Chandana Bala Kalyan: Scaling more heights in Carnatic music genre and looking beyond

Experimentation is a way of life for Carnatic vocalist Chandana Bala Kalyan

Chandana Bala Kalyan: Always challenging her limits in the realms of music.

Brought up in Bangalore, born in a Telugu family filled with music, her father is Dr. Nataraja Murthy, a violinist, trained in Carnatic genre of Classical Music and her mother is Damayanthi, although, not a professional singer in those strictest terms, nevertheless, she sings quite passionately. Whatever, her mother sings, she sings with lot of enthusiasm and verve.

Damayanthi and Dr Nataraja Murthy, Chandana’s parents.

There will be lot of soul in all her renditions. “I think, most of the soulful aspects of my rendition, is what I had inspired from her singing”, says Chandana Bala Kalyan, the Carnatic vocalist in a non-nonchalant way.

“When there is none more superior than thou” Music has been my escape and my purpose. Music has given me my identity and my existence. To music I owe my all. Here is an attempt to keep different Tala cycles parallelly. In the left hand is Thrishra Eka, Chaturashra Eka, khanda Eka and Mishra Eka (The value of each beat is four). In the right the subcounts change with every Tala. Trishra Eka is in Trishra nade, Chaturashra Eka in Chaturashra nade, Khanda Eka in Khanda nade and Mishra Eka in Mishra Nade” I dedicate this to my revered guru HS Sudhindra on his 50th birthday For teaching me by example that what you fear most you should do first”, she
says.

First Guru

Her father was her first Guru and he started teaching her quite informally. Chandana says, “I think, I had the natural talent in singing, in the sense what they call Swara Njynam or in-built sense of Swaras. So, if somebody sang something or I heard something, I was rather comfortable with singing it exactly the way it was or at least close to the way it was without going off track or Apasruthi.

So, my father noticed that I had the ability to identify notes to be able to catch a tune. And rightly so, he started teaching very informally and I started singing informally too till the age of eight. When I turned eight, my father initiated me to formal training, that is when I started learning the Varnams, the Geethams in a more systematic way, as in to read the notation and learn to read the notation and all those things started only at the age of eight”, Chandana said about her
initiation into the realms of Carnatic music.

Rigmaroles

Chandana started performing at a young age. Speaking about the practice rigmaroles, she had to undergo, Chandana says,”I think as a eleven year old or twelve, I started performing. The whole environment in my house was actually that of Carnatic music. My father was very strict about practice.

Chandana Bala Kalyan started singing Carnatic Music from young age.

He would wake me up at 6.00 AM, sometimes at 4.30 also. When I had to go to school early when my school timing changed to 7.30 AM, so that time he would wake me up by 4.30 in the morning so that I will be able to cover the two hours of practice before I left for school. This was right when I was still in school, may be ten or eleven years old. So, that was the kind of disciplined life that he actually inculcated in us, when we were younger.”

Moutaz Arian Paly with “Chandana Bala Kalyan” Jamming Session.

After that, Chandana got a scholarship and she also joined the school, which promoted a lot of fine arts. Chandana pursued her school education in Vani Vidya Kendra in Rajaji Nagar, Bangalore. The school had a cultural wing called Vani Kala Kendra, which was headed by a wonderful musician and singer and composer all rolled into one, Shree Mathur Lakshmi Kesava. He was again a very ardent fan and devotee of Carnatic music.

“No Ma No Pa” was born when Chandana was singing her major- pentatonic-counter part (Raga Niroshtha) and she accidentally hit a minor 6th (Shudhdha Dhaivatam). Niroshtha means where the lips don’t meet. (Sa Ri Ga Da Ni Sa) Hence “No Ma No Pa”

Chandana had always been fascinated as to how well concepts of Carnatic music can both adopt other genres and be adapted to other genres of music. Vivek Rajagopalan has so beautifully brought together this whole concept of poetry being written on rhythmic phrases of konnakol. The “Ta Dhom project” is the vision of a pioneer and is revolutionary and inspiring at various levels. Here’s her attempt at one of Chandana’s most favourite tracks “Bol Rap” from the album. Chandana can’t thank Krunal Shah enough for once again being so acommodative and helping her out to put the videos together.

Maithreem Bhajata is written by Jagadguru Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, the Paramacharya of Kanchi.

