Blue Planet is a four-month-long online musical hosted by Mumbai-based First Edition Arts which kicked off on December 17, 2021 and will run until March 27, 2022.
An aerial view of the deep dark green forests with the sound of Veena in the background, followed by visuals of the film crew and musicians dressed in fancy dress, walking and wading through the streams in the forests of Mollem in Goa.
It can’t be believed but it’s all part of a musical concert by singer Dhrupad Uday Bhawalkar, where he performs’Raag Miyan Ki Todi,’ seated on a pebble floor with his musicians in the middle of a riparian forest.
This is one of 21 concerts of Carnatic and Indian classical music as part of the digital music event “Blue Planet”, which takes place in natural environments such as forests, tidal pools, groves sacred areas, mangroves, river banks and biodiversity-threatened areas of India.
Among the musicians are TM Krishna, Abhishek Raghuram, P Unnikrishnan, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Ramakrishnan Murthy, Malladi Brothers and Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee. It also includes a jugalbandi between Ramana Balachandran on Veena and Abhishek Borkar on Sarod, and two specially commissioned original collaborations of Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam between Vignesh Ishwar and Christopher Gurusamy, and Rithvik Raja and Shweta Prachande respectively.
This four-month-long online musical is organized by Mumbai-based First Edition Arts which kicked off on December 17, 2021 and will run until March 27, 2022. Some of these performances are now streaming online on Shaale.com in the whole world.
It’s an unusual musical concert because there’s no stage, no audience, and it’s completely open and exposed to the elements. However, that’s what Devina Dutt, co-founder of First Edition Arts, imagined about a year ago when she heard about Goa’s Save Mollem campaign.
This is a community campaign where people from different sections of society have come together to save the forests of Mollem (it is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots) from the three linear projects.
“The Amche Mollem (Save Mollem) campaign, which is a spontaneous grassroots movement, relied on the power of images, and used the visual arts alongside science and legal arguments. To me, it seemed like the spark of a great idea,” says Devina Dutt, who aspired to bring two worlds together – music and ecology, and engage in preliminary conversations with artists and bands to highlight issues. related to climate change, sustainability practices, and climate and social justice.
She further explains that her conversation with Warren Senders, who is a Hindustani and jazz musician, gave her the confidence to move forward, when he said, “Don’t force yourself to make a connection. Just know that the connection is already there.
Dutt then approached many environmentalists, climate change workers and wildlife experts to finalize the location and make this whole project possible.
Wildlife biologist Nandini Velho, who was involved in the planning phase, says:
“It is from such concerts and initiatives that shared stories emerge. It also teaches us that collaborations serve different purposes and are valued from different perspectives.
The videos feature Mollem Forests in Goa, Uksan Village in Kamshet, Maharashtra, Urur Olcott Kuppam Fishing Village in Tamil Nadu, Ennore, Pulicat, Gurukula Shrine in Wayanad, Kerala, Community Reforestation Project in Purulia and the Sunderbans mangroves in West Bengal, to name a few.
The most difficult place was the village of Angangba, in Tuensang in Nagaland. It took them two days to reach Nagaland, and the journey was further complicated by bad roads. “I was immediately attracted by the remoteness of the place. We took 18 people from different parts of the country and spent two days traveling. As I didn’t want to tire our artists, we spent about four days there. We just didn’t play there, but got to know the place, followed the community and learned about the work of the NGO Better Life Foundation, which works in areas such as sustainable farming practices and conservation issues with local communities,” says Dutt.
In this venue, renowned artists like Carnatic singer TM Krishna and Carnatic musician Aishwarya Vidhya Raghunath have performed. She, while recounting her experience, explains that there were challenges in many ways – whether it was sitting and playing on a bamboo mat on the gravelly ground, playing outdoors without monitors for commentary, weather and the public because the locals had no idea. about this form of music, but were extremely curious about it.
“However, the performance was greatly improved by these important factors. First of all, playing with the wonderfully experienced musicians Brindha Manickavasakan, Vittal Rangan, Praveen Sparsh and Chandrasekara Sharma meant there was great musical and personal synergy throughout the concert. The location provided us with an inspiring backdrop to bring forward this important message of nature conservation in the remote but important part of eastern India. Additionally, the warmth and love of the people of Nagaland and the hospitality of the Better Life Foundation family motivated each of us to take responsibility for the cause of environmentalism. All in all, what I remember the most is that music, like all human endeavours, has the power to move people.
For sarod player, Abhishek Borkar, who performed at The Valley School, KFI, Bangalore, the whole experience made him discover ecology more deeply. “I think the main challenge with a performance like this is that it’s not just a performance anymore, it’s not an act anymore. You’re thrown into the middle of nature, our natural ecosystem. It’s not It won’t fit you. You have to acclimatize to it, respect it, iron out all preconceived notions, let go of ego in a way.
Along with these performance challenges, the artists had to deal with other obstacles. They experienced off-season rains in Goa while filming a performance of Ramakrishnan Murthy in the North Goa tidal pools at Anjuna; cloud burst in Chennai, and now, the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Dutt is optimistic as they have completed filming for 13 out of 21 performances. The next set of performances will begin in February.
We can say that these ecologically sensitive places can be reduced to pretty decorations, and that there is perhaps no commitment in itself. Dutt, who is well aware of this, argues that it depends on the artists. “It depends on the musician because we didn’t want to force it or give the impression that it was artificial. It is also the first time for them. It’s not their usual four to five hour gig. They spend at least two days there. It is therefore a slow and meticulous undertaking. We try to make a point (about conservation) in a soft way.
This event also includes a Bharatnatyam dance performance by Christopher Gurusamy in collaboration with Vignesh Ishwar filmed at BASE, a center for yoga, arts and nature on the edge of the reserve’s forest in Kodaikanal.
Gurusamy, who trained specifically for this project, says, “The natural setting had a huge impact on the presentation of the choreography. I did ‘jathis‘ on top of the rocks, did ‘abhinaya’ while walking through the streams. Being on the outside, I think, really added something to the way we all played, which I hope translates to the screen.
Along with these performances, Blue Planet has also shed light on environmental issues like industrial pollution in a place like Ennore, near Chennai. “Here we got involved with children who are part of the Chennai Climate Action Group. They talk about the effects of pollution on their lives and on the neighborhood,” says Dutt.
They also collaborated with the 22 visual artists who are part of the Save Mollem campaign. They made 21 different posters based on 21 locations. These posters, in a very creative way, speak and highlight the ecology of this place.
Goa-based artist Nishant Saldanha, who is associated with Save Mollem, and who is also leading this art poster project, says, “This whole collaboration is interesting because the musicians were new to environmental issues. , and we were new to the world of Carnatic and Hindustani classical music. I think in this process of discovering both sides, this work emerged. I think it’s the energy that keeps it going.
He hopes these works will help raise awareness of ecological issues across India, and not just where these performances are filmed.
These posters, which come out five times a month, will be auctioned online. They are also planning to have a traveling exhibition of these posters in different parts of the country in the coming times.
One of the strengths of this project is to draw analogies between the natural world and the arts ecosystem. It seeks to suggest that both ecosystems should be cared for, understood and respected. By hurting them, we only hurt ourselves.
Dutt explains, “The arts are marginalized in contemporary India as an artistic statement and as an art form, especially classical art. The market economy transforms all forms of art into spectacle. Every art form must be nurtured by audiences, producers, patrons, writers and the artists themselves. Just as we take care of our rivers and forests, we must take care of our various art forms.
(Tickets for these performances are available online at Shaale.com. Once access is purchased, films can be viewed multiple times through May 31, 2022.)