MANA' doctrines in music

Vocalist Mana Dhanraj is a popular face in the city's music scene.

‘Jazz, R&B fusion with a twist of lime’ – well, that’s how B’luru artiste Mana Dhanraj describes the vibe of her music. A popular face in the city’s music scene due to her frequent performances at the Gilly’s; Mana always wanted to create opportunities for herself and aspiring artistes to grow as musicians. Mentored by renowned international artistes like Raphaelle Brochet, Natalie John, Magos Herrera, Tom Brislin, Karina Colis, Carolina and Steve Zerlin, Mana has been lucky in her pursuit to get the best teachings in music. An upcoming tour, a couple of original compositions and a jam packed calendar; Mana has her hands full for this year. In a freewheeling tete-a-tete, the young vocalist gets chatty ...”I am incredibly excited about an upcoming tour I have on the cards, but let’s keep that a secret for now. Tea for Two will continue to perform at venues around Bengaluru, like GING, Big Brewsky, and B Flat. We’ve got a great set coming up soon for Valentines Day at Om Made Cafe too. I’ve been working on some original compositions that should be out later this year -- stay posted for more!”she begins.

Speaking of her growing up years, Mana recalls, “Growing up, I struggled to find an institution that would teach me contemporary styles of music. It was only in my mid 20s that I found the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, where I enrolled in a Jazz Performance course. That was really my first exposure to quality music education.” Perhaps, the very realisation is what helped her start an institution of her own. In the year 2015, her dream project The Mela Centre for Learning, a music academy transpired into reality. “After graduating, my friends and I collectively agreed that people in Bengaluru, especially starting from a young age, should have the opportunity to grow as musicians. We based our curriculum on what we were exposed to in Swarnabhoomi, incorporating practices like musical ensembles, theory and private lessons. Over the years, a community has formed around the school, and our activities extend much beyond music pedagogy,” shares Mana.

An ardent music enthusiast from the time she can remember, Mana recalls her earliest memories of learning jazz. “My father got me interested in Jazz at a very young age. When I attended boarding school, he would send me Jazz mix tapes to keep me company. Funnily enough, while my family always encouraged me to pursue a career in music, it was I myself who had convinced myself up until my mid 20s that I should get a “real job”. I got a college degree in textile design and pursued that line of work until met Aditi Upadhya, my Hindustani music teacher.”

As someone who always viewed singing as a deeply intimate and emotional activity, Mana owes it all to Aditi. “She taught me how to share that intimacy, in a way that wouldn’t leave me feeling overly vulnerable about exposing such deep parts of myself to the audience. Most importantly, Aditi taught me that music is an inherently communal art. Your musical instincts need to be fed, by interacting with others, especially your audience.” In 2013 Mana applied to Swarnabhoomi, and that’s where it all began. “Swarnabhoomi has one very attractive feature: it’s in the middle of nowhere. This geographic isolation gave me time and space to ease up, and delve deeply into both music technique and musical collaboration with the other talented musicians, I was “stuck” there with. My teachers there were also incredibly supportive, and continue to play a huge role in who I am today.”

Her influences include Hiatus Kaiyote, Charlie Parker, Layla Hathaway, Bobby McFerrin, Sanjay Subramanian and Kalapini Komkali. Prod her about what inspires her, and pat comes the response. “Stories I hear, other musicians, my surroundings, the list goes on!”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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