So, whenever Chandana’s father found anybody pursuing Carnatic music, he would kind of nurture that talent and he found that in Chandana and the Guru and he did a lot to nurture the talent in her. Every opportunity that he got to attend any Carnatic music concert, he used to take me there and made me sing. Apart from that, Vani Kala Kendra also had a light music group and he headed that group. “We used to sing lot of patriotic songs like Bhava Geethe and stuff like that. So, basically, it was very musically filled life and a lot of choices in my life were based on the fact that I was a singer, but I would choose music as my profession.

Young Chandana Bala Kalyan winning accolades through her Carnatic vocal prowess.

So, I did not really focus too much on my curriculum or my academics, though I was fairing pretty well. I was a first class, distinction kind of a student, but I had never pursued my studies seriously and never thought about taking up the streams of education. I never thought that I should do medicine or engineering. I haven’t even given it a shot actually. If I was not a singer, I don’t even a clue as to who I would have been because I was that involved in my singing and all the choices I made in my life. I took up Arts because I wanted to have more time in order to dedicate to practice, my concerts and my rehearsals.”

“Donna Lee” was the first bebop tune Chandana ever learnt. Nevertheless, she never tried to improvise. Here is her interpretation…The key is extremely low for her
range but wanted to sing in the original key. Again all Chandana’s wishes go out to Sankarshan kini for playing this to her and handing out the sheet.

First Performance

Chandana started performing at the age of 13-14, when she was giving full-fledged concerts and it was quite a busy life. And then when she joined MES College in Bangalore, where the young Chandana pursued her first and second year Pre University Course (PUC) there, when she got the scholarship she was learning Carnatic Music from Rajammal Kesavamurthy.

Young Carnatic exponent, Chandana Bala Kalyan winning several accolades.

So, that was when the change of Guru happened. “My father was kind of handed me over to Rajamma Kesavamurthy and I took her guidance and learned the nuances of music for about three years and then I started learning from Sangeetha Kalanidhi RK Srikandan, who was again one of the finest Gurus you can ever be with. The kind of guidance and the direction I got from him was really invaluable”, Chandana points out about her Guru.

Chandana has been obsessed with the raga Shyam kalyan for sometime now. She wanted to write something that Chandana could sing in a format that was more familiar to her, “A varnam“. Here is a Varnam in her understanding of Shyam kalyan. Chandana hesitated to put it out as she feared that it may have some mistakes but she thought if she is not making mistakes, then she is not trying something new either! Chandana expresses her heartfelt gratitude to Shruti Bhave for all the help she had sought from her and to Padma Shankar for her significant inputs.

“Emuko chigurutadharamuna” is a sringaarapadam padam of Annamacharya. It is the celebration of love between Venkateswara and Padmavati as seen by Annamacharya.

Inter-Collegiate Competitions

In MES College also had a cultural wing, so she was also a part of it, competing in Inter-Collegiate competitions. “We used to travel a lot, where we used to go to IIT Madras, Sarang and all the Inter-Collegiate competitions that were really popular at that time. Chandana used to win prizes and as a part of those college bands, Chandana used to render a bit of film songs as well such as Ilayaraja’s songs and AR Rahman’s compositions. After that she did her graduation from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

Kuchipudi Exponent, Vyjayanthi Kashi gave exposure to Chandana Bala Kalyan in the dance rhythm segment.

It was here she met Vijayanthi Kashi, who is an incredible Kuchipudi dance exponent. “She spotted my talent and she wanted to kind of use my voice for her performances and her dance CD recordings etc. So, that is where my exposure into singing for Kuchipudi dance concerts and recordings began”, Chandana says about her foray into the new genre of rendition to suit the Kuchipudi form of arts. It was also a very educative period. For about one year or two years very intensive it was because we used to travel a lot again. I use to travel with Vijayanthi Kashi and my sense of understanding of the Kuchipudi rhythm and basically the dance rhythm came from my association with Vijayanthi Kashi.”

BrahmamokkaTe is a Tatva padam of Annamacharya. Chandana was looking for something that would help her amplify the time the vocalist was keeping as it was not audible in most videos. In fact, “Khartal” just came to her mind. Chanda ordered them on Amazon and started trying them out. The first few times they just kept slipping away!  And now she just gave a shot to give them enough reasons to stay happy…..for, Chandana knows that she had a long way to go, nevertheless, she just wanted to share this for that time.

