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"Flames out of the Blues"

It was truly a ‘crackling’ performance by Srishti, the musical trio, who put up a show at the Alliance Francaise for Deepavali. The trio comprised acclaimed harpist Cleo Karabelias, sitarist Hindol Deb and tabla maestro Somesh Pury who are on a concert tour in the State. The concert at the Alliance was co-ordinated by India Foundation for the Arts. Having performed in Dharwad and now in Bangalore, they set the City on Flames with their jugalbandhi.
Amidst the ear-splitting noise of crackers, there was something soothing awaiting the audience at the Alliance. Who could have ever imagined that a Western classical instrument like the harp could blend in with the Indian classical percussions like sitar and tabla so beautifully. The performances by the trio left the audience awestruck and made one get the feel of a new genre of music, which could be probably termed as ‘World Music’, where Western classical music smoothly diffuses into Indian classical music.

The trio performed for more than an hour, leaving the audience asking for more, in response to which they played Flames, which had rhythmic notes which would go high and then low, just like the flame of a candle. They also played Out of The Blue, which they claimed to have composed on the very day of their performance.

Cleo Karabelias, who has pursued MPhil in Ethnomusicology and has been in India for the past three years, says, “Indian music is very traditional and powerful and it attracts me. It helps create a universal language of music.” She composes with Hindol and also plays the Saz.

Hindol, who has been playing the sitar for 22 years now, expressed the need for improvisation in music and as a part of Srishti, says, “Jazz and Western classical music are challenging concepts in that the mood is given more importance here unlike the notes in Indian classical.”

When asked about his compositions for Srishti he smiles, “My partners are being very modest, all three of us have equally contributed, no composition is mine, it is ours, it is Shristi’s,” he adds. Somesh, who has been playing the tabla since he was four, and is now learning many other instruments, also holds a PG diploma in clinical music therapy from The Music Therapy Trust, London, UK. At the concert, he exhilarated the audience by playing other instruments like durbuta, djembe, khanjara, and ‘hand-shaker’ apart from tabla.

The evening took the audience through a magical journey of perfect tunes, notes, harmony and emotions.

Deccan Herald, Thursday, October 30, 2008

- Deccan Herald, VY Srusti Shah,

"A passage to India"

What drew western classical harpist Clio Karabelias to India?


Watching Clio Karabelias perform is a new experience indeed. For us in India, the harp is an instrument only seen performed on the silver screen. Rarely do we get to listen to a harpist and rarer still to listen to one in collaboration with Indian music. For Clio, though the harp is a western classical instrument, it is not a barrier to exploring new boundaries.

A student of Hindustani music at the Karnataka College of Music, she is also a visiting lecturer at Karnataka University, Dharwad, courtesy the French Government.

Clio is Greek, but French by virtue of being born in Paris. She started at the age of five, learning the basics of singing and rhythm. She represented all the instruments at the music academy but when she heard the harp she decided to play it because it reminded her "of the sea."

At the conservatory, she got through all the levels of diplomas on offer. But she felt there was something missing in what she says was a "lot of theory." She says she truly "discovered music" when she started listening to Indian and Turkish music. Her journey to India started seven years ago in a dream in which she saw herself singing Carnatic music in the padmasana posture.

She came to India in 2003 and started with Carnatic music in Kerala. "I learnt Carnatic from people who are not rigid. They do alaps. I have heard several old recordings where they do a lot of alaps."

The introduction to Hindustani music happened in Dharwad and Bangalore. She says it is an "expansion of the soul" and owes a lot to the freedom that her guru allows her.

"In the West, you have one hour of lessons and then you exercise. The master always tells you what not to do, but I have never heard such a thing from my master here ever."

Two schools

Clio today finds herself part of two of the biggest schools of thought in Indian music, and at Dharwad she is at a confluence of both.

"For a musician, Carnatic when performed in good spirit is joy and dynamism. But people in the West prefer Hindustani. It is because to truly appreciate Carnatic you need to know the music." "

Her initial attempts at integrating the harp into Hindustani, she admits, were difficult because she couldn't play the shrutis. "Learning the sitar helped me a lot. I got used to it anyway because I have always done a lot of improvisation from the time I started working with contemporary Western composers."

She says the classical wooden harp was made for western music and Mozart is the first to have written for the harp. Pedals were added in the 17th Century to shift chords and big harps have seven tones of tension.

Her harp is quite modern by any standards. It has a space-age carbon fibre frame instead of a wooden frame to make it easily transportable. Weighing 15 kilos, it has 36 strings of metal and nylon but a majority is goat gut, which, she says, has a much sweeter sound than nylon. The biggest prerequisite to playing the harp is to have "tremendous strength in your fingers."

It is rare to find the harp in popular music but collaborations have happened. The rock band Metallica once used it in a concert with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

Some harpists in America play jazz. Alice Coltrane, wife of John Coltrane, made some CDs. "I tried jazz but changing chords is too difficult because I have to use the pedals too much."

Her mentor sitarist Hameed Khan is of the opinion that Clio must use a lot more chords when playing Hindustani but she says she has far too much respect for the genre to do something radical.

Clio is understandably apprehensive about how an audience would appreciate such an experience. But she says the best reward for a performer is eliciting an emotional response from the listener rather than applause. "I feel best when an audience cries after a performance."

ANAND SANKAR - Hindu Chennai Metro Plus

"East meets West"

The Kannada Culture Department co-ordinating with Alliance Francaise, Bangalore and India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore, staging shows in Dharwad, Bangalore have now descended on Mangalore with a unique music concert.

No, not a 'jugalbandi' as announced in the papers but a 'trigalbandhi' a trio of musicians, namely Clio Karabelias on the harp and Hindustani sitarist Hindol Deb and Suresh Purey on the tabla.

The first piece in the show was 'Moonlight'. Clio not only plays the harp but her singing powers were also amply demonstrated. A Greek song fused with music from a Greek instrument blended with Somesh Puri's fingers lightly hovering over the tabla and Hindol Deb's prowess with the Sitar to produce a fusion of the East and the West.

Classical Indian music merged with classical Western music to produce a melody of sorts rarely seen in Indian music circles.

Switching over to the saz, a Turkish instrument Clio Karabelias remained a solo singer, no longer. She was joined by Somesh Purey and sitarist Hindol Deb where one female voice and two male singers accompanied by their instruments treated the audience to a rare musical treat.

Such musical shows need to be experienced rather than explained. On the penultimate day of Deepavali, Mangloreans rejoiced to the music evoked by the 'trigalbandhi'.
Asha Prasad

- Asha Prasad


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