The band’s name should be enough to captivate you – Red Earth and Pouring Rain, an ode to the seventh century Tamil poem. It gets better – they’re made up of Carnatic vocalist, Harini Nair and Abhijit Nath, a guitarist who likes progressive rock. Together, they make traditional and improvised music, seasoned with contemporary influences – it’s a repertoire that spans Carnatic music, Jazz, Bossa Nova and Latin rhythms, aiming to bring the emotional core of each of these genres to fresh audiences.
Harini, a singer-songwriter and arranger from Chennai is currently on a gap year from studying Contemporary Music and Production at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. “I like singing and listening to RnB, Neo Soul and Jazz usually, as well as some Middle Eastern and Latin music. I was in the Balkan Choir at Berklee and really enjoyed the vocal projection techniques I learned, which I found quite similar to the Indian Vedic Hymn chanting I grew up listening to in Chennai.” Her vocal style, she says, is a potpourri of all these influences and she tries to get to their core through lessons and dialogues with people belonging to different places.
Their upcoming gig, at the picturesque bookshop / café, Champaca, on Edward Road, will be about improvisation and dialogue, about stepping out of one’s comfort zone in terms of music. There will be Latin grooves with “polyrhythms, the push and pull of harmony and dissonance with melody and how they all come together in the pieces e perform,” Harini explains. They will perform some Carnatic pieces set to Western harmony and vice-versa, a Jazz standard with Indian improvisation and a few groovy, Latin songs.
Abhijit’s musical interests have been primarily rooted in world music, as he seeks out creations that are similarly advanced in terms of melody and rhythm as Hindustani and Carnatic music. These include Turkish, Armenian, Jewish and North African music from Mali and Senegal. “What I love about these is that great traditional practitioners of these arts are engaging with Western harmony as equals, with active ears, and not just as ‘fusion’ with non-cohesive layers. Despite the wonderful music made by bands like Shakti in 70s and Prasanna in the 90s, I’ve also felt that true cohesion between East and West in Indian ‘fusion’ music is still something that we aren’t quite comfortable with – that is what we’re trying to achieve with Red Earth and Pouring Rain. It’ sa sound that’s truly rooted in Indian classical music, but one that receives harmonic content as an ‘equal’ and responds to it.”
They work with thillanas, rhythmic dance pieces, as well as jazz standards like ‘Summertime’, which, says Abhijit, “has been substantially reworked to balance Indian melody and Western, jazz-informed harmony. To lighten the mood and groove a little, we have a few Latin pieces through the set as well.” Harini and Abhijit have different approaches to music and performance – Abhijit has a more analytical take, analyzing pieces clinically, from a cerebral point of view, while to Harini, it’s about striving for the emotional core.
Red Earth and Pouring Rain’s bio on the website reads “ears open to the sounds of the world” and this performance will transfer exactly that essence, energy and vibrations to the audience....