I am looking forward to play in Dubai: Kala Ramnath
Kala Ramnath on her upcoming Queens of Melody fusion concert in Dubai this Saturday
Kala Ramnath is one of India's finest violin players and is famed for her mysterious 'singing violin' melodies. She was trained by her grandfather Vidwan Narayan Iyer, but her talent was nurtured by classical vocal maestro, Pandit Jasraj. She contributed to the Grammy-nominated album Miles from India, and her composition also appeared on the Grammy -winning album In 27 Pieces. The British magazine Songlines classified her as one of the 50 best instrumentalists in the world while Jazzwize magazine honoured her by saying, 'If Mozart had been transported to the South Asian subcontinent, this is what he and improvised Western classical music might have sounded like'. She has played in the soundtrack of the Hollywood flick Blood Diamond. We speak to Kala to know more about her music.
What does it take to be listed among the world's best violinists?
Lots of hard work, discipline, thinking out-of-the-box, being unique in your craft, and of course, blessings from the Almighty!
Why did you choose the violin as you main instrument?
I come from a family of musicians in South India who were court musicians in the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore. I am in the 7th generation of musicians from my family. So rather than I select an instrument, the instrument selected me, it was handed to me when I was about two years old. So by the time I was 7, I loved the instrument and the music I was playing.
What are some of your musical influences?
For violin, my main influence was my aunt Dr. N. Rajam. But musically, I loved the music of Pandit Jasraj ji under whom I trained and also the late classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar. I also look up to Ustad Zakir Hussain as a mentor in my life.
What was your contribution towards the Grammy-winning album, In 27 Pieces?
I was asked by American classical violinist Hilary Hahn to write a piece for her album -In 27 Pieces. I wrote Raag Charukeshi and that album won the Grammy.
Your style has been described as 'vocal music'. Can you explain what that term means?
In Hindustani music, we have Gayaki (a vocal style) and Gatkari (an Instrumental style). Most instruments play Gatkari as they do not deal with words, or for that matter, sustaining a note technically for a long time which the human voice is capabale of doing. I play the violin which is considered the closest to the human voice, and play the Gayaki style which reproduces vocal music. I do not have a problem with sustaining notes because the violin is a bowed instrument, it does have frets and therefore I can reproduce microtones like the human voice.
The violin is generally seen as a classical instrument, how does it fit into fusion music?
The violin is a multi-faceted instrument. It can do anything a voice can, and everything else any other instrument can. I consider it a complete instrument. Hence, what better than to have the violin as the main instrument in fusion music?
What's next for you?
I have some great concerts coming up. Dubai is one of them. I am looking forward to play for the Dubai audiences. Then I go back to India before heading off to Sri Lanka which will be followed by a US tour.