Music is integral to us

Sep 15, 2009, 07:23 IST | Nolan Pinto
V Ashok Kumar from the band Shoonya wants people to slow down and appreciate the arts

It was a communion of sorts. V Ashok Kumar, all of 42 brought different musicians together to form the band known as Shoonya three years back. "Art is part of our daily life but we have missed the link by not
understanding its basic idea due to the mad rush these days," says V Ashok Kumar who plays an African musical instrument called djembe. Talking about the daily grind, he adds, "We all have it in us but due to pressure for a career and money, we do things which do not make us feel happy and content." 



 He formed this band in 2006, when he found people with similar views, ideas and flexibility, while attending different workshops. According to him, the name Shoonya has different meanings in different contexts namely nothingness and zero. "It is a state of mind, where music is used as a vehicle to reach Shoonya stiti," feels Ashok. For him, Shoonya is an "open band" that "experiments with different musical backgrounds." 

 About his interaction with different musicians, he says, "The more one learns, the less is the difference," and added, "Music is a universal language," so this problem will never occur. The band has five members, all in their late 30s, who play different musical instruments. Sridhar Sagar plays the saxophone; Prakash Sontake plays the Hawaiian guitar; Sridhar Narsimhan is a violinist; Ashwin Prasad is a percussionist and finally Michael plays the digideroo. 

Their first show was at the Alliance Francaise, Bangalore, and they were "well appreciated". Ashok Kumar adds, "This encouraged us all to continue with this idea." In their recently held show on World Music Day at Christ University on June 21, they invited some African musicians to play with them along two Jazz musicians from Goa. Recently, they have incorporated Sufism and Ashok loves the "simplicity" of this music. 

The band is strictly against playing covers. On why music lovers or youngsters would like to listen to them, he says, "As long as you entertain the audience, they will not ask for something better." He adds, "The sounds of Shoonya are new to the audience and there is a curiosity element. We also have a new texture and tonal quality. We are a unique band, an amalgamation of different instruments. You can call us a world music band."

Apart from music, Ashok is a theatre person. He composes music for theatre and is currently scoring music for a Kannada film. However, he took to the arts only at the age of 27 when he decided that theatre was going to be his bread and butter. He says, "Today, even if you're an excellent musician, you need to market your art or else nobody will know."

Ashok works on how to make use of theatre in education. "Theatre has therapeutic value," he says, adding, "One learns to work on body language, clarity of speech, memory and building confidence."

 Are the young losing interest in appreciation for fine arts? "Every child has it in them and what we need to do is identify that talent and nurture it. There are various therapies coming out these days like music therapy and dance therapy," he says.

Ashok Kumar believes we need to go back to our roots. "Music has always been an integral part of our lives and is a beautiful gift to mankind. If only we give time to relax and look around us, we will find it," he explains.

He feels blessed to be a musician and that he does what he likes. "I have lots of good people around me to support me in my endeavour. If one starts with a good heart and purpose, nothing is difficult."

For more information you can mail Ashok at jembeashok@yahoo.com

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