February 6 2015
For the first time, the Southbank was moved to the sounds of a Carnatic violinist playing alongside a beatboxer…
BY Tasha Mathur
THERE was a rather unique sense of anticipation. No one knew quite what to expect.
Jyotsna Srikanth is a well-known Carnatic violinist and Shlomo is beatboxer of global repute and an artist in residence at the Southbank.
Neither had ever played together but a collaboration sounded like a great idea to both artists.
From the moment we arrived backstage, this excitement was felt amongst friends and family members of both Jyotsna (pictured top left) and Shlomo (pictured top right), as everyone mingled and talked of their eagerness for the upcoming performance.
The first half of the night consisted of separate performances by both artists.
Accompanied by London’s percussion brothers RN Prakash, playing the Mridangam and Prathap Ramachandra, playing the Ghatam (clay pot), Jyotsna performed some key songs that highlighted various aspects of Carnatic music.
As someone who was experiencing this for the first time, I appreciated Jyotsna’s interesting and informative introductions to each of her pieces.
In fact, her entire set began with a brief explanation of how the Western violin was adapted by Indians in the late 18th century with the most obvious difference being Jyotsna holding the violin vertically against her body while sitting down rather than horizontally across the arm.
Setting the scene allowed the audience to appreciate the deep-rooted history of Carnatic music and understand some of the technical aspects of this particular tradition.
A key highlight for me was the ‘Konnakol solo’; a rare vocal percussion between RN Prakash and PrathanRamachandra, which completely captivated everyone and was welcomed with rapturous applause by the audience.
This duet between the two musicians could have almost been described as a ‘Carnatic beatboxing battle’ as they spoke the language of the drums through their vocal performance.
We were then met with the stark, contrasting, sounds of Shlomo’s beatboxing.
There was a great connection made through some audience participation as Shlomo jumped off the stage to record and layer individual audience members’ sounds through his loop station and beatboxed over it.
He then shared his experience of family parties when he was younger. Coming from an Iraqi Jewish background, he incorporated many sounds from his childhood; the clicking of worry beads and playing of an Arabic drum by his Grandpa Josh, the mouth harp (also used in Carnatic music) and various percussive beats. Using the loop station once again, Shlomo managed to slowly bring the stage to life and brought the audience to its feet.
However, the second half of the show was when the real magic happened. To have Shlomo and Jyotsna perform individually in the first half was a stroke of genius as it personally heightened my curiosity (and scepticism) as to how two very different sounds could be made to merge successfully.
It all made perfect sense once BBC Radio 3’s Lopa Kothari (whose idea it was to bring these two seemingly separate worlds together) explained the similarities between Carnatic music and beatboxing with “a solo instrument trying to be a human voice and a human voice trying to sound like an instrument”.
We were treated to a rich diversity of sounds through the various performers on stage;Jyotsna’s violin, Shlomo’s beatboxing, Shadrach Solomon’s piano and keyboard, Manjunath NS’s drums and mouth harp, Shanti Paul Jayasinha’s trumpet and finally Viktor Obsust’s upright bass.
Through such an array of instruments, I was able to hear hints of bhangra, rock, jazz, hip hop and of course South Indian classical music all brought to life on one single stage with a clear synchronisation and connection between all the musicians involved.
There was a distinct theme of food and music (which we experienced backstage through some delicious South Indian snacks provided lovingly by Jyotsna), with ‘Dosa Beats’ being inspired by Shlomo’s first dosa experience, who excitedly described it as a “massive pancake”.
The piece was light-hearted and playful with an upbeat feel to it.
However, my highlight of the night was the spicy “Paneer 65“, which consisted of a range of exciting beats, paces and movements to represent the spicy nature of this dish, so much so, that I could almost taste the spicy paneer as the performance continued.
“Paneer 65” was the perfect way to end a night that completely heightened my senses to each individual beat and sound.
The blending of sounds worked so superbly that I was surprised it hadn’t been done before…it left me hungry (both literally and figuratively!) for more…
acv rating:****(out of five)
*Jyotsna Srikanth and Shlomo played ‘Carnatic Beats’ at the London Southbank Centre on January 29.