'Music at a funeral should calm, not aim at inciting tears'
Musician Krishna Marathe gives spiritual Hindu chants, usually played on the fourth day after a death, a new avatar as she adds her guitar to the mix
If you start watching a video on musician Krishna Marathe's YouTube channel, you really don't know what to expect looking at the set-up. Marathe, dressed in a formal coat, her hair spiked up, sits on a chair with her electric guitar in hand. Next to her sits a flute player. And then she opens her mouth, and the sweetest voice sings Narayan Hari Om, or Dakshinamurti Stotra, both of which are Sanskrit religious hymns.
Marathe, who was once heavily into rock music, was introduced to these Indian chants 10 years ago, when she was associated with a popular religious organisation. "I have been learning music from the age of three, and my mother was some sort of a Sanskrit expert, who has been learning classical music. So I grew up in that environment, but later, was reintroduced to that music when I went for events at this religious organisation," says the Mumbai girl, who has now settled in Benagluru.
But even Marathe didn't know that a chance spotting by the wife of a popular Bollywood actor would lead her career into a different space. "She saw me singing at an event 10 years ago, and then asked me to play at the chautha (fourth day prayer meet) as someone in her family had just passed away. I went there and played the typical classical chants, with my electric guitar, and there has been no looking back."
Marathe playing at a satsang, accompanied by a flautist
Since then, Marathe has played at many funeral prayer meets of various influential business and Bollywood families. Their only brief to her is that they want something peaceful and meditative. "I focus on meditative musical mantras, many of them original compositions. I play music that will calm the crowd, not instigate them to cry," says the 38-year-old. She also says she has been getting job after job for years just because of word-of-mouth. "It's too sensitive an issue for me to market myself."
Aside from the fact that Marathe instils a rock element into the religious chants, what could be seen as interesting here is that she is an atheist herself. "My only focus is on the delivery, and only allegiance is to the music. I have realised this about our spiritual music — it's so big in nature, that it can accommodate all kinds of tweaks. That means that if I add the electric guitar to it, it doesn't change its integrity in any way."
Marathe does say that usually when people see her onstage, they are filled with scepticism, which transforms into a pleasant shock, when she starts singing. "I am suited-booted, and I have a guitar. That makes me such an anomaly. But I think it also works for me in the way that I have not tried to change myself. And, at the end of the day, I am very honoured to be playing at these events. The family is at its most vulnerable, and they trust me with the music. I like delivering on that kind of responsibility."
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