Dressed in a lovely blue Silk sari, violinist Kala Ramnath comes across as the typical Indian woman. But that's only till she's not playing the violin. Once she starts moving her bow on the violin, you know that there's something magical about her. From the ragas to jazz, you only have to hear her to know how versatile she really is. The lady, who is known as The Singing Violin, is the backbone of a band called Global Conversations that's into crossover music, along with saxophonist George Brooks. CS catches up with Kala at a concert held yesterday at the Nehru Centre:
Who: Kala Ramnath
What: Talking about the perception of the violin being a western instrument
Where: At a concert
Music in my genes
Music runs in my family. I am the seventh generation musician in my family. The first four generations were vocalists, while the rest are violinists. My ancestors were performers at the royal court of Travancore (erstwhile Kerala). I have learnt Hindustani music from Pandit Jasraj. Contrary to what people believe, the violin is not a Western instrument. It was originally known as the Raavan Hatta in Rajasthan, from there it went to Persia, where it was called the Rebabe, and then to Spain, when the Moors invaded the country. In Spain, it got the name Viol. So, you see, it has its origins in India. It takes a lot of dedication to master the violin. It took me 10-12 years to master it. And I used to play daily for five-six hours.
I find it very funny when I see actors playing the violin in films. That's because the instrument is only associated with sad emotions like unrequited love or pain in these films. And that's very untrue, because the violin is the only instrument that can convey every possible emotion. Its tragic depiction in films is probably the main reason why youngsters steer clear of it. But in fact, its sound is beautiful and closest to the actual human voice. It is unfortunate that there isn't enough awareness about the violin.
On phoren shores
My favourite violinists are my aunt N Rajam and a few Western ones like Itzhak Perlman and Regina Carter. In most Western countries, the violin is played along with a symphony orchestra. You will find solo violinists mostly in India. Also, the violin is an integral part of film orchestras. I have performed in many places, like recently I did shows with the London Symphony and at the World Music Festival in Germany. Along with classical ragas, I also do Jazz, flamenco, Afro-Jazz, etc. I have also recorded music scores with Hollywood composers like James Newton Howard who has done films like Pretty Woman, The Sixth Sense, Fugitive, etc. Indian ragas are quite popular with composers out there.