Utpal Borpujari

September 21, 2009

Santoor meets the Oud

By Utpal Borpujari

After collaborating with Piano maestro Richard Clayderman for the very successful first two volumes of his Confluence series, young Santoor exponent Rahul Sharma has now come up with an equally-interesting third volume, this time his Santoor singing in tandem with the Egyptial Oud played by Georges Kazazian. And Confluence III – A Meeting by the Nile does not disappoint, as Indian and Egyptian sounds merge to result in a new-age world music that is likely to be relished by both old and the young.

What makes this album, brought out by Saregama, a worthwhile effort is the young Sharma’s smooth collaboration with a maestro like Kazazian, blending two disparate worlds of music as well as two generations of musicians. With five pieces composed by Sharma and four by Kazazian, the album opens with the upbeat, fast-paced Marhaba Janam with vocals by Sunidhi Chauhan. The piece sets the mood for the other pieces that were composed and played by the two musicians who had to send the tracks to each other several times since travelling to each other’s country to work on the project was not feasible all the time.

Sharma, expectedly, is happy with the positive response the album has received, so much so that he is for carrying the Confluence series forward, collaborating with musicians from other parts of the world. As he says, “After the first two Confluence albums succeeded, I developed the idea of the third album. I first heard Georges in Paris playing the Oud, which is an 11-string Arabic instruments, one of the most popular in the Arab world. Egyptian music is very catchy and both theirs and ours are ancient civilizations. We decided to call it a A Meeting by the Nile because a significant part of the Nile river, one of the longest int eh world, flows through Egypt.”

The two artistes worked a lot online, both sending the tracks composed by each other with enough space for recording of their respective instruments as they played them at separate times, and separate recording studios, in separate countries. “Technology was of great help in making of this album because the economics of the project was not that we could travel to meet each other. Also, since I like to work on my albums fast, I really cannot spend time in travel,” Sharma says. The final mixing of the album was done in India, though.

Sharma, who has given music one film, Mujhse Dosti Karoge, has given a ‘filmy’ feeling to the track sung by Sunidhi Chauhan, but that does not mean he is returning to composing films songs again. And there is more than one reason for that. “Although the music of MDK really worked and it was a great learning experience to work in a Hindi film, I refused to do Hum Tum which was offered to me by Yash Raj Films. I did so because I felt I felt that if I took on more film projects, which requires big team work and a lot of time, my responsibilities towards Santoor, an instrument that my father really brought to the realm of classical music, would get affected. I do not want to do anything at the cost of Santoor and live concerts. I am completely focused on my bonding with Santoor, and am still learning more about it,” he says. And no, though he is now in a position to take film offers, he says he would not become a full-fledged film music composer ever. “I love composing, but enjoy doing that more for albums. Yes, films are very challenging, but these days they (filmmakers) ask for item numbers, that too to be composed in a week or so. You have to make a lot of compromise,” he says.

Talking of Santoor and the pronounced reflection of the mountains and nature in his compositions on the instrument, Sharma says it is thanks to his love for nature. “I have done a lot of other albums, but yes, nature inspires me a lot. In fact, music companies have often asked me to interpret mountains my way,” he says. At the same time, his endeavour has also been to make Santoor an attractive sound for the younger generation. “My father brought it from the realm of folk to that of classical, and I have taken to electronica, world music and other such new things to give a new identity for Santoor so that it reaches more and more people,” he explains. The latest album is part of that process, he says.

Sharma is currently giving final touches to a classical album in which he and Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain are joining hands. “I compose and record all the time, and I have a bank of tunes I can make use of at any point in time. Fortunately, the music companies I have worked with have backed my ideas,” he says. It is part of that process that the sound from the land of the Taj has merged with the sound from the land of the Pyramids, and quite euphonically at that.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 20-09-2009)

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/26147/santoor-meets-oud.html

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