For a character so layered, full of whims and surprises, devoting only bhajans to Lord Krishna on Janmashtami seemed like a gross disservice to singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan.
So, recently, when the National Institute of Performing Arts (NCPA) asked Mahadevan to perform at Shyam Rang, the concert on Lord Krishna two days before Janmashtami, the artiste sat down to think of a twist in the tale. “I thought, the easiest thing would be to sing some bhajans in his memory, but that would limit the performance to classical music,” says Mahadevan.
Krishna, he adds, is so much more than that. “He is omnipresent, and how. He is Balaji in the south and Vitthal in Maharashtra… He is the destroyer of evil, the charmer, the eternal romantic, the naughtiest child there was. He lends himself beautifully to bhajans, of course, but also to abhangs, ragas and contemporary beats alike. To bring out Lord Krishna’s versatility, I decided to employ every form and style there is,” explains Mahadevan.
Be it a classical music fan, a music aficionado, someone who has never heard of Lord Krishna’s music before, or even children who attend the concert, Mahadevan says he is sure that his choices will appeal to everyone. “Krishna is the most ‘commercial’ figure of Indian mythology — my audience may not have read the Mahabharata but everyone knows Lord Krishna. He is the Shah Rukh Khan of mythology,” laughs Mahadevan.
That is also why Mahadevan will employ different instruments in different genres at the concert. Since the flute was the preferred instrument of Lord Krishna, Shyam Rang will have a fusion piece involving the flute. “Someone told me that Lord Krishna finds place in Sufi music, too. So I plan to include relevant Sufi music in the concert, too,” says Mahadevan. To celebrate Lord Krishna’s form in the saint of the Varkari sect, Vitthal, Mahadevan will compose a piece related to the annual Pandarpur yatra, using the instrument, ektara.
Mahadevan’s sons — 19 year-old Siddharth and 11 year-old Shivam, will also perfom at Shyam Rang and will bring a contemporary zing to the evening. “My elder son is composing a tribute to Lord Krishna on the piano and bass guitar, and my younger son will sing the Lord’s famous childhood song, Maiya main nahin maakhan khayo,” says Mahadevan.