From Calcutta to the world

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In conversation with Santanu Datta and Pierre-Antoine Lasnier from the Santanu Datta trio post their first gig in the city

17758308_1002315649869176_2450204270676053441_oIt’s a usual long and sultry day in the city. The Eduardo Michelin Auditorium at Alliance Francaise just about begins to fill up and audiences have come expecting respite, some from a long day and others from the long drawn monotony in contemporary music. The stage is set, a classical guitar, a bass guitar and tablas taking their spots on stage. Soon enough, the air is filled with a confluence of sound- ranging from the age-old melodies of Europe to odes to love and rain emanating from the soils of Bengal. Essences of Mozart and Tagore make their way across the room as Santanu Datta, Pierre-Antoine Lasnier and Subhasis Bhattacharya from the Santana Datta Trio make the evening their own.

Santanu Datta 1Tracing his penchant for Indian classical music to his mother, Santanu’s tryst with music has been laced with academic prowess. With a graduate degree from IIT, he moved to Paris to pursue his true calling, spending five years learning the nuances of western classical music, adding to his already rich skill set. “What I am doing right now is not fusion, I am looking at ways to combine Hindustani classical with western classical, to try and make the tiny details come together,” says the classical guitarist and singer. We sense the hesitation to associate with the word fusion, a sentiment shared by various performers across the city. “Everyone throws this term around. What we’re doing here is focussing on the core concepts of different musical cultures. If you’re playing a raga, you need to maintain the melodic movement and at the same time try to find a way and harmonise it as well. It’s a technical task and it isn’t just about superimposing different music. It’s about finding a way to make everything work correctly and independently,” he adds with a giggle. Having been associated with Pierre for quite a while, Santanu was introduced to Subhasis by the latter, thereby paving the way for a unique musical association. “We have three people from different backgrounds- jazz, western classical and Indian classical. So I thought it would be interesting to see these cultures come together,” he adds. This, however, turned out to be the biggest challenge in the process of mixing styles, as Santanu points out. “Bringing our philosophies together was challenging. In western classical music, you can have a little rubato and a nice melody with a liberal tempo (which isn’t exactly acceptable in Indian classical). In jazz, you play in the moment; you go along with the harmony. I don’t work that way. My harmony is fixed, bass is fixed. So we had a lot to figure out. We needed to see how much each of us could be liberal and just how much and when exactly we could improvise without ruining the essences of our styles,” he reminisces.

A sociology project brought Pierre-Antoine Lasnier to Kolkata four years ago, a move that he calls life-changing.Pierre 2 Having begun training in western classical music at the age of 5, Pierre found a penchant for jazz by the time he turned 14.  Currently learning Hindustani classical music under Debashish Bhattacharya, the bassist points out, “Before coming to India, I had a very sketchy idea about Indian music. Coming here has opened me to this culture and it has brought me fresh perspectives. It opens some doors you never thought existed.” While Santanu seems visibly excited by the prospects of imparting a few lessons on contemporary classical music, Pierre is clear about staying away from the tutor’s seat. “To teach a subject, knowing the subject isn’t enough, you need to have the skill and propensity to be a good tutor. In that sense, I don’t think I make the cut,” he says with modesty, a perspective Santanu begs to contest. “Before you explain something to your students, you need to understand it in its entirety. One of the duties of being in this business is to pass on your craft. It’s a skill that needs to go through across generations. And to tell it well, you need to know yourself and your art and teaching helps fine tune that knowledge, not just for the student but for the tutor as well. In my opinion, it’s a mandate for musicians.” Currently working on a few film scores simultaneously, he is also quick to add, “Film music has brought down production value and quality of music in this country. The focus is on the story and on keeping audiences engaged without distracting them. In that frame, it’s hard for music quality to take centre stage. Director isn’t concerned about your musical language, and he has no reason to be. His audience is his priority. So it’s a little inevitable in some cases but some really take that for granted,” he rues.

Besides being busy with their tour with Alliance Francaise and independent projects, Santanu promises an album in the coming months as well as a tour to Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, a plan that’s still on the drawing board. As they spell out their plans, we wonder how hard it is to stay original and stand out from the crowd in the country’s musical space, to which Pierre responds, “It’s more a matter of communication. If you’re true to yourself, your history and your music, originality isn’t difficult at all. But that is the hard part; it’s easy to get swayed in the process.” As they take to the stage, Pierre sums up the constant process of creating music saying, “When a non-music oriented person asks what this whole ‘finding one’s sound’ is about, we equate it to happiness. It’s not a goal or an ambition, but a journey.”

