By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, August 23 (IANS): On a long train journey, he was playing the guitar when a passenger wondered why a Western instrument and not an Indian one. The trip ended but the commentary refused to leave musician Kavish Seth.
Somehow it struck a chord with him, because he had been struggling with this question for a long time.
“I had taken the guitar when I entered university…Indian music was so inaccessible. How am I going to write songs with a sarod/sitar? How am I going to play chords with it? Do I have to submit to the guru -Shishya pedagogy which I did not relate to?These questions made me think of making an instrument that would have a timbre similar to Indian instruments on which I could also play chords from a guitar.Something like a combination of rabab and a guitar, and that’s how Noori was born,” recalls Seth.
Noori consists of 14 strings and is shaped like a guitar, but with a wooden frame covered in goatskin to produce a percussive sound like a Djembe.
This poet, singer and songwriter, who joined IIT Bombay, began to explore how and why Indian instruments sounded different as he began the journey of his “Zubaan” project.
He would collaborate and perform in unconventional villages, towns and places and began to be exposed to Indian classical music and musicians.
“I sat down with Hindustani classical musicians, asked questions of gurus and referred to different pieces of literature to understand and study the nuances of Hindustani classical music. Knowing the difference between these two schools of music cemented my desire to make an instrument that could bridge the gap between them.”
Smiling that he would never have thought to become a musician, considering his qualification, he recalls that after the IIT exam, when he went with his friend to his guitar lesson, just to try the instrument, what he encountered was something profound.
“We were taught how the world works – the law of gravity, thermodynamics, etc., but there was no room for what we feel and think…I decided to carry on. I was very exhausted from competition and wanted to connect with Music became a means of expression – to connect with people, not to compete. I just started to dig deeper into music. There was an urge to do professionally. I got my hands on something far more valuable than IIT, the connection to myself, and I couldn’t let that go.”
Someone who also worked as a manager for her mother Kavita Seth, a playback singer, it didn’t really take long for her to become disillusioned with the film industry.
“The music industry is so dependent on the film industry. There was little creation and more manufacturing. Survival in Mumbai leaves very little room for an artist to be created. need songs more as marketing tools and not really as a beautiful piece of musical work.”
Seth, who is part of IFBE’s ‘Independence Project’, a new space for art, design and architecture that recently opened in Mumbai (formerly an ice factory), believes it is very important to to have spaces where people can express themselves in cities, not just consume art.
“IFBE is a beautiful space that promises to provide space for expression. Mumbai lacks spaces where people can meet, share lives and live lives collectively. It is a city that is always on the streets or curled up in her hostel-like house. I like to say, ‘Shehar ko shehar se milne ke liye shehar mein jagah nahi hai’.”