QUEEN'S ROAD: Classical musicians never sing film songs at their concerts, but they are making an exception for a unique show next week.
Chitra Sambhrama, slated for Monday, January 12, is the concluding event of Sangeeta Sambhrama, an annual music and dance festival. The eight vocalists will be accompanied by an orchestra conducted by flautist-composer Raghunandan, who helped Karnatak vocalist P Rama conceptualise the event.
Rama sings at concerts as also for dance recitals, and does a US tour every year. "Raghu usually accompanies me. This is the sixth edition of Sangeeta Sambhrama, so in June-July we began talking about what we could do that would make it special," says Rama. And their answer was Chitra Sambhrama.
So the duo identified musicians, all established in their own right in Karnatak music, Hindustani music or sugama sangeeta, and reached out to them.
"Of course, we asked people whom we thought would be open to the concept. Those who are particular about singing only classical music would be uncomfortable if you asked them to sing film numbers," she says.
All the same, the songs chosen have classical overtones. "In each case, the music and the melody are great," she says.
Senior musician Nagavalli Nagaraj, who misses these elements in today's film music, adds that singing them is quite a challenge. "In today's music the emphasis is on rhythm. I'm not saying that change isn't good but we've heard songs from a truly golden era. You could identify which songs were set in which ragas, and the music directors brought out the beauty of the lyrics," she reminisces.
For Raghunandan, working with the group was "like a personality development programme." Even though he was already acquainted with all musicians, he found their simplicity and respect for music humbling.
"Every musician will have a few haunting songs, ones that they feel inspired by, so each of us picked what we like," says Supriya Raghunandan who, along with Ganesh Desai, represents the sugama sangeeta genre. Like singing film hits to a live orchestra, being part of a promo video — directed by Venkat Shastry — was also a first for many classical musicians. Raghunandan says the shoots were like a picnic.
"When musicians get together, it's usually for a concert, a discussion or something serious. That day began with laughter at 9 in the morning, and ended with laughter at 9 in the evening," he says.
In the promo, S Shankar sings Nagu nagguta nali nali, a hit number from the Rajkumar film Kasturi Nivasa.
A Karnatak vocalist known across all of south India, this is the first time he is singing a film song at a concert. "I used to sing this song as a child, but I didn't know what it meant," he says. "Now I can appreciate the words better."
Classical musicians thrive on improvisation, but the challenge at this concert, he says, is to stick to the composed melody, recorded in this case by P B Sreenivos. Kalavathi Avadhoot and Rama sing Kuvempu's Teredide mane, while Ganesh Desai and Nagavalli sing Naliva mana. Hindustani vocalist Parameshwar Hegde and Supriya sing Nudi mana shiva guna sankeerthana, and Nagamani Srinath Bhameya nodalu taa banda.
As for the rest of the 22 or 23 numbers on the list for the three-hour concert, the artistes prefer to keep them under wraps, for in Rama's words, "There should be some suspense." Though there's no unifying theme -- "It's not thought out too much; musicians are just expressing their love for the songs," Raghunandan says. M S Sheela was keen too, but won't be able to make it this time, Rama said.
*Chitra Sambhrama, 6.30 pm, January 12, Gayana Samaja. K R Road, Entry is free.