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27 February 2017 | Last updated 03:10 PM
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Striking the right chord
Two musicians —Sankarshan Kini and Frenchman Mishko M’ba — perform in a concert called Stringly Yours this Friday. They talk about their diverse influences and expressions.
When I’m not playing music, I’m in the kitchen. I love my food,” say Sankarshan Kini. Popularly known as Shanks, the guitar player, music producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist from Bengaluru, is all set to perform in the city this Friday.
Shanks was initially trained in the tabla and the Carnatic violin and went on to learn to play the guitar, the harmonica, the trumpet and the mandolin as well.
He has composed for theatre, feature and documentary films, produced music with independent singers, released an experimental tribal album called Enchantation and performed with several contemporary pop and independent rock acts in Bengaluru and Mumbai.
Shanks will be performing alongside French artist Mishko M’ba. We chat him on music and more...
New crop of indie artists
For some time now, I am not connected with independent music, so I cannot really comment on it or the musicians. The little that I have seen and heard has caught my interest. But a lot of indie musicians use technology to sell it and I do not really appreciate that.
Switch from Indian to Western music
I sometimes intentionally bring in Indian music into what I play. Sometimes it may creep in unconsciously. My compositions are mostly influenced by jazz that I listen to. I don’t frequently use Indian sounds, though I do enjoy dabbling in them at times.
The switch from Indian to Western styles has been challenging, often awkward and yet enjoyable. Indian and Western forms of music employ very different mechanisms to achieve similar results. In my opinion it takes great sensitivity and an understanding of both forms to orchestrate a graceful meeting. I have had some experience in marrying the styles but a child is yet to be conceived.
Ditching job to follow passion
I dropped out of an engineering school. I never held a conventional job. I worked with Rave music magazine for two and half years in Bengaluru many years ago. I was thrown into the thick of a start-up driven by some passionate and brilliant people. I interviewed musicians at the top of their game and got thoroughly inspired to start living to play music.
I’m not alone when I say I can be more easily motivated and driven than be inspired. The biggest challenge for me while leaving a secure job to pursue my art was, and still is, discipline. Other struggles arising from leaving a job, like finding work, recognition, maintaining equipment etc. don’t compare to having to deal with me standing in my way, time and again.
Inspiration behind lyrics and music, and its USP.
My original music is still in its infancy. Like most people, I can tolerate and even enjoy the sensation that arises from my emissions. Most contemporaries I have met (and me too) think from time to time that they’re Mozart. Having said that, if I were to really think of how my music is different, I’d have to say that all of it sounds unique to me.
But when I share ownership with another musician and play it for sometime, it ceases to belong to anybody. I find much of this happening with Stringly Yours and it’s liberating. I haven’t thought much about what separates me from my contemporaries when it comes to lyrics. My lyrics are seldom abstract. I’m pretty sure that they talk to me. I don’t let a word in, if it doesn’t talk to me.
Impact of Indian culture, people, folk music, location
I am drawn to tribal culture. We still have so many autonomous tribes living on this planet. I find an immeasurable depth in their sounds and ways. I find our classical traditions tainted by the male ego, and though they are vast and laden with wealth, I am more drawn to what the tribal people have. I don’t know if it influences the way I play but I know that I am drawn to the wisdom and way of life of the tribal people of North East India.
Their music may sound simple and repetitive, but their sounds come from thousands of years of sophistication that we are blind to. Auroville can be a sanctuary for personal growth. I am naturally more creative when I am happy and I am happier when there is peace, quietness and nature around, which Auroville offers a lot of.
Association with Wancho tribe of Arunachal Pradesh
I released an album called Enchantation in 2014 after recording tribal singers in Arunachal Pradesh. I am keen to find more tribal music and work with it. The Wancho tribe’s singing is harmonically the richest of the nine tribes I recorded in southern Arunachal. Their harmonies are unconventional, unpredictable, raw and heady. They come from a head-hunting clan which augments the mystique behind their sound.
I know little about that genre or world and I am happy to keep it that way.
SoundCloud and YouTube
I can speak for myself when I say that YouTube is immensely helpful to pretty much every known vocation today. Music is just one of them. I haven’t explored Soundcloud very much.
ST Reader Service
Stringly Yours, a new project of stringed instrument music will be performed at Mazda Hall, Dastur Primary School, Camp on January 13, at 7 pm. Entry is free.
The author can be followed on Twitter @amu_prasad
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