RAPID FIRE

Musical inspirations:

Pierre: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Debashish Bhattacharya- my guru

Santanu: Johann Sebastian Bach, Rabindranath Tagore, Paco de Lucía

One style you want to incorporate into your music:

Pierre: Western classical music

Santanu: Jazz and flamenco

One musical style outside your comfort zone

Santanu: EDM, too mechanical for me, I am quite old fashioned that way

Pierre: I am familiar with techno because I have studied it back in university so I guess African music. The songs are amazing to listen to but are so hard to recreate.

One instrument you want to master

Pierre: Has to be the trumpet, I’ve tried and it’s not child’s play

Santanu: Piano, but the sad bit is, classical guitar requires me to grow nails which I can’t have to play the piano. Maybe, someday. Oh and the cello too.

PUBLISHED LINK: http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2017/apr/02/a-jugalbandi–of-guitar-strings–tabla-beats-1589086.html

 

For something to stay relevant, it needs to update itself : Nachiket Barve

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If you were one of the people seated in the enviable first row at the Amazon India Fashion Week, you couldn’t have missed a stunning black sheer sari complete with metallic embellishments.

Designed by Nachiket Barve, the sari was an eccentric creation of a designer who stays true to his roots but also strays beyond the rule book to create awe-inspiring originals for the ramp with his eponymous label.

Basking in the success of his Autumn/Winter 2016 line, Tulipmania, we gear up to catch the ace designer spell out his wardrobe mandates for the season at Phoenix MarketCity, as part of its beauty and fashion interactive session — Glam’d Up today.

 

Nachiket Barve’s x-ray sari for the Amazon India Fashion Week 2017

A familiar face in the city’s sartorial scene, Nachiket is excited at the prospect of heading back to the city. “Chennai women keep it real in fashion and are truly inquisitive consumers, sticking to tradition but always open to try something new,” he says. Unlike his dedication to tulips, evident in his last collection, his latest — Fiori dabbles with florals in general.

 

“I noticed that I was sticking to quite a sombre palette in my collections, so this one will see brighter spring colours and motifs, dedicated to no flower in particular,” he quips. While Tulipmania saw an extensive use of merino wool, a design choice for which he bagged the International Woolmark Prize last year, Fiori is more about breezier silhouettes and hues across other material as well.

“The fabric per se interests me, but I am not restricted to it in any way. I am looking to go beyond merino wool and it’s a constant learning process,” adds the Mumbai-based designer.

While he chooses to keep mum about the line until it hits stores here, one can certainly expect the quality and workmanship that have become synonymous with his label. “Workmanship and hard work are enviable attributes. Why wouldn’t you want that to show in your work? I like seeing the fruit of labour in my work. This is my USP,” he observes.

Getting back to the sari, we ask the 36-year-old if he prefers the six-yard wonder in its traditional form or with a contemporary touch. “For something to stay relevant, it needs to update itself and keep up with the times. Like I have always said, I strive to be timely and timeless in my work. I think this garment is also one that has the power to balance both. It all depends on what you like but to survive, everything must adapt.”

He does, however, lament about the wastage in the industry. “Rather than being bothered about what we’re making garments with, we need to see how we are using manufactured garments. Social media considerably contributes to waste in our industry with trends and fads going in and out of vogue,” he adds.

Big on reinventing and reusing himself, he heralds the age of upcycling and points out that each garment has a 100 ways of being paired and styled, propping himself as an example.

If you thought democracy was dead, Nachiket’s design philosophy will give you hope. Straying away from a sort of herd mentality that is common particularly in fast fashion, he insists that one mustn’t adopt a style because it looks good on a celebrity. “There may be something that looks great on Sonam or Sonakshi but may be a disaster when one of us wears it. The key is to style according to your body type,” he adds, calling for democratisation of size in particular.

Nachiket Barve at Phoenix MarketCity 13

He is also quick to warn designers to discard the propensity to play it safe. “We are a country of maximums and minimums, in terms of size, wants and needs. There probably is no in-between. So being neutral may not be the right way to go ahead,” he asserts. While he will share valuable styling hacks for that perfect summer ensemble, he chooses to fall back on designing despite it being the harder of the two. “The responsibility of creating something from scratch is daunting but there’s no thrill like it,” he smiles.

 

The summer mandate

One mistake people often make during summer: overdress

Colour palette for the summer: pastels, bright colours and deep evening hues

Silhouettes to add to one’s wardrobe: asymmetrical kurtas, flowy dresses

Any element that’s a strict no: no fitting or figure hugging clothes. Just not meant for the season

Fabrics to go for: ditch the regular cotton and check out others like linen and many other climate-friendly fabric

Your go-to summer outfit: For men, linen pants, a nice summer shirt, loafers and shades. For women, perhaps a lovely floral dress. I’d keep it simple.

