Mozart Meets India (again)

Tamil Maiyam who produced ‘Thiruvasakam by Illayaraja’ has come up with yet another album of East meets west genre titled ‘Mozart meets India’. I had no expectations on this album but the concept of placing the ragas as it is with a symphony backing just made me curious to buy it. Illayaraja has done a lot like this before. Who can forget his ‘How to Name It’ and ‘Nothing but Wind’? The songs orchestrated by Jesurajan sound almost similar to that of IR’s style, format and structure of orchestration in HTNI and NBW. But I have got no complaints; Jesurajan has done a commendable job in fusing the two forms of music with both of the form following its own grammar.

The harmony in the songs is so beautiful, pleasant and relaxing to a large extent. May be the chosen ragas itself has got these qualities in it but the orchestral music running behind is written in a subtle and a modest way that it doesn’t distract the flow and the melody of the carnatic ragas played in the fore, which I feel is a no easy task to achieve. Predominantly the string section of the orchestra is used giving a breezy feel to all the songs and occasionally other instruments like oboe, French horn, clarinet, celesta peeps in. This is also where the problem arises as they sound like being added on compulsion as to show that a whole symphony orchestra is there playing in the background along with the strings. But the choirs are added perfectly in blend with the rest of ensemble.

Tracks like “Mystic Meanderings” and “Yathum Oorae” goes a little modern with the use of e-beats, acoustic drums and Piano, involving less of the orchestra. “Yathum Oorae” with Kadri Gopalnath on Sax sounds like how a fusion of Kenny G’s Sax and Yanni’s keys would sound if they play carnatic music. The tracks with vocals like Bombay Jayshree and O.S. Arun sounds really interesting as if the singers by mistake have entered a symphonic concert hall instead of a Carnatic katcheri Sabha. There is an emotional depth in the performance of both Bombay Jayshree and O.S. Arun which adds to the divinity and beauty of the tracks involving their vocals. It would really be great watching our classical singers sitting in the middle of a symphony orchestra performing those complex ragas in synch with the orchestral music.

Usually in Carnatic concerts, singers just have to concentrate on their own sruthi, rhythm and improvisations but not (to a large extent) on how well their rendition goes in synch with the Gatam, mirudangam or Violin that is playing along, but here the synergy and harmony with the orchestra is equally important. If at all they perform these pieces alive, (which didn’t happen as they announced earlier) it would really be interesting to watch. The tracks each with Violin, Veena and Sitar as the lead playing some beautiful ragas are also equally good. The one with Sitar named ‘Hymn to Silence’ has a serious Naushad sound to it may be because of the Hindustani connection.

On the whole, it definitely is a very good album to listen but I won’t agree if either Tamil Maiyam or anyone involved in the project claim this work to be the first of its kind in India. Mozart meets India (again). I heard that the intention of the album is to present Indian classical music in a globally understandable form. Who cares whether it reaches global audience or not? I feel so satisfied and relaxed when I listen to this album and that matters more than anything else. I listen to the album at least once in a day for the kind of calmness and peace it injects in my soul.

For a far more in-depth technical review on the album, I recommend this article.

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