In tune with South Indian music

20:11, Nov 26 2013
MUSICAL RAPPORT: Wellingtonian violinist Tristan Carter has been in Bangalore, discovering the world of South Indian classical music.

Forming personal relationships with musicians has been the key to understanding classical Indian music for a violinist from Wellington.

Violinist and composer Tristan Carter is completing a two-month residency programme in Bangalore, southern India, offered by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Bangalore, known as India's Silicon Valley, is a rapidly growing cosmopolitan city, ripe with opportunities for artists to step outside their comfort zones and work in new circumstances, he says.

Carter, 28, has attended various festivals and musical events in a bid to get a glimpse into the world of South Indian music, including the Rajasthan International Folk Festival held at the Red Fort in Jaipur.

"I take my portable recorder with me everywhere."

He is now familiar with popular classical music in India's southern states, including the nadhaswaram, a wind instrument thought to be the world's loudest non-brass acoustic instrument.


But crucial to gaining a real understanding is building a rapport with musicians he meets. "Everything comes down to personal relationships."

One nadhaswaram player, from a small village outside Bangalore called Bangarpet, welcomed Carter into his home after they had played together a few times.

"Eventually he invited me to his village, his mum and wife cooked the most amazing meal.

"It's these kind of experiences you don't just get without a bit of give and take."

Carter says he is interested in the auspiciousness that surrounds nadhaswaram players; they always play at weddings and festivals. "And also I really like the sound of it, it's just kind of nuts." He plans to compile a library of different sounds and experiences from India to inspire future compositions.

Language has been an obstacle for Carter, who can speak only about three words of Kannada, the local tongue. But the language barrier often has positive results, with musicians playing something different from what he requests but which was equally interesting, he says.

"I kind of like those happy misinterpretations."

He says the two-month residency has been merely a brief window into Indian music, but he plans to continue studying nadhaswaram and thavil playing when he returns to New Zealand.

"I've gained a deeper understanding of Indian music, its nuances and subtleties and some of the philosophy behind it, in terms of how notes are thought about."

He will give a small performance at the studio this week with three nadhaswaram players to conclude his residency.

The Dominion Post