Band Layatharanga completes 20 years

The Bengaluru percussion group has performed and toured extensively

Layatharanga mixes world fusion with Carnatic music.

One of the most prominent contemporary classical ensembles, Bengaluru-based ‘Layatharanga’ marks 20 years of its existence this year. They are celebrating it with a special concert at  Chowdiah Memorial Hall today.

Known for their rich melodies and complex structures, the group mixes Carnatic and other instruments and world music arrangements to ceate a sound that is uniquely theirs. The core members of the band right now are Jayachandra Rao (mridangam), Ravichandra Kulur (flute), Giridhar Udupa (ghatam), Arun Kumar (drums) and Pramath Kiran (afro percussion and tabla).

Rajitha Menon spoke to Pramath Kiran to get a quick glimpse of their journey so far.

It’s been 20 years...

We have seen ups and downs but the main reason behind the band existing for so long is the friendship and the brotherly feeling between the members.

How would you describe your journey so far?

It’s been wonderful. Layatharanga was a creative platform that allowed all its members to experiment and expand their musical horizons. Classical, world, jazz, fusion, Afro-Latin jazz — this was the space for us to explore all these.

How was the band formed?

In 1997, schoolmates and childhood buddies Giridhar Udupa and Arun Kumar got an idea to start an instrumental band. I and Vishnu Swarup, who is now residing in London, joined them. Our aim was to create a band with a percussion background and a Carnatic face.
But then we ventured into world music with the introduction of two more people into the band — Ravichandra Kulur and Jayachandra Rao.

We blended elements of drums with a touch of jazz and Afro percussion into our traditional Carnatic and Hindustani backgrounds. So the sound of the band can be described as an amalgamation of these varied sounds into our language called Layatharanga.

A special memory for the band...

A particular one is still fresh in my memory. This happened when we were performing at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysia some time back. It started raining heavily by the time we finished our soundcheck and we thought the audience would leave.  But once we started playing, the audience was enthralled and stood in the heavy rain to listen to us. The space was jam-packed for the entire duration of two hours that we played there. It is a cherished memory of mine as it showed how music can touch people. 

Thoughts about Bengaluru’s musical scene?

The Indian music industry is doing great right now and Bengaluru has become the hub for creative music. Places like Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai are mostly oriented towards core classical music or pop and Bollywood music. Bengaluru is the only place where experimentation is happening because we have the right kind of people and the right kind of attitude. We have a good audience and good connoisseurs here. 

Do you think that the audience for Carnatic music has changed?

Not at all. I would say it has become better now. Two decades back, the audience for this type of music was mostly 40+ as it was considered too intellectual and elitist (though it is not). But now, youngsters have caught up with classical music. We have many young people wanting to learn this music; in fact, it has become an ‘in-thing’ among the newer generations to be a classical artiste.

Future projects

We are working on a collaboration with different artistes from India and abroad. We will be coming up with a new production by end of next year or so. 

 

Band became a brand
“We pioneered this genre of music way back in 1997 in Bengaluru. After several years, many other youngsters started bands playing similar kind of music. Even though they all had different names for the kind of music they played, people would walk up to them and ask, ‘Are you performing Layatharanga?’. In that way, the band name itself became a term to describe world or fusion music,” says Pramath.

 

Notable achievements
*Layatharanga has already had five international album releases — Punarnava, Pranava, Thandava, Smriti, and Anandam — which have become chart-toppers in the world music category.
*Individually, the members have performed with greats like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain, A R Rahman, Shankar Mahadevan, Hariharan, SP Balasubramaniam, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ganesh and Kumaresh, Mysore Manjunath and Mysore Nagaraj, KJ Yesudas, Ilaiyaraaja, Shankar Mahadevan, Louis Banks, Jethro Tull, Larry Coryell, Hubert Laws and many more.
*The band members have also toured more than 50 countries and the group has made a name for itself on the international music festival circuit in Europe, Australia, North America and SE Asia.

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Band Layatharanga completes 20 years

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