Notes on the world

Updated: Aug 08, 2018, 08:32 IST | Shunashir Sen

An a capella group of singers from five different countries will show how music can break boundaries between people

Notes on the world
Women of the World in performance

We are typing away furiously while on a WhatsApp voice call with Annette Philip when the vocalist tells us, "Forget about the keyboard for a bit." We have just asked her to explain what the term "body percussion" means when she says, "Clap your hands together. Now take one hand and slap it against your thigh. Then do the same with your chest and mouth. Do you see how different each sound is? So, if you think of your entire body as a percussion instrument, and use your hands as the drumsticks to identify parts that sound different, and then find various permutations and combinations to create music, that's what body percussion means. Does that make things simple?"

Deborah Pierre, Ayumi Ueda, Annette Philip and Giorgia Renosto
Deborah Pierre, Ayumi Ueda, Annette Philip and Giorgia Renosto

On song
It does, we tell her, while talking to her ahead of a concert in the city where she will perform as part of Women of the World, an a capella group comprising musicians from five different countries. A capella is a genre that involves making vocal music without the use of non-vocal instruments, Philip says. "I use the phrase 'non-vocal' because the voice itself is also an instrument. I am often asked by people, 'Oh, you're a musician? What instrument do you play?' And I tell them, 'I sing,' to which they say, 'Right, so you don't play any instruments then?' Now, how do I explain to them that the voice is also an instrument? These are the sort of notions I am trying to break," she adds.

Crossing barriers
One way in which she will achieve that end is by hosting a workshop before the band's performance. In it, the members of Women of the World — Ayume Ueda from Japan, Italian Georgia Renosto, Haitian-American Deborah Pierre, Canadian Patrick Simmard and, Philip, a Delhiite who is now a faculty member at the Berklee College of Music in Boston — will discuss the nuances of various vocal cultures, improvising with the body to make melodies, the different facets of the music industry, etc. But one of the main purposes behind the diverse group's music, Philip says, is to help break the geographical boundaries that exist between people. "Everyone experiences the same human emotions of joy, pain, longing, and so on.

Every culture has seen rainbows, for example. So if we take the time to celebrate those similarities and delve into other cultures, we can understand better why we are the way we are. Once you dig deep, you realise that a lot of things started from a completely pure place, but then differences evolved over time because we are living, thinking, and evolving human beings," Philip says.

And she ends with the example of her own group, which was formed in 2008 and now sings in 33 different languages. "We all work and travel together, going through ups and downs in the process. We definitely disagree a lot, since we are all opinionated women. But the main thing is that we love each other, and our bond is so strong that we take the effort to sort out any differences. And that very mindset can help resolve global conflicts. For, peace, in my books, is not the absence of conflict — it's about the commitment of working through conflict as and when it arises," Philip finishes.

ON August 12, 3 pm (workshop) and 9.30 pm (performance)
AT Mukesh Patel Auditorium, JVPD Scheme, Vile Parle West
COST Rs 500 for the workshop (entry is free for the performance)

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