Singing India's tune
Three indians have been nominated at the grammys this year. Could this lead to an All-Indian event in the years to come?
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Music, they say, has no barriers. No wonder, Vienna echoes in the strains of the music of the Manganiyars (a singing community from Rajasthan). No wonder also that Baul singers from the villages of West Bengal find themselves flying business class to perform — to packed auditoria — all over the world. And, really, no surprise that musicians from different parts of the world continue to collaborate to create delightful melodies for millions of listeners across the globe.
Simply put, the global music scene is witnessing exciting times. What’s more, Indian musicians are creating a greater impact by collaborating with global artistes of repute. While “collaborations” isn’t a new phenomenon — Pandit Ravi Shankar partnered with The Beatles, Asha Bhonsle collaborated with Boy George, well-known music groups like Taal Tantra and Shakti are products of collaborations too — its certainly a continuing trend. For this year, too, at the Grammys, a collaboration just might get rewarded.
It may be too early to predict the turn of events, but for anyone who has heard this year’s Grammy nominations, the collaboration of Indian musician Amjad Ali Khan and Iraqi artiste Rahim Alhaj for the album Ancient Sounds has taken them by pleasant surprise. Having heard the album only recently, we would certainly applaud this partnership. “Celebrations,” one of the tracks on the album, is certainly a winner and one just hopes that the duo finally bag the Grammy on January 31, 2010, when the event will be held at the Staples Center, Los Angeles.
Back home at the Khan household, celebrations are on even as the sarod maestro continues to field innumerable phone calls and congratulatory messages. “It [the Grammy nomination] is a blessing from god,” says Khan, adding that all the songs on the album have been composed by him. The combination of oud (the instrument that Alhaj has played on the album) and the sarod, when you hear it first, is a dramatic jugalbandi which blends so harmoniously that you’re quick to rewind and listen to the tracks more carefully. Come to think of it, it’s wonderful to have two ancient instruments coming together to create such brilliant melodies. The album, which was recorded in the US, Khan feels, was a winner but even he hadn’t anticipated the unprecedented response to it. If Khan is busy gearing up for the ceremony in LA, tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain is also celebrating his collaborative effort that has got him a nomination at this year’s Grammy. Hussain has been nominated in the Best Classical Crossover Album category for The Melody of Rhythm, which consists of artistes like Leonard, Slatkin, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Hussain. Interestingly, Hussain previously won the Grammy (in the Contemporary World Album category) for his collaborative album Global Drum Project along with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju and Giovanni Hidalgo. In 1992, Planet Drum, an album co-created and produced by Hussain and Mickey Hart, was awarded the first ever Grammy for the best World Music Album.
Predictably, the music market in India is already showing a keen interest in marketing albums of this year’s Grammy nominees, with music stores like Planet M and Music World prominently displaying not just Ancient Sounds but also previous works of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Interestingly, at a local music store in Saket, we also spotted a couple of Khan’s albums alongside some of A R Rahman, who, by the way, is also a proud nominee at this year’s Grammy Awards.
If 2009 was a significant year for Rahman, what with the music maestro grabbing two Oscars, and collaborating with Pussycat Dolls for another version of “Jai Ho”, this year’s Grammy Awards nomination (in two categories) is, as musician Salim Merchant explains, “another feather in his cap”. Rahman is nominated in the category of Best Song Written for Motion Picture/ Television or Other Visual Media, along with lyricist Gulzar and singer Tanvi Shah for “Jai Ho”. Rahman is also nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture/Television or Other Visual Media, and will face competition from Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Darnell Martin’s Cadillac Records, HBO’s True Blood and Twilight. While experts are already predicting Rahman’s win at the function, the music maestro continues to remain humble and down to earth. “Every tune that goes out from my studio is special. “Jai ho” was special too,” he says.
While Indians are rejoicing at the inclusion of the Indian artistes at the Grammy Awards in LA, musician Shubha Mudgal, in an article, makes an interesting observation: “Why is there no separate category for Indian music or even for Asian music, despite its strong and unique presence in the world? Why do we have to be dumped into a category called World Music with the rest of the world?... Why not a new South Asian Grammy, if not an all-Indian Grammy?”
Going by the growing Indian presence at the Grammys, who knows, maybe the event in January 2010 will be an “all-Indian Grammy”?