Bonjour India : Indiamore

Chassol_PassesThe second event of Bonjour India 2013 in Bangalore, Indiamore is a unique show uniting films, sound and images to produce music of astounding elegance and beauty by acclaimed pianiste, composer, and musical director, Christophe Chassol.

The film starts with the most beautiful lines I’ve ever come across to describe Indian music :

“He told me that he was seeing Indian music as two horizontal lines. The first one, usually played by a tempura, symbolized the bass.  It was a flow, a tone, a trunk. A root that defined the anchor point of harmony. The second line represented the melody and its sinuous paths. It would arise from the first one, cross over and under it, and, as if magnetized, would always go back on it.”

Sure enough the first morceau in the film is of a woman playing the tempura. Shot in Calcutta and Varanasi in July 2012 by Christophe Chassol , the film is a mélange of sequences with musicians (both amateurs and professionals) and Odissi dancers. What the audience gets is an interesting mix scenes of music by the river Ganga – performances by professional musicians as well as spontaneous outbursts of song and music by the common man, visuals of the traffic on streets of Calcutta and a documentary-esque sequence of a Odissi dance class.

I initially thought the concept was a little confusing and cacophonous, not sure where it was going. But I was soon tapping my feet and clapping enthusiastically, spellbound by how Chassol had appropriated Indian classical music and made it his own, blending it with his sounds of pop and rock music, rendering it something that even a classical-music-philistine like me could enjoy. Here’s an excerpt I recorded during the performance in Bangalore :

Some might accuse Chassol of focusing on the clichés of India – the people bathing by the river Ganges, the common man with pan-stained teeth, the taxis and confusion of Indian streets. He has, but he has also added a touch of beauty to what is otherwise perceived as the mundane and dirty side of our country. The morceau which begins with the honking on the streets of Calcutta and transforms into a feet tapping piece of music is an example of the brilliance of the show. Indiamore showcases the beauty and versatility of Indian music not just for the international audience, it is also a certain education for the Indians who dismiss our music heritage as something from the redundant past.

I am sure I will experience much more brilliance in Bonjour India 2013, but this particular performance is going to linger in my favourites for a long long time.

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