70 years of Independence. And what a transition we have made. Some for the better, some for the worse. But it always helps to look at the brighter side. And music is definitely brighter and happier!
To me, freedom stands for the absence of boundaries – boundaries of language, religion, caste, nationality. And so, on this glorious day, I’d like to share my favourite seven creations that transcend the man made borders and take us in to the musical realm. Each of these have beautifully blended Indian and Western elements in their own unique ways. So let’s get started in the reverse.
1) Balma (Maati Baani ft. Mr. Francois & Various Artistes)
This creation is my absolute favourite. It features 11 artistes from 5 countries- Hindi vocals and guitar by Maati Baani (Nirali Kartik and Kartik Shah) from India along with Drums (Sarthak Mudgal), Sitar (Dhruv Bedi) and Double Bass (Sahil Warsi) in addition to the enticing French vocals by Francois, Trumpet (Juan Carranza- Spain), Accordion (Sebastian Gerlier – France), Clarinet (Oleg Lapidus - UK), Gypsy Guitar (Michael Kovalov – and Fever Swing – New Zealand) with the Violin (Etienne Bizjak – New Zealand). With an upbeat rhythm that makes you feel like bouncing with joy, the artistes describe this song as the one that urges you to Love, forgetting all the differences.
2) Malhar Jam (Agam) – Coke Studio @ MTV Season 2
Pure happiness. That’s the emotion of the whole composition. Happiness doesn’t need words to be expressed. Rightfully so, the band Agam presented this entire sequence in a wordless Tarana and let the music do the talking. A beautiful amalgamation of Indian classical and contemporary rock, the rendition predominantly is based on Raag Miya Malhar. The Esraj makes one of its rare appearances, along with the Flute and the Tabla. Happiness knows no boundaries and this quintessentially classical presentation with no words, crosses all barriers of language uniting all music lovers.
3) Harry Potter music - Indian version (The Indian Jam Project)
Harry Potter is not the only I reason I chose this version of the Indian Jam Project among many their other tracks. We can’t ignore the fact that an entire generation, including me, grew up on the books and movies. Even if you haven’t been a Potter head but enjoy good music, you cannot miss this track. The band recreated memorable music scores of the movie with an eclectic mix of Indian instruments like the Sarangi, Santoor, Flute, Tabla along with the Violin and Keyboards. The music arrangement is impeccable and appropriate that leaves you with goose bumps. Hedwig’s Theme which was created to represent the whole of the wizarding world and has featured in all of the movies, is the highlight of the Indian Jam project video, as well with all the musicians joining in and raising the crescendo. Talk about embracing another’s methods with a harmonious result.
4) Aigiri Nandini - Rock version (Nakshatra Productions)
This composition is not only special because of its music, but also its music video. Nakshatra Productions has created a powerful and impactful rock version of the popular devotional chant in Sanskrit Aigiri Nandini. While the chant worships the Goddess of Power, the rock music adds to that effect. The music video features women from all walks of life, doing their daily chores and yet celebrating, triumphing and “living” life.
5) Lasya – Traces of You (Anoushka Shankar)
Grammy award winner Anoushka Shankar does it again with her album ‘Traces of You’ a tribute to her father and Guru Lt. Pt. Ravi Shankar. With multiple collaborated tracks in the album, this one stands out for me, because of the choice of the Raag, instruments and the relevance of the title. All these three aspects in some way stand for unity in diversity. It is set in Raag Charukeshi, a pleasant Raag that has been adopted by Hindustani Music from the Carnatic origins. A composition made beautiful by the Hang drums played by Manu Delago, a London based Austrian Hang player, percussionist and composer and the Ghatam by Pirashanna Thevarajah. Lasya is the feminine counterpart to the male that portrays equality while retaining her femininity, grace and elegance.
6) Bleed (Meshuggah) - Sitar cover (Rishabh Seen)
Teen musician Rishabh Seen, who has done some awe inspiring metal covers on his sitar (yes, you read that right), released his interpretation of the Swedish metal band Meshuggah’s track Bleed from their album ‘obZen’. With nothing but the lyrics of the track heard in the background, he completely transforms the image and sound of the sitar, quintessentially an Indian classical instrument known for its peaceful and soothing sound. Half way through the video, he gives us a glimpse of this aspect by playing a classical piece layering the metal track. Living up to being a shredder, (a guitarist who plays very fast and intricate pieces on the guitar), the sitar in this case, the cover is a genuine effort with no software hacks and auto corrects. Retaining the few strokes he missed while playing in the video, depicts the integrity every musician should have.
7) Heal The World (Michael Jackson) – Child Prodigy Cover (Maati Baani)
How can this video not pull at anyone’s heart strings? A simple yet melodious cover of the Michael Jackson song with 45 child prodigies from across the world, a mix of the usual and novel instruments. From the piano played by Lydian Nadhaswaram (age 10 – India) to the Harp played by Alisa Sadikova (age 12 – Russia), Tabla by Shayan Udeshi (age 5 – India) to the Drums by Kanade Sato (age 12 – Japan). Rap by Sparsh Shah (age 13 – India) along with the tap dancing twins Freddie and Teddie (Ages7), brings an interesting twist in addition to the wonderful vocals by little darlings from the USA, Canada and Africa. Jonathan Carolo (age 13- USA) playing the washing machine at the beginning of the video brings in the quirkiness. Created by Indian musical duo Nirali Kartik and Kartik Shah as an homage to the King of Pop, this is a humungous musical collaboration brimming with earnest voices, innocence and passion.
With that, I wish all my fellow Indians a very Happy Independence Day – Independence from hate, grief and intolerance !!! Let the music play, let the love spread some more…
By Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath
Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath is the eleventh generation of her family to be dedicated to the ancient art form of Indian classical music. As a singer she has performed in India and abroad, has music albums to her credit and successfully runs her classical music academy – Deepak Music Academy all over Mumbai. For more details do log onto her website: