The best of strings and keys

Published: Jun 06, 2019, 07:05 IST | Shunashir Sen |

When the guru of violin and ace of piano meet at a music property in Mumbai, you've got to go and grab a seat

(From left) Gino and Louiz Banks
(From left) Gino and Louiz Banks

The violin was first introduced to Carnatic music in the 19th century. But for most part of that millennium, it played second fiddle (no pun intended) to the vocals. Gradually, though, the musicians playing the instrument found prowess, making it an integral component of the overall melody. But this posed a problem at concerts, since the human voice could reach audible levels that the four-stringed instrument could only aspire to. And its melody was thus lost to people sitting in the back rows of an auditorium.

That changed thanks to T Chowdiah. The Mysore local came up with the genius idea of adding three extra strings to his instrument. This helped amplify his decibel level to match that of the vocals, filling auditoriums up with an equal harmony. And it also helped establish Chowdiah as a doyen of the Carnatic tradition.

T Chowdiah
T Chowdiah

Similarly, in the opposite end of the world, Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson played a massive part in shaping the fledgling genre of jazz in the early- to mid-20th century. His technical prowess and inventive melodies influenced generations after him, not just in the western world, but in India too. For, Peterson was one of the first musicians that Louiz Banks, the city’s foremost jazz pianist, looked up to. And it’s thus fitting that Banks will now perform at Transcendence, a gig where six musicians will pay tribute to Chowdiah and Peterson — two people from disparate musical worlds who left an indelible mark with their brilliance.

The gig will start with Banks, his son Gino, and bassist Gianluca Liberatore playing jazz standards that Peterson helped shape. That will be followed with khanjira maestro Bangalore Amrit, violinist Mysore Manjunath and tabla player Yogesh Samsi paying their musical respects to Chowdiah. And finally, the concert will end with all six musicians improvising together on stage.

Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson

Improvisation, in fact, is the common ground that ties Carnatic music and jazz, Gino tells us. “As opposed to Hindustani classical, which basically involves a raag and a rhythm cycle, Carnatic music has a song structure that can relate more to jazz,” he says, indicating how — if Peterson and Chowdiah had ever happened to cross paths — the musical geniuses would probably have found each other to be kindred spirits.

On: June 8, 6.30 pm
At: St Andrew’s Auditorium, St Domnic Road, Bandra West.
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