THE INDIAN EXPRESS
May 30, 2004 - Sumithra Thangavelu
At quiet corner in dusty Auroville lies Nadaka's house, sunny, quaint and unassuming. Past the huge banyan tree shading the courtyard, baby turtles in a pond, flowers floating prettily in a bowl near the entrance, and a black cat that lazily rubs itself against our feet, a friend and I enter his tiny recording room built in red tiles and wood. The atmosphere here is pretty much like the musician himself traditional, but Not quite. Modern? Not really.
Nadaka, born in Quebec, Canada, and living in Auroville, Pondicherry, for the last thirty years, is known for his brand of music- a mix of Hindustani, carnatic, Jazz and
Meditative strands. And his guitar- which he designed and made himself, with a scalloped neck and mobile frets to adapt to the tones of Indian music.
He's familiar with the language of the ragas, can play the veena, tampura, sarod, percussion, harp, chimes, gongs and Tibetan singing bowls to name some, has learned Sanskrit and is quiet at ease in Tamil (That's as Indian as you can get, if you
don’t consider his college-boy Indian accent that pops up occasionally.
After some tea served in designer porcelain mugs, the blond pony -tailed musician picks up his 'modified guitar' to play us a song and you invariably expect music with a mind of its own. It has, Western rhythms follow the melody of the veena; kirtanas are strung after jazzy notes, soulful ragas accompany lifting guitar strains. And despite a bad throat that day, he attempts singings some ragas to go with the music.
"It's what I call acoustic fusion." Explains Nadaka, considered one of the pioneers in there contemporary movement of Indian classical music.
When we dropped by, he was practising for the annual Singapore National Arts Festival, which began yesterday. In collaboration with tabla player Somnath Nandi, the Basavaraj Brothers, sitarist Shivaramakrishna, violinist Raghavendra, and Singapore musician Ghanavenothan Retnam, Nadaka will present a fusion of Hindustani, Carnatic and Jazz, mostly from his album The Living Colours. "The festival questionnaire asked how I'd describe my performance. The basis is always Indian ragas but presented in a modern way," says Nadaka.
Western sensibility in Indian music is Nadaka's premise. He's inspired by ancient India, the vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the writings of Sri Aurobindo, all
of which he brings to his music. He considers this performance in Singapore only as a part of an evolutionary process rather than a one-stop show. "the concert is a passing moment, a window into the musical evolution of the artist," he says.
Evolution is to Nadaka what ragas are to his guitar, he's always experimenting, learning and creating new sounds, moods and music. "I can't compare the way I stroke a note now to the way I stroked it three months ago. It changes," he says.
He's also always searching for the "inner soul of each instrument", for which he spends hours researching,(he once spent months recording the vibrations from large
Gongs after they are struck).
The nature element is also strong in his music (His Lotus Trilogy used silence and space to explore nature). "Respect for nature, respect for peace and quiet, respect for
Beautiful work…music has what we call the Zen aspect." Says Nadaka before disappearing to get a Tibetan singing bowl which he places on top my friend's head and taps on the gong. The vibrations he says are subtle, healing, meditative.
"There's a deeper aspects to anything and you go searching for it," he says dramatically.
Nadaka's search began when he was just seven years old, strumming through his guitar. When he was 15, a yearning to discover a deeper meaning in life propelled
Him to travel the world, a journey that thought him to India in 1974, all of 16. "I didn't come by chance. I was sent of destined to come, " he says philosophically. He
Stayed at the Kalakshetra, and though the legendary Rukmani Devi insisted be continue there, his heart was at Auroville, where he has lived since.
Through experiments in fusion in the 90s, meditative music in the late 90s and a foray into Bollywood through A. R. Rahman in Thakshak ( he played the guitar and
backing vocal for Khamosh Raat), Nadaka's been there, done that. But he's remained the studio artiste that he is, more inclined to tapping the sources of sound and searching for hidden subtleties in music. And he feels this is only the beginning.
"I've been playing ragas so much but it's only now that I'm beginning to feel what they really mean."
May 10, 2002
He has long hair and plays the guitar. He is not a Beatle from Britain but Nadaka from Auroville.This musician of Quebecian origin found his way to India and Indian music in 1974 and made his way to Music world, Spencer Plaza on April 9, to release his latest album Living Colours.
Noted singer Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna who received the first copy of the CD was full of praise, for the man who termed is full of sound. Ghatam player, Vikku Vinayakram who also received a copy of the CD remembered the 15 year long association he had with Nadaka. "He has a good sense of Laya and a natural instinct for Indian music". Said Vinayakram.
Nadaka rounded up five Indian musicians to set out on this musical adventure. There is Balasai on flute, Raghavendra on the violin, Sivaramakrishna playing the sitar. Ganesh on the tabla and Ramakrishna playing Mridhangam, Kanjira and ghatam and of course, Nadaka on his Indianized guitar.
Appropriately, the speakers at Music World played tunes from the CD that are, as Nadaka pointed out, a fusion that brings together elements of Hindustani, Carnatic and more jazzy modes. The music of Living Colours both light and deep.
For the weary listener, the CD proves soothing melange of the lulling tones of Balasai's flute, the involved melodies of Raghavendra's violin, the serene euphony of Sivaramakrishna's sitar and the restful Veena-like presence of Nadaka's guitar.