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Based in Mumbai, India, Shruti Kumar M.M. ‘16 draws on Carnatic, Celtic, EDM, and other styles in her multifaceted work, from Bollywood and Indian television productions to a prestigious salute to famed Bengal tigress Machali. The latter project, coordinated by the Anahad Foundation and National Geographic, is a collaboration between Kumar and two other Mumbai artists that pays tribute to the deceased tigress who formerly lived in India’s Ranthambore National Park.
Kumar is now becoming involved in the archival Celnatic Experience project as well, which pays homage to the work of composer Muthuswami Dikshitar, who first fused Indian and Celtic musics around the turn of the 19th century. She has also undertaken work as a mixing and mastering engineer on Bollywood and Indian television productions and composed music for several short films.
“Life at Berklee sharpened my technical skills and multicultural interaction as well as provided exposure for my work,” Kumar says, “which increased my capabilities and confidence.”
Below is an edited and abridged version of a recent Q&A session with Kumar, who graduated from the Music Production, Technology, and Innovation master's degree program on July 2016.
How are you contributing to the much-anticipated Machili project?
“We have created a song in praise of Machli, for which I have lent my voice. I will also be involved with the technical team at the festival, to be held in November 2017.”
Can you tell us more about the crossover between Indian Carnatic music and Celtic music, and how you feel landing a project like this?
“The Celnatic Experience is conceived to bring light to the crossover between Indian classical music and Celtic music, which happened with the nottuswara compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar. Interestingly enough, around the time of Beethoven and Mozart in Western music, the Carnatic music trinity revolutionized this art form in India. These compositions are called nottuswara.”
“Dikshitar, during his pilgrimage around India…[was, during British rule] influenced by Celtic tunes played by Irishmen in British bands, and he composed the nottuswara compositions. They are a total of approximately 40 songs composed in the C major scale or Ionian mode, which is equivalent to the Śankarābharaṇaṃ rāga in Carnatic music. These simple melodies are devoid of gamakās (or, ornamentations), [which are] a unique unique characteristic of Carnatic music, hence the title of the project: the Celnatic Experience, which is the result of fusing the words Celtic and Carnatic.”
Can you tell us more about the fusion collaborations you are working on?
“I am currently working on two fusion collaborations in Mumbai. One is a Carnatic classical fusion with Electronic Dance Music (EDM), and the other is a re-creation of a Pahari folk song. Pahari is one of the most famous styles of folk music in India.”
During your free time, you learn and teach Carnatic music. How do you manage your time?
“I believe there is no limit to learning, and we must be flexible and easy to adapt when it comes to learning new things. The more I learn, the more creative I become. For me, teaching is like practicing, and I thoroughly enjoy it because it’s the only time I get to revisit my singing lessons. I teach via Skype.”
What opportunities did you have, being in Valencia, that you may not have had otherwise?
“In Valencia, I became a lot more independent. I had a goal and remained focused to achieve it. For example, I was introduced to different styles of music, and I had the opportunity to collaborate and work on many fusion projects. If it wasn’t for Berklee, I wouldn’t have had [that opportunity].”
How has your Berklee experience influenced you as a professional?
“Berklee has helped in transforming my passion into my career. Life at Berklee sharpened my technical skills and multicultural interaction as well as provided exposure for my work, which increased my capabilities and confidence.”