Shankar Mahadevan highlights his 'baithak to Bollywood' journey at Aadi Anant Festival
Indian philosophy has always emphasised the heritage of the guru-shishya relationship.
Every generation has seen geniuses and creative minds who were honed and guided by the right teachers and gurus. And there are shishyas in every generation, who pushed the boundaries of tradition to pursue new horizons, letting their craft straddle multiple genres of music without diluting the context of where each genre blossomed.
CITI-NCPA’s Aadi Anant Festival is an initiative that celebrates this wonderful guru-shishya relationship and the ever-expanding musical spectrum of the talented shishyas, through well-curated music performances that testify to our musical traditions and changing cultural milieus. The festival in Hyderabad had a concert by Shankar Mahadevan, a versatile artist of our time bestowed with the grace and the guidance of some great gurus. He is one of those rare artists who has also made many musician friends along the way, letting their great art influence his work that covers a wide spectrum of genres.
In an interview before the concert in Hyderabad last night, he acknowledged the immensity of the influences he had had during the different phases of his life so far. Learning from his Carnatic music guru TR Balamani and the legendary composer Shrinivas Khale clearly gave him a strong foothold on the nuances of traditional classical music. Eventually, as he collaborated with stalwarts like Ustad Zakir Hussain, U Srinivas, Selva Ganesh and John McLaughlin for Remember Shakti, the inspiration and joy were boundless and he understood that being a musician meant being a good human first. He talks about how each of those legends were so secure with their art, that they all synergised beautifully onstage, giving each other the perfect support and space.
Watching a Remember Shakti video is so overwhelming, both to the lay listener and the connoisseur.
Similarly last night, he took the Hyderabadi audience through a journey from Baithak to Bollywood, his brainchild that seamlessly traverses traditional music forms through folk, semi classical and finally pop and Bollywood. The generous audience that Hyderabadis are, every little piece of music was greeted by the gathering with great applause. Starting with his ever popular 'Gananayakaya Ganadevataya', he went on with Carnatic compositions in Raaga Hamsadhwani, beautifully supported by the likes of Padma Shankar and Amar Oak on the violin and flute. The accompanying artists were brilliant throughout and Shankar always acknowledged their talent and support. The concert was interspersed with a ghazal, a thumri, a bhajan and naam-dhun and went on to explore his most popular bollywood numbers from ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ to ‘Locha-e-ulfat’, finishing a grand finale with a jet-speed 'Breathless'.
Baithak to Bollywood was essentially Shankar Mahadevan's story itself! His journey and his imminently versatile background in music resonated in the concert and I can’t think of anyone else who could possibly showcase it so seamlessly.