Association with AIR

Shedding light on her association with the All India Radio, Chandana says, ” I was always associated with the All India Radio. So, in AIR I had started off as a child artiste. I think I was eight or ten years when I started my first concert with the AIR in the youth wing and then I got my gradation as a B Grade artiste. After that I got my B High Grade as well. Currently, I hold A Grade in both Carnatic Classical and Devotional Music. So, my association began with the AIR when I was a child artiste in the capable hands of Geetha Ramanand, who was a programme executive at that time and she made sure that every opportunity that there was she would see if she could allow me to sing a song or If I could participate in one way or the other in the activities that were taken up by AIR. Sometimes, it could be the recommendation of a certain composer’s songs or certain poet’s songs and if there was special projects, she always used to rope me in. That was her approach to other artistes as well, but she promoted me well, helped me and nurtured me well in so many ways.”

Post Graduation

About her post graduation in English Literature and the subsequent trigger point for doing her PG to pursue research for a doctorate, Chandana says, “Once I finished my graduation from Mount Carmel College, I wanted obtain a doctorate in Carnatic music. So, I had to do the post graduation, otherwise, I would have dropped out of college after graduation. So, I had to do a post graduation if I am to do research in Carnatic music and apply for a doctorate. So, I pursued the post graduation course with English Literature as the elective subject. It had to be in one of the languages or the subject I was studying, so, I thought why not English. Eventually, I did a masters degree in English Literature from Seshadripuram College in Bangalore.”

“It was an incredible journey because it was opening out another art totally of English Literature to me and I have always been fascinated by the spiritual poetry or devotional poetry and philosophical poetry because that was what I used to read a lot being in the field of Carnatic music. I used to read Saint Thyagaraja’s compositions, read Purandaradasa and Kanakadas’ compositions. I was always exposed to poetry which was a little spiritually inclined”, Chandana concurs.

So, that genre of literature fascinated her a lot right from the beginning. That streak was there right from young age, though Chandana didn’t identify that time that she would be taking that as one of the main streams and study with interest later in life. In the year 2001, realisation dawned in the singer that she needed a little bit of help with respective to Laya or with rhythm. “I felt that I was lacking in that space and so I wanted to learn from a percussionist HS Surendra,
a wonderful percussionist, especially in Mridangam from Bangalore. I actually went to him to understand rhythm and Laya and Mridanga vaadanam more. But, something incredible happened with my association with him”, Chandana says.

Gaana Moorthe” is a Carnatic classical composition on Lord Krishna written by Saint Thyagaraja set to raga Gaanamoorthi and Taala Aadi. She doesn’t remember who had requested for this but she is thankful that they did as Chandana have got an opportunity to revisit it. It kind of changed my complete perspective about music and about life as well.

Inspiration

Surendra was a super achiever in many ways. Given his own limitations, he has been able to surpass all his weaknesses and he has been able to stand so strong. So, it was his life, his way of living and it was also his achievement in music which inspired Chandana. He showed the young and enthusiastic singer so much of guidance and direction about how to go about, generally about challenges in life and also about challenges in music. He is such a wonderful Guru that if at all Chandana went and told him that there is something I am scared of doing or scared of singing. He would then say I do it in the next concert. If I was able to do that in the next concert, I will be able to overcome that fear. Otherwise, the fear would stay with me always. You know, that was the way he always challenged and problems faced in his life as well, as well as how he guided us students. So for me, it was life changing experience”, she says.

“Nadiyaa gehri naav puraani, kevaTiyaa se mile rehna” Kabir said “The river seems deep and the boat old and fragile hence stay close to the boatman.”

Playback Singing

Carnatic music vocalist Chandana Bala Kalyan forays into playback singing for films.

After that Chandana was performing quite a bit in Bangalore and also took to playback singing for movies at that time in Chennai.

The first song Chandana rendered was for a Tamil film called Five Star, which was directed by Anuradha Sriram and Sriram Parasuram.

https://youtu.be/2_kpnLqViGs

The second song was from a movie called Villain, composed by Vidyasagar and it was duet with Ghazal Maestro Hariharan.

Procrastination

Carnatic vocalist Chandana Bala Kalyan loves experimenting in different genres of music.

“I think, those were two songs did pretty well. But then, I wasn’t too sure whether the film was I really wanted. My father was also a little hesitant that may be, I should be primarily a Carnatic musician and then do one or two film songs here and there. But anyway, I did not pursue much on that direction. If at all, anything that had come up the natural way, I would have gone ahead and taken up those offers. Somehow, not too many songs also came my way”, Chandana says.

