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Mae goes the raga way

Vanessa Mae collaborates with A.R. Rahman for her dance fusion album


VIOLIN TECHNO acoustic fusion is how Vanessa Mae likes to describe her music. One of the few contemporary pop artistes who considers the pieces of Mozart and Beethoven as the sources of her deep inspiration, Mae fuses the sound of the Western classical violin with various genres of popular music such as funk and techno.

But one must not be too naοve and slot her as a crossover artiste creating World Music sounds, as her music does not underplay the classical notes of the violin, rather she tailors the other genres of music around the violin sounds, and creates powerful sounds without the vocals to support them.

Complex allure

In her new album, Choreography (Sony Music, CD, Rs. 399, Cassette, Rs. 135), Mae projects the rhythms and pulses of various dance cultures through the music of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, for which she is the violinist.

To depict the "complex allure" of Indian dance music, Mae has collaborated with A.R. Rahman (and his team of musicians such as Srinivas, Umashankar and Sriram) to compose a track called "Raga's Dance".

The elevating track begins with a light hum and base notes of the mridanga, before speeding up when the violin begins its job and what proceeds is an energising jugalbandi between the two distinct genres of music. What is amazing is the manner in which the violin merges with the raga.

Towards the end, all hell breaks loose when a musical mayhem between the Western orchestra and Carnatic rhythms reaches highest levels of tempo and energy before mellowing down and leaving the listener wanting to go back all over again and listen to the track.

Unlike the typical A.R. Rahman tunes, this one does not take too much time to grow on you. On her experience of working with Rahman, Mae says: "He is full of energy and on-the-go at all times. We built on the track very slowly but when we got there, both us were equally pleased with the way `Raga's Dance' turned out."

She adds: "Rahman had written some violin flourishes minutes before I entered the studio and this made the song more enjoyable. I loved working with him as he is a composer who puts the artist first and composes notes around them." Well, it sure shows in the track.

Magic of violin

Other tracks in the album include "Moroccan Roll", "Sabre Dance", "Roxanne's Veil" and more, each track depicting the ethnic dance music form of one region or cult.

Though some of these are rustic tribal forms, the magic of the violin sooths the tone and makes the songs highly hummable and breezy. Mae says: "Music for me must stimulate human reactions — it should express the feelings of beauty, strength and mystique." The album on the whole is highly relaxing and feel-good, an ideal one to play on your long Sunday morning drive or when you just want to lounge around.

A. VISHNU

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