CHENNAI: Somebody challenged me recently, saying that I have played jazz, classical and what not. How about some Dappan Koothu?” relates Anil Srinivasan. “I accept this challenge, and sometime in January, I am going to keep my piano in the middle of a kuppam and play koothu music,” says the piano maestro. Besides his urge to experiment, according to Anil, this decision comes as a step to remain connected with the young audience.
Meanwhile, with Festival of Parallels, an initiative by Anil himself to treat the audience with an equal share of carnatic and western music, starting today, he seems to be busy collaborating with a diverse group of artistes. These include everyone from writer Devdutt Pattanaik to violin exponent GJR Krishnan and veena guru Jayanthi Kumaresh. That apart, he will be performing with Anita Ratnam and another concert with Mandolin U Rajesh as part of Chennaiyil Thiruvaiyaru, this Margazhi season. “See my mobile log at any given time of the week, and it will be filled with conversations with people from diverse fields,” he tells us.
As far as collaborations are concerned, according to him, the challenge lies in not the art form — be it story telling, dance, theatre or art he is collaborating with, but the people. “Everybody has their likes and dislikes, and we sort of find a space where we can get along. The number of collaborations has made me a more sensitive person than I already was. The artiste I am working with must have the same objective — make good music. That is the only cause of vision that can make a collaboration work,” says Anil. For him, a collaboration is also a necessity to make his music relevant to the audience. “I would be failing in my duty as a musician if all I did was just play the piano. I think performing artistes have a responsibility to society. I believe that if we sing together, we stay together. I keep looking for different partners who can help convey the message,” says Anil, who holds the credit to having music reach 65,000 students in 125 schools through his programme, Rhapsody.
Though he is seen by many as the man who brought a Western instrument into a carnatic setup, Anil, ironically, feels alien while sharing the stage with Western musicians. “I have been trained in carnatic music. Though I have lived in New York for several years, my place is still Chennai. I am much at ease while playing with a carnatic musician than a western artiste,” he says. And though his piano keys opened doors for ‘fusion’ that were previously unexplored, he says, the instrument is still underrepresented in the country. “I would like to do more solo work and explore the art form more,” he says.
Anil will be performing ‘Music and Mythology’ at Kalakshetra with Devdutt Pattanaik today.