With traditions and culture so different, who wouldhave ever thought that when it comes to music, Indian and Irish sounds haveimmense similarity? This came to the fore when the orient met the occidentmusically at a cultural celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of theEmbassy of Ireland in India. The event, 'Ragas to Reels', that took place inblueFROG was collaborated by artists Utsav Lal and Sam Comerford. The duo presented music that seemed to be two sides of thesame coin: traditional Indian classical and Irish folk music, respectively.
On asking 21-year-old, Glasgow-based pianist andcomposer, Utsav Lal, how the harmonious scenario was created, he said, "Indianclassical music and Irish traditional music have a great deal of similarities,with similar methods of ornamentation and both being modal, as well ascontrasts, as their entire foundation is different. This works really well. Theconcept was to find our favourite compositions across the two musical scenesand blend them. Also, it is extremely interesting to work on different musicstyles and the learning is the best part." He could not have partnered withanyone better than Sam Comerford, a 22-year old Irish flautist and saxophonistwho has been a part of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann—the largest group involvedin the preservation and promotion of traditional Irish music. So, what made Samagree to this confluence? "I really liked the concept and do not think it hasbeen done before. There is so much potential in such collaborations, the morewe do such things, the more we find out," he said. On asking him if Indianmusic interests him, he surprised us by saying, "I love Indian classical music;it sounds so natural. I am a huge fan of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia."
The melting pot
"The similarity is that both genres of music istraditional as well as unique in their own ways," Comerford explained. The ideawas to draw together the soulful sounds of Indian ragas and the pounding energyof Irish reels and this was marked by the musical duologue between Comerford andLal, accompanied by tabla percussionist Durjay Bhaumik. The Indian and Irishmelodies were coalesced beautifully with jazz improvisations and complexmusical arrangements. Lal stated, "We worked together on the arrangement. Inclassical Indian music, which is stringent, there are only set parameters withwhich you can improvise. But since both of us are jazz musicians, there isheavy focus on improvisation."
A musical treat
A soulful renditionof Raga Hamsadhwani on the piano by Lal, merging with Irish folk music playedby Comerford set the mood for the musical evening. Another traditional RagaAlaap played by Lal was interspersed with a tune on the hornpipe by Comerford.The duo also presented a traditional Irish piece called Trathann an toide. Aspellbinding finale saw the devotional melody Vaishnava jan to beingamalgamated into a set of Irish reels and original compositions by theartistes; while Lal brought strong Raga Khamaj flavours into the piece,Comerford played fast reels in his interpretation. This superlativeco-ordination got one to excogitate on the truth that Jimi Hendrix once stated,"Music does not lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then itcan only happen through music."