Making waves

Carnatic vocalist Varijashree Venugopal’s latest album Vari is in collaboration with Grammy Award-winning American composer, Michael League
Carnatic vocalist Varijashree Venugopal’s latest album Vari can be mistaken to be the shortened version of her name but the singer clarifies that it’s from the Sanskrit word meaning water.
Carnatic vocalist Varijashree Venugopal’s latest album Vari can be mistaken to be the shortened version of her name but the singer clarifies that it’s from the Sanskrit word meaning water.

BENGALURU: It was ‘only seven years in waiting’ for Carnatic singer Varijashree Venugopal before coming up with the full-length original album Vari. But the wait has been worth it. The album, in collaboration with composer Michael League of the five-time Grammy award-winning jazz collective Snarky Puppy, was recently launched.

The name of the album Vari can be mistaken to be the shortened version of her name but the singer clarifies that it’s from the Sanskrit word meaning water. “In this context, this name means flow, like the artistic creative flow. That’s pretty much what every artiste would like to retain,” she explains. Being trained in Carnatic music, Venugopal says the album is a way for her to connect with her roots.

Though the album has different musical aesthetics, for the singer, it is as Indian as it can get. “80 per cent of all the instruments we recorded with are from India...the shehnai, veena, nadaswaram, folk percussions, we even had 40 dolu players,” she says.

In her collaboration with League, the singer feels fortunate to have worked with someone who has a diverse musical background. “I really like what he had created with Snarky Puppy and his international ensemble Bokante. I have been a fan of the music that they have been making, and what he has been creating with the rest of the projects there. He comes from the other end of the spectrum. It all comes from a mental space of wanting to learn something new and discovering possibilities within all of us,” she explains, adding, “It was a joy finding that space with Michael; first of all, he is a great friend, and we’ve shared a lot of music, I admire all that he does.”

Not just the music, the video also had Venugopal trying out different activities. “I had to learn swimming for one of the songs since I had to be underwater and hold my breath. It was quite thrilling,” says Venugopal, whose last performance of the album was at Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in Mumbai.

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