Mahesh Vinayakram, one of the leading artists in Carnatic and world music, performed in Zurich recently. The concert was a collaboration with Sowgandhika Krishnan and Ensemble, a team of trained dancers, musicians and theatre artists who presented a unique symphony of Indian dance and theatre. Namaste Switzerland was witness to this beautiful ‘melange’ where Indian music merged with world music and Indian dance with contemporary theatre.
Mahesh Vinayakram, son of ghatam legendary Padmabhushan T.H.Vikku Vinayakram, has performed in several Indian metro cities as a solo performer in concerts, and as a fusion singer for various global bands and artists. Among the many feathers in his cap, he is also notably the first Indian singer to perform in the theatre Cirque du Soleil.
The concert opened to Sowgandhika Krishnan and Ensemble performing their dance-drama, ‘Trinity’. The performance is based on the Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and their roles as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer. Artists Sowgandhika Krishnan, Tripti Abhijata, and Suparna Acharya take you through a theatrical journey, blending together elements of Indian mythology with stories from present-day India, and dialogues in English. In a mesmerising rendition, the artists touched upon social themes such as water conservation, waste disposal and a lack of green cover, through the medium of a traditional temple dance (Bharatanatyam) and contemporary theatre.
Mahesh took to the stage next. He was able to translate his extensive experience from having worked with beatboxers, Bulgarian choirs, African percussionists, etc., into an engaging performance on stage. The beauty of the performance lay in Mahesh’s ability to blend various genres of music, from all over the world, and in his extraordinary improvisation with his vocal prowess. He calls his unique interpretation of Carnatic music as ‘Karna-tech’, a digital approach to classical Carnatic music.
The first song was composed by Mahesh in praise of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham’s Shankaracharya (head of a Hindu monastic institution) in ‘Rasika Ranjani’ (a Carnatic raagam). He also performed the ‘Mohanam’ raagam, played to James Asher’s Indo-British tunes, from the album ‘Bravado Masala’. He then performed the raagam ‘Kalyani’ adapted for the African artist Lamine Cissokho, for his album Pakao (West African Kora Music). His rendition of the ‘Suddha Dhanyasi’ raagam included the song ‘Himagiri Tanaye’ sung to lounge style music.
In his inimitable style, Mahesh got the audience to clap in tune with his konnakol (vocal percussions in South Indian music). His enthusiasm and exuberance were infectious, and we found ourselves together with the rest of the audience, clapping along and chanting “dhoom!” in tune with Mahesh’s beats.
Through the concert, Mahesh also showcased his mastery over several instruments, ranging from the ‘Hung Drum’, ‘Moharsing’, the ‘Wave Drum’, etc.
The concert was the perfect showcase of the many talents of the virtuoso singer, and the ensemble dance-drama team. ‘Trinity’ was a fitting opening to the concert, and set the mood for the evening. Mahesh has the unique ability to connect with the audience and take them through various moods ranging from the spiritual to the nostalgic and energised to the meditative. With his unique brand of ‘Karna-tech’ music, he successfully invigorates Carnatic music and elevates it to new heights.
‘Melange’, featuring Mahesh Vinayakram in ‘Mahesh Unplugged’ and Sowgandhika Krishnan & Ensemble in ‘Trinity’, was made possible by the event management brand, ‘Lemon and Chillies’, and was performed at Oberrieden in Zurich on April 7th.