Relocation

After that Chandana got married in 2004 at the age of 24 and initially moved to Hyderabad for one year only to be relocated to Mumbai. In Hyderabad she could see a little bit of vacuum in that city, where not too many musicians knew Chandana. In Bangalore, the vocal sensation had more or less a full life with respect to music as she was either attending concerts or classes or she was giving lessons or she was performing rehearsals, practising, teaching all these things…it was full life for the musician in Bangalore and suddenly, the change of place had created a huge vacuum with respect to music. Nevertheless, Chandana did perform in a couple of venues in Hyderabad and then her husband got a transfer to Mumbai.

Floodgates Open in Mumbai

“In 2006, we came to Mumbai and once we came to this metropolitan city, here it was a bit of a confusion because I didn’t know anybody and not too many people had heard about me. So, I had to go and again introduce myself in organisations and give my music CDs and give my bio-data and ask them for concerts and once I did that, I did get opportunities to perform Carnatic music in various classical circuits, but after I started performing once in all the Sabhas, again for you to get your turn, it took some time. In any case, I was an outsider and not a local artiste or from Chennai. So, it was kind of little difficult for me in getting continuous work in Carnatic singing, especially in an alien place for me, because that was not a place I had grown up. There was a little bit of wait that would happen in between the concerts and I used get a little disappointed”, she says.

A bhajan in raga Sindhubhairavi, rendeed by Chandana in her inimitable style.

Not sure how it happened, one fine morning Chandana just walked into the NCPA and she asked in music section there to give her the telephone number of Toufeeq Qureshi because Chandana had heard his work a lot and she thought he is the one musician the singer could approach. “I met Toufeeq Qureshi and he had immediately welcomed to his band and he gave me opportunities to perform both in his live band and also few recordings in the form of few albums. It was again pretty good. I think music had kind of picked up and I had to take a sabbatical for a year as I had to take care of my little son.

Chandana Bala Kalyan does the jingle for Bhima Jewellers.

So, I took a break for almost a year and after that when I got back to the music scene it was a little difficult in terms of getting work. I would go to lot of these managers who would give us work. They were coordinators who would give us assignments such as jingles and advertisement. When I approached these managers, they would ask me what languages I would speak. And when I told them I could speak in both Kannada and Telugu and read and write in these languages, they tossed the idea of trying in the segment of voicing”, Chandana says.

“Tabiyat in dinoh begaana-e-gam hoti jaati hain” is a Ghazal written by Jigar Muradabadi. Chandana had a chance to appreciate and marvel the brilliance of “Begum Akhtar”, so much more while listening to her recording of this Ghazal. The bench mark is too high but the thrill of attempting to sing this is a catalyst to dwell more.

New Horizons

That was the first time Chandana was hearing about voicing. This was happening around 2008-09. Voicing was kind of voice over only, where you need to lend your voice for dubbing in advertisement films and that was the main stream of work there besides suggesting innovative ideas. Chandana’s voice would get approved because there was clarity in her pronunciation, with respect to both the languages. And that’s how her journey in this new segment began. “It was really amazing to get this kind of a break because it is the avenue I had never ventured and it was something that I had never tried before. It was also a lot of learning and it was a lot of on the job
learning that would happen. I would really not know how to say certain things, as in to express emotions. Sometimes it is not just a dialogue, but there is an expression on a particular person’s face and that has to reflect in the voice as well. So, all those things I learned on the job. I did a pretty job. I also shared a lot of ideas. I lend voice for lot of advertisements. For almost four years I was involved in this stream.

Chandana Bala Kalyan in Sanjay Divecha Band.

In between what happened was that I met Sanjay Divecha, an incredible guitarist, who didn’t like to be labelled that way because he has forayed into many genres of playing. And so, he actually was looking for an Indian Classical singer to be a part of his band. Taufeeq Qureshi introduced me to Sanjay. I also visited Ranjit Barot‘s studio once when I met him and so these two are
instrumental in meeting Sanjay, who made me a part of his band. He taught me the material and we formed a band called Sanjay Divecha and the Secret” she continues.