 

PUBLISHED LINK: http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2017/mar/30/trussing-up-with-drapes-and-wraps-1587484–1.html

It’s time we acknowledged our surroundings: Pooja Chordia

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A couple of years ago, a young commerce graduate from Stella Maris headed to Paris to pursue her longstanding passion to wield the camera. There has been no turning back since.

Ahead of her first ever solo exhibition, Africa-An Awakening, Pooja Chordia says, “I was planning a solo exhibition for a long time. Considering nature has been a passion and matter of concern right from school, my photographs of wildlife were the obvious choices for my first.”

The 27-year-old’s love for all things natural began from her days at The School KFI. “Nurturing our surroundings, appreciating natural bounty — these were ideals that were engrained in our daily lessons. Many of my classmates have ultimately gone on to pursue careers that involve giving back to Earth. It’s heart-warming, in hindsight,” she opines.

The spotlight of the three-day exhibition will be photos from her travels through the African subcontinent last year, covering a range of animals from big cats to tuskers and everything big and small in between, with renowned Sharad Haksar in attendance as the guest of honour. “The sun sets quite early there. When we were returning to our camps, we spotted a leopard; we suspected it was returning fresh from a kill. Ours was an open jeep and it was dark by then and we were patiently waiting with our camera and infrared lights. We were nervous but we wanted a shot of the leopard, and we got it!” grins Pooja.

This image, with the striking eyes of the big cat in focus, would go on to become one of the prints she cherishes the most from her collection. She is, however quick to share the tale behind another print, a charging elephant calf. “Tuskers are gentle but they are massive. No one in their right minds would mess with them. We had an encounter once when a herd, which also had adults and calves, crossed our path. We waited — quietly and patiently; we didn’t want to agitate them. Every single one passed, except this one last baby who came and charged at our vehicle. It was easily the most adorable thing we saw and we have a picture of that too,” she smiles.

Incidentally, Pooja headed to the African landscapes to aid Wildlife ACT, a voluntary organisation that works with wildlife tracking and conservation. “The idea of making these prints public is to urge people to acknowledge our surroundings. We need to wake up to the need of the larger community out there,” adds the photographer.

Flipping through some of the pictures she has chosen for her show, we see a largely monochrome and warm-tinted colour palette. The 33 photographs here will be canvas-framed and available for sale from Rs 3,500 onwards.

Pooja’s tryst with Africa doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon as she plans to head back there in April this year. Besides her landscape and fashion photography work, she is also working on a project to document heritage structures in the city for Ashvita. “I love anything with a story behind it and history has always been a favourite. This is my city and discovering its story layer by layer is something I am really excited about,” she smiles.

Published link: http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2017/feb/28/african-wild-in-pixels-1575452–1.html

The lone sultana

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Bollywood’s biggest female sufi voice talks about why it’s a great time to be a singer

LAST month, singer Sona Mohapatra initiated an important discussion on her social media page, asking why female performers can’t headline events sans the entourage of men. Having headlined several concerts and gatherings across the globe herself, singer Harshdeep Kaur agreed with a sigh. “Sona is speaking from experience. I think it’s subjective, however, because we see people flocking to say, a Sunidhi Chauhan concert as well,” she says, not wishing to blindly lay a stamp. Basking in the success of her latest number for the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer RaeesZaalima, the Mumbai-based artiste talks about the changing tide in the country’s music fraternity and why reality shows may not be the tickets to success they once were.

Collateral damage

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A still from the song from Raees (2016)

She may have sung for a Pakistani film before, but hasn’t had an experience of the studio environment there, considering she recorded through Skype, lending her voice to Mahira for Balle Balle from Bin Roye (2015). Talking about the difference in the characters of the two fraternities, she points out a blatant difference in the barter of talent, saying, “Artists from there have come here and made a huge name for themselves, but the flow back from us to Pakistan isn’t balanced. That does, however, even out if you look at the popularity of our content and performers there.” Meanwhile, she also throws light on how times have changed for performers across the spectrum. “Today, people look at the comfort of singers a lot more than they used to before. For instance, earlier, the track was prepared and we had to go and sing over it. Now our individual pitches and scales are also considered, as are our timings,” she points out, referring to how Arijit Singh and she recorded their parts for Zaalima separately.

 

Quantity over quality
Winning two reality shows left her with the title ‘Sufi ka Sultana’ and a string of chartbusters that cemented her position in the mainstream. However, she insists that the glorious days of reality show successes are nearing the end. “We have five to six shows going on at the same time. Usually, we had one show that we would dedicate all our time to. Now that’s not possible. So that affects recall value. The number confuses the audience,” says the Heer singer. Busy with her concert schedules for the next few months, Harshdeep will be seen crooning for a number in the Naseeruddin Shah-starrer Irada. She also hints at a few independent singles this year.

Published link: http://indulge.newindianexpress.com/the-lone-sultana/section/66259