Counterflows Festival 2016: The Carnatic Music Ensemble
In an exciting collaboration for the Classical arts, EarthSync has partnered with AC Projects – producers of the Counterflows Festival in Glasgow, UK – to showcase the Carnatic Music Ensemble. Featured in the ensemble is violin virtuoso Dr M. Lalitha Kalaimamani and her guru and mother – vocalist Smt. Subbulakshmi Muthuswamy, marking the first time in the festival’s history that South Indian Carnatic music will be showcased at the prestigious event. The festival, now in its fifth edition, is a tribute to experimental art, music and culture in all its colourful splendour.
“This is so special for me, being able to share Carnatic music of South India – the music of my homeland,” Dr. Lalitha told IndiEarth before her performance, “Very often when international audiences think of Indian music, the first thing that comes to mind is North Indian Hindustani Classical. I do believe God has sent me here to share this music, and I am honoured to fulfil this purpose”.
For Lalitha, music has has been part of her very being even before she was born, hailing from a prestigious lineage of Classical musicians. She has also garnered widespread critical acclaim for her performances around the world with sister and fellow violinist Nandini Kalaimamani. “My mother used to play music to my sister and I when we were in her womb” she laughs, “so that’s how music started for me, and that’s how I remember my childhood. My grandfather was my first Guru, and then my mother, and both of them were very strict! You couldn’t take them for granted, and I certainly couldn’t be playful”.
Years later, Lalitha is grateful for the discipline those initial years of mentorship instilled in her and her music. “I wake up early in the morning between 3:30 – 4am to practice – the early morning hours before dawn are the best time. Practice is part of me, just like how I eat every day, I practice. Even when I’m not practicing, in my mind I’ll be working on music, mentally rehearsing a krithi, or working out a rhythmic pattern, sometimes at night I don’t get sleep because I keep working!”
At the Counterflows Festival this year, Lalitha and her mother will showcase a blend of Carnatic vocal and violin compositions, accompanied by the mridangam and morsing. Their special bond extends beyond the conventional mother daughter relationship, to that of guru and disciple, teacher and student. “My mother is one of my greatest inspirations” says Lalitha proudly, “we used to render varnams in 4 to 5 grades of tempo, it’s very difficult but it’s a specialty of my family. When I was just learning the concept I used to get depressed because it’s not easy, you need to practice! My mother used to quote stories from Napoleon and Alexander The Great, stories about not giving up and returning to the battlefield. She inspired me to keep going”.
This collaborative effort of AC Projects and EarthSync is aimed at fostering dialogue between contemporary UK based performers and Carnatic musicians, while providing more international platforms for the music and culture of South India. Both AC Projects and EarthSync share the desire to support these traditions of music, providing avenues for it to be recognized by the contemporary music scene as a way to help save some of these traditions from vanishing.
Electronic music pioneer and artist Mark Fell will explore possible ways to collaborate with musicians from the tradition, examining the systems and processes in the context of his digital practice. Mark will attend Counterflows to begin the dialogue with The Carnatic Music Ensemble.
For more details on the Counterflows Festival, visit the website: http://counterflows.com/