“Blues lead by the circle of fifths” Every fifth becomes the tonic (pa becomes sa). Starting with “C” the tonic (sa) changes at 12 places and the 13th shift lands on the sa “C” again. Chandana could not thank Sankarshan kini and Sanjay Divecha enough for introducing the Blues scale to her. There were elements of shudhdha Dhanyasi, a Carnatic raga (blues minus the augmented 4th) in this attempt.

About Ranjit, Chandana says, “I have had great fortune of working with Ranjit in his fusion album called Bada Boom. Parallely he was also working on the background score of some film. When I happened to be at his studio and heard my voice and liked it a lot, and he asked me whether I can render an aalap kind of a thing in one of his compositions. That composition is known as Super Nova. It is about Abbaji (Tabala Maestro, Late Alla Rakha, who is the father of world renowned Tabla percussionist,Zakir Hussain). I think this is one of my significant recordings I can say because I don’t know from where it happened, but it is actually a composition in which the
late U Srinivas plays Mandolin in Charukesi Raga, where Zakir Hussain was accompanying him on Tabla, and there is this one section where Zakir Hussain plays a solo on which U Srinivas was playing a Lehra and Ranjit asked me to sing an aalaap on top of it. It was very thrilling for me to be called for a project like that and otherwise I wouldn’t have ever dreamt of having a recording with Zakhir Hussain and U Srinivas. In fact, when U Srinivas passed away, I sent a text message to Ranjith thanking him for giving that opportunity because otherwise I wouldn’t have had the privilege of taking part in that recording.”

During the time that Chandana had started listening to bebop, the artiste was fascinated by how some compositions in Carnatic music lent themselves to be rendered in higher octaves and how beautifully the sangatis (phrases) melodically and rhythmically created a sense of challenge and excitement both to the performer and listener. They were normally rendered in between two heavier and elaborate compositions. In this attempt the purpose however is only to challenge oneself and revel in that pace. (In this case 280 bpm) Ideally I would like to sing it much slower and relish each and every phrase better. “Nenarunchinaanu” is a composition of Saint Thyagaraja in the raga Malavi set to Adi Talam.

New Genre

“And that was how I got involved back into the music scene, but this was a parallel music scene which is not the film music or the Classical genre, but it was the in-between independent music field, you could say. So, when I started working with Sanjay I got lot of opportunities to sing. So, I was performing a little more regularly and that’s how I met lots of other musicians. And then I started performing with Rajiv-Raja combine. There too, I was handling only the Indian element of
this band and it is primarily a canvas of Jazz on which the Indian element is kind of developed. And then I joined another band, after meeting the percussionist Vivek Rajagopalan. Since he is a Mridangam player, a lot of music that comes from his band is that which is inspired from the percussive elements on which again the melody is built. And then I joined Indiva as well. I am currently part of these four bands. So, when I started performing with Sanjay, I also met a
wonderful musician, Sankarshan Kini, who is a guitarist, a multi-percussionist and multi-instrumentalist as well. And he was at that time understanding the Jazz through the medium of Indian Swaralaya, he had a foundation in Hindustani Music. Through sargams and swaras he was trying to understand Jazz. So at that time he introduced me to this idea and he said, while sharing a lot of materials on working with me and he guided me and mentored me into learning a lot of Jazz compositions through sargams. And that is when my interest in Jazz and Bebop and all developed and I started listening to a lot of instrumental Jazz. I became very conscious of
singing in English and I am still very conscious about my English pronunciation”, Chandana says.

Take Five, Chandana’s unorthodox way of experimentation.

Blues about Blues

Chandana did not really venture much into singing the melodies. But then, she was very fond of the instrumental Jazz. Chandana learned those compositions and she tried to interpret them in the Indian Classical way. That opportunity came calling Chandana through Shakarshan Kini and then of course, the whole world of Blues opened up the doors for her. “I don’t know if there is any musician who is not captured by the Blues. It held me captive for a longest time like there were sometimes at night, I will make my son sleep at around 8.45 PM or 9.00 PM and I would start listening to Blues. Only listening and not even singing. I would just start listening to the
Blues of all the singers and guitarists such as Buddy Guy, BB King, all these musicians right up to the contemporary musicians like Eric Clapton, all these musicians I will just listen to them and hours on end. Sometimes, it went on up to 2.00 AM and 3.00 AM. Also, I was listening to the kind of Bbop, Charley Parker, Miles Davis and Elas Fitzgerald. I was listening to these people and I was just lost in a parallel world. It was almost like creating a parallel reality of Blues, because for me it was only Carnatic music I was mainly listening to and I was obsessed with the Blues for the longest time. The phase happened when I was listening to Jazz and after that for the same amount of obsession and that began in the year 2013. And it was there with me, while Take Five and all these things I have learned at that time and I had experimented quite a bit, but I kept it to myself. I was not really ready to share it with the world or share it to anybody else, leave alone sharing it on Facebook, I was very shy to even sing it to my own friends”, Chandana says with a chuckle.

