Back in 1967, music lovers were mesmerised by West Meets East, a fusion album by American violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. The trailblazing album not only introduced the Western world to Indian music but also showcased the sublimity of Western and Indian classical instruments.
Improvisation, as sparked by that album, has always been the basis for future cross-genre collaborations. If anything, the legacy of West Meets East, in every corner of the world, lives on with the constant exploration of musical languages from diverse sources.
Tomorrow, two homegrown musicians – violinist Achyuthan Sashidaran Nair, 39, and sitarist Kumar Karthigesu, 44 – will collaborate in Dvitham … Duality In Unity, a concert performance at the Temple of Fine Arts in Kuala Lumpur, which combines the sounds of Hindustani Kshastriya Sangeet (North Indian classical music) and Dakshina Kshastriya Sampradhayam (South Indian Carnatic music).
The performance will showcase an interpretation of Indian music, within the classical idiom. The combined expression is known as “jugalbandhi”, meaning entwined twins in Hindi.
Both musicians graduated from The Temple of Fine Arts, an institution steeped in Indian classical music traditions.
Despite the main players being skilled in other instruments, the backbone of the Dvitham … Duality In Unity show will be the violin and sitar.
“Although both of us are trained in different instruments, it seems like an interesting idea to highlight and experiment with the raga (melodic tunes), gamaka (subtle styles of graceful turns of notes) and swara (notes),” says the Seremban-born Achyuthan in an interview recently.
The instruments to be used in the concert also possess a unique angle. The sitar is one of the most popular instruments in Hindustani classical music, while the Indian violin remains an instrument of choice to express the subtle nuances of Carnatic music. The former is a plucked string lute, while the latter is a bowed string instrument. The live challenge is to blend the rich tones and wide range produced by both instruments. Achyuthan says these instruments have their own resonance and appeal on stage.
“The violin is a Western instrument which was brought to the Indian classical music world as an accompanying instrument for vocal concerts,” explains Achyuthan.
“It is known for its note sustainability. The sitar and the violin will complement each other’s sound, with each working wonders (in a live setting),” he adds.
Achyuthan mentions that four pieces will be presented during the two-hour concert. Do they record these shows for documentation and academic research?
“For documentation we do, but not for academic research. That is something that we might consider for our next venture,” he notes.
Apart from performing and arranging music, Penang-born Kumar is the music director of Temple of Fine Arts, and is involved in organising concerts there. He also lectures at the National Arts Academy (Aswara) and is a member of AkashA, a world music/fusion band.
Achyuthan, who is also a music arranger and composer, is no stranger in the Indian classical music scene. Since 1985, he has been an active performer, starting from Carnatic radio recordings for RTM’s Radio 6 to becoming a sought-after violinist for Carnatic music concerts and dance productions. His works have been produced and performed in India, New Zealand and Australia. Last year, he chalked a milestone by earning the International Artist Award at the 2015 Aryabhata Cultural Organisation in Bangalore, India.
“I teach violin and conduct my own classes in the Klang Valley. Despite our day jobs, we do make ourselves available for performances,” says Achyuthan.
For the Dvitham … Duality In Unity show, the musicians will be accompanied on the tabla (North India percussion) and mridangam (South Indian percussion) by Vick Ramakrishnan and Darmen Krisnan respectively.
Together, the musicians are all set to take music lovers on a journey of music beyond boundaries. “The audience can expect to see different styles of music within the same region, the blending of sitar-violin, mridangam and tabla and experience the moods created from various ragas,” concludes Achyuthan.
Dvitham … Duality In Unity takes place on Aug 13 at the Shantanand Auditorium, Temple Of Fine Arts, Jalan Berhala in Kuala Lumpur. Showtime is 7.30pm. Invitations are by donation. For more details, call 019-759 3586 or 016-252 0063.