'I am fascinated with India'

'I am fascinated with India'

Kim Menzer, a flute, saxophone and ‘nadaswaram’ player from Denmark, has lost count of the number of times he has visited India; not as a tourist but as a performer. The 78-year-old musician and composer is best known for his
association with the Danish rock band ‘Burnin Red Ivanhoe’.

He plays a number of wind instruments like flute, alto, soprano saxophone, trombone and even a ‘Didgeridoo’. Kim, well-versed with Indian music, came for a workshop at Subramaniam Academy of Performing Arts in the city and took time off to chat with Nina C George about how he developed an interest in Indian classical music and his long association with it.     

How did you develop a liking for Indian classical music?  
Once when I was walking through the streets of Copenhagen, I spotted a ‘long playing’ record at one of the shops. My curiosity got the better of me and I instantly bought it. It turned out to be a record of Ravi Shankar’s songs. It was rhythmic and melodious and nothing like what I had ever heard before. Thus began my fascination for Indian classical music.  

Your association with Dr L Subramaniam... I happened to meet Dr L Subramaniam at a concert in Denmark and he invited me to India; an invitation which I readily accepted. While I was here, I attended one of his concerts in Chennai, where he played along with a host of other esteemed Carnatic performers. This further deepened my ties with India. In Paris, I was also fortunate to work  as a musician and composer with English director Peter Brook  in the world-famous play
‘The Mahabharata’ .

Tell us about your experience of working on ‘The Mahabharata’?  
I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of being a part of such a great play. Peter had collected the finest actors and musicians from across the world and so it was no wonder that the play was a huge success and won the hearts of many. It was a cultural potpourri of sorts.   

How did you get drawn to learning the flute?
While saxophone is my main instrument, I was also drawn to the flute because the sound of it takes my mind to a higher realm. In India, you also find the idol of Lord Krishna always holding a flute. I also learnt how to play a bamboo flute and dabbled with some Carnatic notes on it. Though when I am in Denmark, I play Western notes.

Your thoughts on young Carnatic musicians in India...
The young generation of musicians here are extremely talented and dedicated to their craft. I really like the way they seat themselves during performances.
They sit straight and always wear a smile on their faces. You also feel a sense of
involvement in all their renditions.  

What do you feel about India?
I would like to come here as often as I can. I am fascinated with India, its culture and the way of life here and I have begun reading more about the country.
I have studied Indian philosophy and converted to Buddism in the 70s. Frequent
performances and collaborations keep bringing me to this place. The last concert I did here was to raise funds for a group of underprivileged children. It was a delight to see the happiness and excitement on their faces. Small things like this give me joy.

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