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Queens of melody Queens of melody
by Dr Elsa Lycias Joel
2019-05-12 07:38:40
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The magic in music had always enthralled me. A fusion of arts is something I’ll never miss.  An invite from Alliance Francaise Chennai to witness ‘Queens of Melody’ left me solemnly wondering what it could be as it featured Eleonore Fourniau as the vocalist with hurdy- gurdy, Abhishek Mishra on the Tabla and Nandini Shankar on the violin. Picture this: A hot summer evening 7pm or so. Indians, French, Koreans and people of many more nationalities I wasn’t able to decode trickled in occupying the seats inside the air conditioned Edouard Michelin Auditorium. Mr. Bruno Plasse, Director - Alliance Francaise played the graceful host as always.

from_l_to_r_400The warmth that hits us when we are welcomed with a smile and a few nice words is unexplainable. Making up stories to put up with my ever curious girls on what a Hindustani classical –Kurdish folk music fusion is sapped me off my energy before the show began. Speaking to kids in a hushed voice with minimum lip movement and smiling at my browbeating hubby is the most difficult task known to me. Eleonore walked gracefully downstage.

The lighting lent her white kameez and curly hair an iridescent sheen. After tuning her saz, she sent her gift of song to the four walls perfectly on pitch. Yes, the concert started off with Şirina min a love song by Eleonore. Şirina min translates to ‘My Avatar’ in English. The ease with which she played the tembûr and Hurdy-Gurdy and her vocals came as a cooler soothing my senses.

Even as a complete stranger to this genre of music, I seeped in for two reasons. What more does a hard core romantic need than a good love song and an ambience to drift  into imagination mode! Story of Mem and Zin appeared and disappeared in my mind’s eye. Lay Lay, a Kurdish lullaby in Sorani  dialect almost put my daughters to a deep sleep that I had to wake them up for Weyla li min xerîbê (Wanna miss me) because they will never want to miss anything Eleonore had to offer. Nandini Shankar’s Raga Desh on her violin danced its way into my ears.

I couldn’t resist but google these two beautiful women then and there. Both acclaimed musicians in their own right. I was taken aback to know Eleonore is a classical Pianist trained for 17 years and has travelled many countries to learn and perform Kurdish music. The sparkle in Nandini’s eyes and her pleasing smile conveyed her passion for music. For a person who always equated the violin to melancholy Abhishek Mishra’s Tabla was a relief to me. Alongside the ‘queens of melody’ there was this king too with the Tabla. The lass with the violin stunned the audience. The way she explored the instrument’s depth made me think violin too is an excellent instrument with a superior sound. I understood how she sprinted through some scales and then stopped abruptly, moved the bow super slowly with her eyes closed, then accelerated wistfully pushing it louder and louder, gracefully brought it back down to a whisper. When she opened her eyes and smiled I caught my girls smiling too. What less can anyone expect from a violinist who hails from a family of accomplished and decorated musicians!

May be Abhishek put a beat to every second of passing moment and the rhythms he played compounded with such a resonance. Every time his hair fell back and forth, I was reminded of Ustad Zakir Hussain in Wah Taj Ad. Unfortunately the Allaince Francaise canteen was closed for me to really live that moment with a cup of tea. For once, I thought this violinist could’ve made it big as a Bharathanatyam dancer given her facial expressions. She couldn’t hide her emotions in tune with the pieces she played. Three collaborative pieces by three champion accompanists explored the differences in microtones, ornamentation and different possible ways of making music sound perfect. Hindustani Basant Mukhari Raga did blend perfectly with its corresponding Middle Eastern Makham-Hicaz.

Understanding and appreciating the knowledge of and from music across the borders was very vivid as the three coordinated their respective instruments to blend a Hindustani bandishes with a couple of Kurdish village songs. In creativity, musicians have faith. In their eyes I could see how happy they felt to work alongside one another. Bhajan Vaishnava Janatho was one best song by Nandini which reinforced the idea of love, goodness and worth of humans.

The Saz, Violin and Tabla did tune in to merge two Kurdish folk songs with two Thumris. Similarities between Kurdish and Hindustani music outweighed the differences. As if Shubha Mudgal missed this show, I felt damn lucky. Every now and then I was fascinated by the power and flexibility of Abhishek’s fingers, their magical power in giving our ears a clarity and melody. In tune with the Hindustani tradition the concert ended with a Raga Bhairavi known to have a close similarity to Ussak-husseyni in Kurdish music.   

From the start to the end, the musicians and audience didn’t choose to be people of different nations. Cross pollinations help musicians add extra value to music helping music lovers interpret music differently. ‘More intriguing than beautiful’ are the four words Ms. Song Heeock and Ms.Kim Jongsuk from Korea had to describe their musical experience. Even a musical fusion promotes harmony. Three cheers for all three!


    
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