Posted on January 24, 2017 at 5:57 pm

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Music Review: Navatman Music Collective's "An Untimely Joy"!

Navatman Music Collective members, one of the only Carnatic (South Indian) choirs in the world, created an album that commemorates their musical journey together.

The album, entitled An Untimely Joy, features a wide variety of tracks rendering the traditional multi-facets of Indian classical music. It explores techniques not usually found in traditional compositions with each track demonstrating an innovative production process, such as the utilization of rare instrumentalists. Considering their unique acapella style and usage of new arrangements, An Untimely Joy aims at a more relatable approach to music palates worldwide.

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Except a few, the songs are performed by the entire collective of nine singers, including Roopa Mahadevan, Kamini Dandapani, Shiv Subramaniam, Janani Kannan, Vignesh Ravichandran, Shraddha Balasubramaniam, Preetha Raghu, Kalpana Gopalakrishnan and Bhargavi Kamakshivalli. Several tracks also feature Indian musicians Anjna Swaminathan on Carnatic violin, Rajna Swaminathan on mrudangam and kanjira, and Jay Gandhi on flute.

The album begins with the meditative and soothing Govindashtakam, in which Adi Shankara’s¬†Sanskrit verses are enhanced by minimalistic orchestration set to a lovely selection of ragas that flow well together.

The next track, Offering in Raga Gavati, is characterized by intricate rhythmic variations and melodic layering of harmonies. As a dancer, I find this song intriguing and full of potential for choreography!

Sweet Infatuation and Summer Love are two tracks based on Subramania Bharathi’s poem Suttum Vizhi, with the former being AR Rahman’s version from Kandukondain Kandukondain and the latter a more lively and upbeat Carnatic rendition tuned by TM Krishna. Sweet Infatuation is slow and melodious, with each singer from the choir alternating to sing different verses of the poem. Summer Love resembles a traditional Carnatic song set to several ragas with swaras interspersed between stanzas.

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A Blue Note is an Oriya bhajan that fuses Indian and Western elements of orchestration in collaboration with Western musicians Amali Premawardhana on cello and Trina Basu Ramamurthy on Western violin. The layering of these instruments with Carnatic violin adds extra dimension to the lamenting mood of this track. The album concludes with Urban Gamaka, a piece fusing konakkol, beatboxing, and traditional Carnatic vocals. Soloists Roopa Mahadevan and Shiv Subramaniam shine with their unique neraval variations to a thillana composition.

Navatman Music Collective (NMC), a branch of Navatman, Inc. and winner of the IndianRaga M.S. Tribute, was conceived by Sahasra Sambamoorthi, and is artistically headlined by Roopa Mahadevan. Their aim is to bring out the depth and beauty of Carnatic music by imbuing it with soul and energy that borrows from the members’ contemporary and diverse influences. The music collective also enjoys collaborating with talented instrumentalists in the New York City area who support and inspire them. With performances in Central Park, art galleries, Harlem bars, 200-seater theaters and temples, their mission is to expose the joys of Carnatic music to the masses.

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At Urban Asian, we recently had the opportunity to interview artistic director Roopa Mahadevan about NMC and this album. Check it out here!