Pushing boundaries in her performance | Sunday Observer

Pushing boundaries in her performance


It is not often that we in Sri Lanka get the opportunity to enjoy the artistry of vocalists and singers away from the classical mode of Indian or Hindustani music. Recently we had the pleasure of listening to Isheeta Chakravarthy and her trio who were specially flown down to perform by the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust at the 76th birth anniversary of Dr.Neelan. That her repetoire was wide there was no doubt and her style in singing reflected that she has developed her gifted talents to a level that calls for easy appreciation. With her trio Raghuram Subramaniam-guitar and Niranjan Joshi – piano she more than proved that in her outstanding artistry she pushed many boundaries.

According to the blurbs you have performed at many concerts and festivals. What are your influences? Do they range from Hindustani classical music to pop and the relevant genres?

“Since I have trained (and continue to do so) in Hindustani classical music since I was a child, traditional classical music has been a huge influence for sure. But I consider myself to be somewhat like a sponge. I find inspiration and influence in any kind of music. Jazz is definitely one of the most important ones but apart from that there is pop music, electronic music, rock n roll, even cinematic scores and a lot of folk music as well. Besides, influence for me also comes from the people I meet and the life we all lead and things we experience.”

Listening to you the other day at the 80 Club your voice control is amazing in the pitch and tone and obviously you’ve had a formal training or have you inherited it from your family? Can you elaborate?

“Thank you so much for your appreciation. My training in Hindustani classical music has had a huge role to play in building a solid control on my voice and pitch. I would say that I am thankful for the genes I have, to have a specific tonal quality that has brought me a lot of love. It is a blessing. When it comes to pitching correctly and building voice textures, I am extremely blessed to have teachers and mentors who have taught me the skills to achieve that and from whom I have learnt simply by observing. My teachers have always emphasized on the idea of sur lagana/ sur meingaana which translated means singing in correct pitch.”

Do you enjoy singing classical music and do you teach and impart your knowledge to others?

“I do enjoy singing classical music. I have trained for many years to be a pure classical singer. Yes I do teach classical music to whoever wishes to learn. A base in classical traditional music goes a long way in honing one’s skills not just as a singer but as an overall musician.”

In the course of your performance do you compose or improvise on the run, since Hindustani music and jazz have a lot of similarities?

“Yes, almost always. That is the beauty of the kind of music we do. Both classical music from India as well as Jazz are both improvisational in nature. I think part of the excitement we feel is in improvising on the go while on stage. We do have a basic structure in place but in a lot of other places we do take the liberty to go to places that instinct allows us to. So from that perspective, every show is different, even if the songs are the same.”

Fusion and folk music where do they begin and end for you?

“I am more drawn towards the fusion of musical ideas and sonic concepts so I don’t think I can particularly choose between folk and fusion quantitatively. At the end of the day, the overall music and what it needs takes centre stage.”

The artistry of Ustad Zakir Hussain and pianist Louis Banks we here in Sri Lanka are familiar with their music, were you fortunate enough to have an opportunity to perform with them. A review once stated that you had performed ‘Whisper Not’ with Louis Banks a song that Ella made immortal. Give us some details?

“Louiz Banks has been a mentor figure to me and I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity of performing with him on stage. The arrangement of Benny Golson’s ‘Whisper Not’ that you heard has been written by Mr. Banks himself and it was an extremely challenging piece to learn.

At the same time it was thrilling too. Being on stage with a maestro like that is an exciting and humbling experience. I am constantly learning on the job and he pushes you to explore your potential more than you already do. I learn so much and I love the challenges.

As far as UstadZakir Hussain is concerned, I must clarify something here. I have not yet had the opportunity to sing with Zakirji. I have had the chance to open for him and perform on the same stage as him on International Jazz Day 2019 in Mumbai at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA). Hopefully someday if I am good enough and blessed enough it would be a dream come true to sing with him.

Zakirji is God to musicians like us. Just being in the same space is a humbling experience.I believe I have been supremely fortunate to have been able to at least associate myself with maestros and legends like Zakirji and Mr. Banks. These are what I consider to be absolute gifts from the Universe.”It has been interesting communicating with you and enjoying your apt replies. Here’s wishing you the best in your career and we hope we Sri Lankans will have another opportunities to hear you on stage.