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Music > Review
11 January, 2020

THE AMITHIAS PROJECT  - World Music from the Alps and India

Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai, is into its 60th year. While it has become the nature of this institution to make its quality year-long presentations attracting both connoisseurs and those who seek programmes of a vintage quality, this year it would be something more special as it marks their diamond jubilee year in India. These attractive events in the past have been in the form of feature films, documentary films, and panel discussions besides supporting projects on media, arts, architecture, literature and many such. Its present Director, Helmut Schippert, gave the assurance that we could expect a schedule of thought-provoking features/events to be cast during the current year, keeping in mind the significant role it plays in the cultural exchange that occurs through these activities between the two countries.

The Institute presented a collaborative session of fusion-music under “MusiX” known by the name “The Amithias Project” quite recently to a full-house. The chief participants were Amith Nadig the flutist who is into such bold and experimental ventures and the acclaimed jazz musician, Matthias Schriefl. These two names have been combined to make the project’s very name. Matthias Schriefl  played on the trumpet and flugal horn with amazing facility on both. The others in the team were the brothers Vinod Shyam Anoor and Sunaad Anoor, who formed the laya duo on the Mridangam and Khanjira. The brothers also offered simultaneous sessions on the konnakkol, where you verbally utter the phrases played on the mridangam. This was watched with sheer wonderment by quite a few Germans who were in the audience. To add to all this came the visual delight in the form of Bharathanatyam by Nivedita Sharma who did her pieces with a good level of expertise and poise. One, however, honestly felt that a sprinkling of konnakkol would have been sufficient with two percussionists already on stage.

While Amit was at this best as he gave us ragas like Bilahari, Panthuvarali, SuddhaSaveri and Hamsanandhi and a Ragamalikai (string of ragas), the manner in which he seamlessly and with professional ease slid from the German tunes into these were remarkable for their pleasantness and fine delivery. This certainly requires a fair understanding of the like scales present in both schools of music. He further played Datuvardhini (Mela 69), a scale not heard much even in carnatic circles when he played the number “Use Both Your Hands”. The flutist also deserves rich compliments for the delectable pace he could achieve when he played the patterns at all speeds, perfectly for the sollus released by the percussionists. In the same manner what clinched one’s attention was the dexterous way in which Matthias changed the instruments from the Trumpet to the Flugal-horn (vice-versa too) and occasionally even used both at the same time.  Talking of Cuban music (Madras Mambo) which Matthias played with Amit, he offered the tip to say that if you wanted a free entry into any session of Cuban music you had to be there with an instrument.

On the Bharathanatyam front we had Nivedita dancing to a recorded version of Govardhana Giridhara where Radha (the dancer) goes in search of Krishna and she sees him in whatever she encounters. She goes hither and thither, but is unable to find him. All of this was portrayed with sensitivity by well-attained gestures of the body combined with the power of her eloquent eyes. While performing together with the instrumentalists for the Mallari, she gave a glimpse of her potential with delectable attamis and fine gestures.

 On talking to Amit one was given to understand that this project has had a total gestation period of about 12 years and this particular event called for 5 or 6 full-fledged rehearsals. The flugal horn operates more or less on the same principles as that of the Trumpet but operates in one scale less and is thus able to provide a rich bass sound. Sufficient care was also taken to decide on where to include the Bharatanatyam sessions as it was a programme which allowed a total of 90 minutes of concert-time. These new fusion-concerts are runaway hits in Germany (all tickets get sold out) for two reasons. Matthias is a top-notch jazz player and this new programme allows enough space for both kinds of music without compromising on their individual identities. 

Amit Nadig and the percussionists deserve exceptional kudos for having trained Matthias in the art of not only keeping the beats in all thalams, kanda chapu included but also for bringing him to a level where he could execute it perfectly. All arudhis with all their elaborations were played with equal finesse by Matthias as any of our instrumentalists belonging to our music could achieve.

The other compositions that were included in the evening’s programme were Am Schnakkar Bichl, Mutt Blues, Langenwanger, Bald Isch and Rolling Bangalore.


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