ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 47

An innovative journey that proves great music endures

Reflections on Pradeepanjalee XI by Chamali Kariyawasam

At the start of the show my father fondly reminisced about the 10-year-old Pradeep Ratnayake in concert at the National Museum Lecture Hall over three decades ago. The audience gathered there had been won over even then by his virtuosity. After the lapse of 33 years, the same sitarist now proves that “there is no abiding success without commitment”. Having attended several of his performances, I surmise that great music indeed endures as do dedicated musicians. Pradeepanjalee, his brainchild initiated upon Pradeep’s return from Santiniketan in 1996, shows promise of enduring.

Pradeepanjalee XI opens with a familiar invocation, simple and traditional on sitar accompanied by pakawaj. I reflect upon the contradiction of Pradeep’s music later, for now content in the serenity he displays. The contradiction begins where Pradeep remains, at centre-stage; Had you not heard him play before, his gentle and beguiling demeanour would never betray the intricate complexity of the music created by him.

Pradeep presenting his CD to US Ambassador Robert Blake

Yes, Ravi Shankar is now a household name on a global level; We all know of the fusion genre of music; We agree that there is no fusion or world fusion without a flicker of India. Despite the obvious and central Indian component Pradeep on stage becomes not only an exponent of Indian music but also draws from a definite Sri Lankan heritage that cannot be overlooked. Kuveni based on the historic tragedy is his second piece, supported by violin, tabla, bass guitar and Kandyan drum.

Undoubtedly a favourite with the crowd and I believe Pradeep’s too, Kuveni is richly melodic, fiery, passionate-appealing to all the senses. The Kandyan drums create a strong framework here. The Sri Lankan accentuations contrasting well with the violin themes, give the piece an interesting multi-dimensional feel.

This is followed by Flight based on a traditional melody (Ukusa Vannama) which interleaves the sitar with bass guitar, Kandyan drum, tammattama and tabla. I reflect on the synchronized enunciation of the percussion instruments here. The drums are evocative and earthy, compelling movement. In unison with the daring bass guitar, the drumming in this composition allows the audience to take flight. Thoughts and appreciations become airborne much like the melody.

After the intermission, having mingled a little with the creative battalion of Colombo, I find my dancer’s soul fulfilled in many ways. An interesting pot-pourri of items follow, which includes a short Bharata Natyam item by Ahalya Satkunaratnam danced to Pradeep’s music skilfully, complete with lucidly expressed Bhava.

I have a soft spot certainly for the piece Romance, played soulfully by three Fulbright scholars fusing the recorder (Katherine Hoffman), guitar (Phillip Friedrich) and piano (Kamalinie Samarakoon). Simple and fresh, the recorder and guitar established a dreamlike atmosphere, fluid against the piano.

I am excited by the fact that I have seen the two greats Harsha Makalanda and Lakshman Joseph de Saram; I have not yet ceased to be amazed as to how Ravibandu Vidyapathi, Karunaratne Bandara , Wijeratne Ranatunga and Chandralal Amarakoon so skilfully add relish to the mix.

Just when I clap at the end of the Tribute to Ravi Shankar on sitar, violin and tabla played by Pradeep, Lakshman Joseph de Saram and Wijeratne Ranatunga, convinced it cannot be bettered, comes delightful Wine Coloured Moon. In the past, somehow the acoustics seemed to do no justice to Alston Joachim’s beautiful bass guitar and there seemed to be in my memory on a few occasions, some dissonance.

This instance however, A Wine Coloured Moon was poignant, sweet, jazzy and romantic all at once. Shiraz Noor Amith added a supporting element on Western drums. Pradeep’s creations are undoubtedly intellectually interesting – generating reflective imagery whilst conveying a stylish and innovative approach to the fusion style.

At Pradeepanjalee XI held on March 27, the sitarist’s official website was launched. You can catch the maestro on , or get your own of Visva, his new album containing music from his concerts at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Washington D.C. and Asia Society, New York in 2005, available at leading CD stores. Altogether a perfect evening ended there and I was a tad sorry to see it go. Nevertheless, knowing Pradeep, I await more such perfect evenings.

What bliss to know that great music endures!

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.