Mumbai: Mediterranean jazz musicians will make magic with Carnatic classical maestros in the city

Mumbai: Mediterranean jazz musicians will make magic with Carnatic classical maestros in the city

Ahead of their performance at the Royal Opera House on Saturday, FPJ connected with multi-instrumentalist Enzo Favata and award-winning singer-composer Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy for an exclusive chat on all things musical

Kasmin FernandesUpdated: Wednesday, April 19, 2023, 07:21 PM IST

Prepare to be spellbound on the evening of April 22. The Royal Opera House in South Mumbai will host 'Jugalbandi: The Crossing', which brings together a host of international and Indian musicians. Unconventional multi-instrumentalist Enzo Favata introduced a new band to the world stage as part of their 2020 album The Crossing. With Marco Frattini on drums and the drum machine, and Giacomo Riggi on the vibraphone, they will interpret fresh suggestions and new sound colours. Their jugalbandi with Carnatic music exponents including singer-composer Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy, guitarist Vedanth Bharadwaj and singer Varijashree Venugopal along with experienced guitarist and composer Jagadeesh Ramanujam.

Favata told FPJ: “This show with my Indian colleagues is extremely exciting. I love India and its music since I was a young student. I listened to (iconic fusion band) Shakti's music since its release. I had managed to find in Italy imported records of Indian classical music. Then in the early 90s I started playing with a young Indian tabla player who lived in Italy, invited him to my first solo group and recorded an LP titled Jana.”

Michele Bordoni

Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy has won the National Award and Filmfare Award for the songs she created and sang in the Kannada film Nathicharami. Giacomo Riggi is an Italian vibraphone and marimba player, who also dabbles in singing and composition. Marco Frattini is one of the most respected drummers in Italy. Vedanth Bharadwaj specialises in singing and playing the songs of saint poets from the Bhakti and Sufi traditions. He is formally trained in Carnatic, Hindustani and Western Classical music. Varijashree Venugopal has worked as a composer and songwriter for films, soaps, theatre productions and albums. Jagadeesh Ramanujam Mudambi is an experienced guitarist performing with pop, rock, jazz and fusion ensembles for three decades. He is also the Director of the Bangalore School of Music.

FPJ got up close with Enzo Favata, one of the best-known Sardinian musicians in the Italian and global music scene:

Take us through The Crossing's performance with the Carnatic musicians at the upcoming Jugalbandi at the Royal Opera House.

During my career, I have collaborated and established friendships with many Indian musicians living in Europe, so the approach I will have for 'Jugalbandi: The Crossing' with my Indian colleagues will be to listen to each other's music proposals and to develop them together and then, as I say, symbolically create the “salad” – the kind of musical food I know how to prepare when I work on projects of this kind between the West and East, mixing traditional sounds and electronics. We will discover the result onstage, with the Mumbai public.

What is the story behind the band, The Crossing?

The Crossing represents a specific idea of bringing the current trends in European jazz music towards a crossing between different styles and cultures. Of course, these are the dynamics of the music that I have been making for many years but with this group I wanted to confront my musical style self with that great basin of ideas and innovations that arose all over the world in the 70s. I don't do it with a revival approach but rather with a contemporary one.

What was the response to your highly successful 2020 album of the same name?

The Crossing was certainly a well-aimed hit, spoke internationally about such mixture of musical crossings, but since I am a restless soul. I decided to go ahead with the exploration of sounds with a new idea that I'm still developing through the current concerts and that will constitute the backbone of the second album of the project, that will be released at the end of 2023.

What are you looking forward to on your India visit the most?

Even though I know Indian music, I know and appreciate Indian culture a lot, and also have seen so many movies related to India. It is my first time here and for this, I am really excited. Of course, in such a short stay, I will only be able to explore a few things in the midst of rehearsals and concerts. Still, I am sure it will be a world of excitement because it is related to world music, which I have been exploring for over 30 years.

Where do you see world music heading in the wake of music on social media apps like TikTok and Instagram Reels?

It's a good question: web music is changing. Let's say that, as far as I'm concerned, it's dividing us into two branches: One grows towards a commercial direction that tends to excite a certain public more emotionally but which in any case repeats modules that are now out-of-date and no longer create a new interest.

The second goes in the direction of research music that knows how to fish from contemporary ideas and experiences with a wide use of electronics. This is a way of developing music that can always create emotions, and that can somehow represent an element of a world that is somehow unified now through social media and fast communication, even though it's still culturally divided.

Excerpts from the interview with award-winning singer-composer Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy:

Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy

Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy |

How will you be fusing Carnatic classical with world music at Jugalbandi: The Crossing?

The stage is going to be filled with remarkable musicians from Italy and we musicians from India are eagerly waiting for their arrival. Instead of calling this fusing, I would say we are going to call, respond, exchange and inspire musical improvisations and dialogue between us all. There is adventure and excitement in waiting to see what magic will unfold when such a conversation happens.

Congratulations on winning the National and Filmfare awards. How has life changed after accolades for your work in the film Nathicharami?

Thank you. Life has changed subtly and surely post these awards. Many offers have come my way, but I continue to choose only those projects that inspire me. These awards are not only mine but I see them as what it is going to do to change the course of history over time. Many more women music directors will emerge, many different kinds of musical creators are going to cross pollinate across industries. I think this can be the beginning of a very different future.

Do you think Carnatic classical is being forgotten by millennials and Gen Z?

I would beg to differ. In fact, it is being embraced with such passion and also many new generation musicians are not only excelling in their practice but also exploring new frontiers, innovating and exploring much more while keep their foundation strong. The number of listeners and remarkable singers are only on the increase. There are various factors indicating this growth. There are many more venues and spaces where concerts are happening all the time. And the number of audience and listeners is much more. The reach of this music has widened. And there are so many musicians who are able to live a comfortable life making this as a full time profession through teaching and concerts unlike older times where if there were no patrons, musicians had an alternate full time salaried job while pursuing their passion.

Despite the progress in gender equality, we still don't see many women music directors in cinema across India. What needs to change?

The mindset. Every change has to happen from within first and the world will change automatically. We have to dare to look into the eye of the truth and be willing to change, drop our egos and step out of our comfort zone. The focus on content as much as there is focus on commercial success. Changes do not happen overnight but I can assure you they are happening. If they did not, I would not have had the chance to work on seven feature-length films in Kannada and Tamizh within 7 years.

M.M. Keeravani's Oscar win has brought renewed attention on film music from South India. Do you see this as a fad or an opportunity for musicians from the region to get global recognition?

I am very proud to say that South Indian film music has always had remarkable gems of musicians and music directors right from the beginning of cinema in India, till now and for the times to come. This will never fade away but will only keep expanding both in number and in variety. The quantity is large and hence in the range of quality, the chances of incredible music emerging also is high. Trends will come and go, recognition will also move with time but irrespective of all this there will always be magical songs and background scores created time and again in this industry. They will make us all dance with their beats and move our hearts with their melody.

Jugalbandi: The Crossing is a rare evening of musical diversity. A combined crossover effort by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Mumbai, The Royal Opera House Mumbai, Furtados, and Avid Learning, this show serves as a celebration of the variety of world music and a reminder of the ability of music to bring people together from all walks of life.


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