by Silkworm Boutique traversed through Moonlight Sonata, Fields of Gold and Chithiram Pesuthadi quite seamlessly. “As a culture, we are able to integrate cuisines, internalising several things like chocaccino to filter coffee and thayir saadham and that is exactly who we are. We are multicultural and hence we can relate to John Denver and Ilayaraja. They are tunes we hum, while we are driving back home in a car. I just do the same, rendering them on my piano,” he says.
He also says that taking the instrument out if its traditional space offers the key to open the vast reserves of creativity for an artiste.
“When I am performing at an unconventional venue, my imagination is being set free. I was happy to mix up genres with a stream of consciousness. I am hoping this will be the direction in which my works will be heading, involving a lot of ‘genre bending’. I call it ‘Keys to India’ as I believe this is the key to Indian consciousness,” Srinivasan adds.
Involved with the music project for Chennai Schools called the Music Literacy Project, the artiste has been working with a number of schools to spot and encourage music talent among first-generation music learners. Thirty from the group had performed with him during the December Music Festival. He reckons that it has been the most meaningful work he has done so far.
Bracing up for the next academic year with a number of ideas for the project, he says, “For the next academic year, we are going to have 52 schools and we are going to extend the repertoire and add a few Bengali songs too. I think we are on the brink of a social revolution.”
Srinivasan believes that the piano will soon be part of the mainstream, observing that music tastes of audiences have matured.
“I do see piano getting its individual space; it will happen perhaps in our lifetime. There has been a maturing of taste. There is a group of people, a mix of young and old, who want to listen to the genre and are looking for access that is musically and sociologically easy for them. The instrument is not alien to them, at least for audiences in Chennai, and I think I have had a large part to play in that,” he says.
Hand-in-hand with that is a section of music lovers who want Carnatic music to be rendered in its traditional form, he adds.
“But, there is also a group of people who want to listen to Carnatic music rendered the traditional way. There is a new wave of conservatism and it is good. It encourages very good performances and this season we had some new talent like Abhishek Raghuram,” the musician comments.
Srinivasan’s next concert will be on February 8 with Sudha Ragunathan and Jayanthi Kumaresh. The show will combine story -telling along with a few well-known pieces, apart from a few compositions specifically constructed around the show at The Music Academy.