“Mhaaro pranaam baake bihaari”

Slew of Music Videos

In 2013, Chandana began working on her Album, Marma, which was the confluence of Bhakti poetry. She penned few compositions and few others she borrowed from other composers as well and set the score appropriately. The idea was to present the compositions of different aspects of Bhakti like Madhura Bhakti, Nirguni Bhakti and one on Guru Bhakti. Chandana rendered in different aspects and different kinds of Bhakti, and different parts to reach God.

Chandana was contemplating on putting all these compositions together and bring out an album. Chandana worked on a few songs, but then again, with that just the way any independent artist suffers on a slew of issues such as lack of funds and not knowing from where to get the funds to release her album and eventually she had to put her plans on hold. In 2015, Chandana managed to release the album, Guru, which is a composition on her Guru, HS Sudheendra. Chandana began releasing the album in individual subject and in 2017 December, she released Kanha, which is on Madhura Bhakti. In 2018, just very recently in October Chandana released Bole Bhagwan, which is Nirguni Bhakti. So, each of those compositions are very spiritual and philosophical material wise, but then, they are treated in a very contemporary and modern way.

In the year 2017, July is when she really wanted to put out one Vachana and in July Chandana released the Vachana, Naan Oliden Aiyya in Madhura Bhakti bhaava, which was a composition of Akka Mahadeva, which she had composed like a Heer and “I had rendered it and that was actually the beginning of putting out these little videos on the Facebook. In August, I did third verse of Vande Matharam, which is normally not rendered. Thume Vidya, Thume Dharm, which was actually celebration of the mother, the divine mother”, she says.

Naa Donkaadare yeno” is a Purandara Dasa kriti prefixed by a ugaabhoga (you could call it a Kannada shloka for want of a better word) which creates an introduction to what the poet wants to say in the main kriti.

“I finished the recording of the same and brought it on the Independence Day and it was very well received again. So, it was very encouraging. On October 2, I rendered a composition of Mayuram Viswanatha Shastri, a Carnatic Classical Composer from down South, who was one of those rare poets, who kind of encouraged and wrote compositions which could be written patriotic compositions, which could be rendered in Carnatic Classical platforms. To include the Carnatic Classical community also in the freedom struggle. So, it is a very beautiful composition on Gandhiji, Shaanth Ahimsa Murthe, that is what I rendered and that is what had elicited a fair amount of viewership. In 2018 March, for Holi, I composed a song in the raga, Desh and the lyrics was traditional, but then I composed the melody and I wanted to sing like a Thaan kind of a thing, a fast composition. And somehow kind of became very popular. It captured the attention of lot of musicians and it, may be because of the occasion or whatever reason, it went viral”, she says.

Punjabi rendition by Chandana Bala Kalyan (experimentation with Charukessi of Carnic genre raga)

Social Media Benefits

“Before I knew it that within a day, there were in excess of 100,000 views and more than 1,000 shares on the Facebook. This was really encouraging because, for the first time I realised that even Classical music too can capture attention of listeners. It is not just pop or film songs, but if it is good music and rendered honestly, then people are willing to listen to it and that is very encouraging to me. And then of course when a series of videos I brought out. Whatever I was working at, I brought them out. Fortunately what helped me do is to build some material for my presentation of live concerts and because of doing this a lot of people on Facebook suddenly remembered that I was singing and I was there. So, I was getting work from people I knew earlier and with whom I was not working for a long time. And then some new people started giving me opportunities to sing. So, it kind of opened up a whole world of live performances one more time for me. And also, of course, recordings with some really good projects. That’s about the social media part of it.

Ella maretiruvaaga” is a Kannada Bhavageethe written by Sri Nisar Ahamed. It was composed and taught to Chandana by BR Geetha a wonderful musician and composer
from, AIR Bangalore. It’s a song about “Memories”. Memories that haunt us, that taunt us, that back stab us while we try to forget them! These scheming memories come
to us with lame alibis and excuses creating ripples of unrest in the otherwise stone-like calm of our minds.

