Q&A with zerOclassikal's Mithila Sarma

Q&A with zerOclassikal's Mithila Sarma

12 February 2018

We spoke to Mithila Sarma, Artistic Director of zerOclassikal, about the essence of Carnatic music and the concert coming up on Saturday 17th February.


Let’s start from the basics. What is raga, really?

A raga is like a scale, but with its own characteristics and personality, set within a specific melodic framework. Each raga has recognisable phrases and emphasis on specific notes, which sets it apart from other ragas.


What will Aravindhan and the ensemble will be performing?

As a performer, Aravindhan is fascinated by the way ragas can invoke particular feelings and how they can be used to create tell a story. Beginning with the Hamsadhwani raga, the musicians and the audience will explore various ragas.

Even when they follow the same notes, ragas can be used to create different moods or convey different emotions; this is where you really see the composer’s or the musicians’ skill.


You’re a musician yourself. What make Carnatic music exciting?

The nature of Carnatic music, like jazz in some ways, means that each artist can create a whole new atmosphere, so no two performances of a piece are the same. In a typical performance you can expect to hear a variety of ragas, talas and exciting percussions that are unique to the artform. Improvisations often range from slow and calling to fast and exhilarating! You really never know what’s coming until you sit in the audience or on stage.


Tell us about Aravindhan

Aravindhan is a British-born Carnatic flautist (as well as being a doctor!). Having trained in the UK and in India, he is known for his up-tempo and energetic playing. He’s someone who commands the stage with ease and engages every audience, so certainly not one to miss! His talent has led to performances all across the globe and he really embodies the best of British Carnatic talent. Even those who haven’t heard Carnatic music before will be blown away by his skill and technique.


Who are the other musicians and what are they playing?

Aditya Mohan is one of the youngest violinists in this new generation of UK-trained Carnatic musicians. I’ve heard he’s one to look out for so I’m looking forward to hearing him play!

Janakan Sri Rangan will be accompanying on the miruthangam. He has an innate consciousness of the music and responds to the main artist almost immediately.

Pujenthan Sivagurunathan is an established Kanjira player who captures the audience with his understanding and technique.

Saiganesh Ketheeswaram is a morsing player, though he is multi-talented! He completes the ensemble, presenting the unique sounds of the morsing – an important feature of a traditional Carnatic concert.


And lastly, for those who don’t know, what is zerOclassikal?

ZerOclassikal is a project promoting British artists and giving them a platform to try out new ideas, concepts and to generally push the boundaries of South Asian classical music. We want to create an industry for British artists to explore their complex identities and create opportunities for performances across the country.


Aravindhan Baheerathan's concert with zerOclassikal is this weekend, 17th February at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 / £7.50 ~ Book here! ~


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