Music is a medium that transcends all languages and cultures. When there are language barriers, a simple tune can stir emotions and cross borders. On Independence Day I sat and listened to a few brilliant Indian musicians who have contributed to world music, and expanded the spectrum of Indian sounds beyond the commercial Bollywood genre. Take a listen to artists that have on their own, or in collaborations, introduced Indian sounds to a global audience.
The “Mozart of Madras”needs no introduction, and surely deserves all the attention. A composer in the Indian music scene, including Bollywood, his unique music, in films like Roja and Dil Se, was years ahead of what his peers were doing. Even before his Oscar wins, and all the hype over the soundtrack of SlumDog Millionaire, A. R. Rahman was already internationally known and respected. His admirers include production wizards like Baz Lurhmann and Andrew Lloyd Webber, who produced Rahmans’s Broadway show, Bombay Dreams.
With a voice that sings from the soul, Susheela Raman’s classical offerings are heartfelt and beautiful. Rising out of the sad melodic space, Ye Meera Deewanapan, is a track that puts Susheela Raman on a pedestal. Born in the UK, and having studied Carnatic music in Australia, Susheela fuses in South Indian classical sounds with modern jazz.
The British Indian composer/musician has long been belting out music that mixes Asian & world influences from his base in Britain. Critically acclaimed in the underground and ambient music genres, Nitin Sawhney uses music as a vehicle to also express his ideas dealing with politics, culture, and art. A regular at music and film festivals across the globe, Sawhney has shared stages with alternative artists like Grammy Winner Imogen Heap, and guitar legend Jeff Beck.
Apart from being the daughter of Pandit Ravi Shankar, and the half-sister of Norah Jones, Anoushka Shankar has held her own since emerging in the contemporary world music scene. She was the first woman to be nominated in the best contemporary world music category for The Grammys. Known for mixing the Indian sitar and classical notes in a modern tone, she’s also teamed up with Karsh Kale, an Indian-American composer, who fuses Indian classic music with underground electronic sounds.
Born to santoor legend, Shivkumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma comes from a family with strong classical roots in Kashmir. A Mithibai college graduate from Mumbai, Rahul has performed with classical legends like Ustaad Zakir Hussain and loads of international musicians in concerts. On a very different note, he won the Best Debut Music Director award for Mujhse Dosti Karoge. Rahul continues to make music true to his classical roots, and manages to spread his music world wide.
Of course these are not the only Indians who’ve done us proud globally, they are the first names that come to my mind. Trying to get the new age to appreciate Indian classical is difficult, but these artists and poets have tried in their own ways and rightfully gained recognition for their efforts. In our new year of Independence, I pay my respect to these wonder musicians that spread the joy of music and harmony through their music.