Collaboration with Sarthak Mudgal

Chandana Bala Kalyan, This name resonated in millions of ears when one of her videos went viral! This was no surprise because a talent like her deserves a billion attention!! This collaboration is very dear to me because i have waited for this moment for nearly an year. I want to tell something to my friends, we are independent musicians who are very contagious, when we get shares and our music is spread around then it gives us the hope to and the urge to keep believing in what we do. This composition is for you guys. SHARE IT, BELIEVE IN US,INDEPENDENT MUSIC. Thank you so much!! Nonesuch Records Dhafer Youssef Tigran Hamasyan Bobby McFerrin Robert Glasper Snarky Puppy Cory Henry Herbie Hancock Berklee Indian Ensemble Heather Andrews

Posted by Sarthak Mudgal on Saturday, 29 September 2018

And that’s how Sarthak Mudgal happened. “Sarthak watched my Take Five video and he got in touch with me and informed me that he wanted to do an album with me. Sarthak, while he visited his house in Delhi from New York, he flew down to Mumbai for just a day and recorded the song. Sarthak wanted to do some thing different and we collaborated on this song. Then of course, when Take Five came into being, the introduction of Take Five somehow became very popular, may be because of the raga, but the introduction became the favourite of lot of people. So, the first person who was a kind of learned it and recorded on top of it was Shailu Raveendran, a wonderful guitarist from Chennai. And when he played it and put it up, it was very flattering because nobody had covered the way I had rendered like that and it was very heartening to see that. And then I realised that it had actually captured the attention of lot of musicians as well. So, after that more than 30-40 people covered it in the sense, they played along with it, they learned the whole introduction section and they played along with my video and they put it out on Facebook.

DARD KE RISHTEY

Chandana was blown away by the sheer magic in Hariharan’s voice when the Album “Hazir” was released. The purpose of her existence for a while was to “spell out” the murkhis he had rendered in each of those “Gem of a kind” compositions. Hariharan had become Chandana’s “Manasa guru” every time she sat down to compose Bhavageete in Kannada blessing her with a phrase here and an idea there. Many years later another Legend “Sanjay Divecha” showed Chandana the “whole tone scale” and there began another journey altogether! This Ghazal is perhaps a blend of many ragas and scales including the “whole tone” for which Chandana had developed a deep affection.

Rang laaga.” Had heard this for the first time in the celestial voices of Sanam Marvi and Sajjad Ali. while looking for lyrics, Chandana got this beautiful meaning.

“I thought, it was really sweet and kind of them as it was really challenging actually do that because for me it was when I rendered it, it was coming from my creative space. So, whatever I was singing was impromptu. But what these people have done was to learn it exactly the way I had rendered it, which takes a lot more time and effort and you know you can miss it and go wrong. And there was no reference of the rhythm on that one and a half minute session.  So, that was really encouraging. Even now I see that lot of people like and share that video, which was gone viral and it has been circulated well on WhatsApp and that is very heartening to see. I told all these for the question of how Sarthak Mudgal came down to Mumbai for a jamming session. Apart from that my collaboration with a lot of musicians are going on and that has been going on for a while now. So, I do sing for other musicians as well and I participate in all these bands and that is
how life basically is”, Chandana goes into philosophical mode.

It was Bade Ghulam Ali Khan saab’s version that always rang in Chandana’s ears every time she contemplated of it..The influence is indelible even as her limitations surpass.

Professional-Personal Life Balance

Juggling is definitely a challenge. But I am sure it is a challenge for all musicians. I am not just talking about women musicians alone. All musicians, irrespective of whether it is male or female. For musicians itself, it is always a challenge for anyone who is not in the organised industry. It is a challenge because we have to kind of create and generate our own work and also somewhere deal with the moments when there is absolute work that is happening. Financially it is one challenge. But otherwise, to keep your mind also occupied, that is also another challenge. I mostly spend my time when I am not doing much of work, spend quality time at home with the family, which is not happening of late, as I am involved in a slew of projects. When I used to not really sing so much professionally, I used to spend a lot of time learning and I keep my mind fully occupied. And of course, I have a family. I have my son, who is eleven years old. Both me and my husband are involved in raising him. So that way, a lot of time goes into taking care of his studies, his daily activities, bringing him from school and all these things kind of keep me occupied, if I am not really busy with my schedules.

