ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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I Heard It from Amit Chaudhuri

The Prakriti Foundation helps East meet West in a passion of fusion.

The multimedia musical programme by the talented and erudite Amit Chaudhuri, modestly titled “A Moment of Mishearing”, could have been more appropriately called “A Time for Profound Listening”. Part of Prakriti Foundation’s annual festival, which tours India’s metro cities, Chaudhuri created, in an all-too-brief hour of unique fusion music, sounds that led us from Indian ragas to Western pop, folk, and country-and-western. Chaudhuri rendered the Todi raga while his band also let us hear the Dominoes’ “Layla”, then the Blues of Jimi Hendrix mixed with a pentatonic raga, followed by the sentimental “Auld Lang Syne” within the strumming of a santoor! This may sound like tiresome fusion, but it is not, however world-weary one may feel. I was on the knife edge of genius, I acknowledged to myself, reluctantly.

For me, the moment of awakening to the truth of what I was witnessing was Chaudhuri’s malkaush while I was still in Gershwin’s “Summertime”, my summer time before Chaudhuri was born. Did the raga Malkaush cross the Arabian Sea from Africa? He throws out this comment. Maybe, I think, it is older, much older, as legend has it, from before the Aryans crossed the Khyber Pass...we do not know. Scholars have searched out the origin of languages, and even when they proclaim one to be an “isolate”, we know that all they mean is that they do not know since human communities have shamelessly borrowed from each other, from time immemorial. Art historians like Ernst Gombrich have shown us even the pedigree of designs, from ancient Egypt or Greece, that have found their way into the edges of our carpets, and the friezes on cafe walls. Then why do we know so little about the origins of musical sound, the very first sounds a baby hears in the womb? There is music all around us, animals have their own sense of music, but how did we get ours?

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