Practice

Practice Maketh a Man Pefect, says Francis Bacon. Rightly to, Chandana says, “Music is the only passion and there is one thing my father always asked me to that was he would insist me on practising everyday. You know, that was my father’s Guruji also told him. No matter whether I had a concert or not, my father always insisted me to continue the practise without fail. He plays violin everyday. He is 74 now and he is still active in performing for dance concerts and other programmes regularly. But whether he has a concert or not I always see him practising judiciously without even failing a single day and that is the sort of benchmark he has set for himself and me. More or less, it has now become a habit that I can’t even think of starting a day sans practise. It’s like you know, if you don’t have your favourite coffee in the morning, it is exactly like that. If I skip a day’s practise, the day will never be complete. It has become a routine and a sort of addiction now. I will switch on the electronic thanpura and there I am at it. No matter what I sing. Only when I am travelling more than 20 hours, I might have skipped a day’s practise, nevertheless,
for most of the days, I will ensure that I am practising some raga or the other. This has been my routine right from my ten years of age.”

Experimentation

Experimentation wise, in the Classical genre, I have learned Carnatic classical music only in a very systematic way. Hindusthani music, I have not learnt at all. I will not even claim to be a Hindusthani singer at all. Whatever I sing, I will interpret in a different way. If I sing a Bhajan, like for instance, Kaakaru Sajini, it is a Tumri. If I sing, I will interpret in a different way and this will have a mixed style, where you can see the elements of Carnatic music as well as Hindusthani. You cannot call it purely Hindusthani because it is not. Even the Ghazals I sing, those are not purely ghazals in its strictest and puritanical form. Loads of south Indian elements will pop up in my ghazals. But for me, the point is whether what I sing is aesthetically acceptable, no matter what I render is technically acceptable or not. Is it in a space where people are enjoying, fag end of the day. For me, that way, these videos help a lot because somewhere I get a reality check as well, whether this kind of song is working with people. Often, I get lot of feedback, which I never want to term it as negative because on the contrary, I feel these feedback as positive aspect, as it gives me a lesson whether what I had rendered is close to the conservative way of singing or for that matter, if I am deviating from it, I take the constructive criticism to better my understanding and put into good use. If I am to correct certain intricate nuances, I will accept the feedback and work on the same to bring that particular ghazal into perfection. As I am fully aware that it is a cumbersome process to comprehend Urdu poetry and do justice to it by maintaining the tonal quality as well as the diction to its expected level of perfection. So, even if I venture into singing an Urdu ghazal, there is some sort of feedback I get asking me to pronounce in a particular way, I am really happy with that kind of feedback because I am getting it at a place where I don’t have to
make a fool out of myself. It is all on my wall of Facebook, you know. When I am presenting a live performance in Urdu ghazal, then I will get a chance to correct myself then and there, if I get a feedback and re-present it the way it should be. I like the space that I am in right now. I like the space wherein I am experimenting and my creative skills are also through the fact that I can afford to take a few risks. I am not too scared to take few risks and experiment myself in Urdu ghazals.

Creativity wise, sometimes, ideas just come into my head and I just feel like doing it. Technically, certain things I deliberately do because to challenge myself like Avadanas or the poly rhythms I do with two different hands. So those are few things that I have actually very deliberately inculcated and incorporated into my training and practise. Apparently, why because I was always scared about Avadhana. I used to be circumspect and used to wonder how people do it. Until I did my first combination of twelve counts, of divisions of 4x3s on one hand and 5+7 on the other. So, five plus seven in the right and four plus three on the left, till I did that, I was literally scared of attempting it. But, once I did that, I realised that it was about getting the pattern right. So, those things, sometimes I do to challenge myself”, Chandana says.

Future Plans

When it comes to future plans, mainly the plan is to take the concept of Marma ahead that I have been developing in order to build a band which can, where we actually sing this semi-classical, light classical genres and present devotional poetry and that is what I want to take Marma to. That is where I want to take it to a larger audience perform. I want to be attending the bigger festivals and you know that is my intention. In tandem, the other works which has been coming my way I have just being doing it. I have just being taking up whatever work is suitable for me and whatever I feel is appropriate and it is in my space because a complete commercial singing in films I don’t know whether it is in my space, I will probably take it up. But for now, I want to develop this concept of Marma, Chandana signs
off.