Diplomacy through music - Niranjan Pandian represents Singapore at ASEAN level

We last spoke to Niranjan Pandian when he performed as part of The Sarvesh Festival of Arts last year. We had then told you that he was destined for great things and we are extremely proud to say that he has proven us right. Since then, he has performed at Kalaa Utsavam 2017, had his debut concert , Venu Nadam: Resonance of the Bamboo Flute , at Singapore Polytechnic, and performed at international events such as Thailand’s New Year Countdown 2016 and the Haniffa Nagore Concert in Chennai.  He has also been featured in theatre performances such as Stories from the Panchantantra and on TV programs such as Enna Nadakuthu, Nenjukkule, Pradhana Vizha 2016 and Indian Beat .

Having worked with local bands such as the Akshara Collective, Anthem of Hearts, Nurul Huda Ensemble, Brahmastra and Eliyas Band,  Niranjan has now taken his music further to foster greater ties between Singapore and the rest of ASEAN as part of the C asean Consonant, a Traditional Ensemble which seeks to build a bridge between ASEAN nations through the universal language of music, He now tells us more about this new initiative and his efforts to promote Indian traditional music to the rest of the world.

Could you give us a brief introduction of your musical journey and what music means to you?

Music has always been a huge part of my life. Besides giving me direction, it’s also shaped my identity. My journey started in Carnatic Music with the guidance of Sri Ghanavenothan Retnam who inspired me to pick up the Indian Classical Bamboo Flute at the tender age of 10. I was also later on involved in my school’s symphonic band where I picked up the Western Flute. This further grew my interest  and I joined the Singapore Indian Orchestra and Choir in 2010.  I’ve picked  up other genres of music along the way but ultimately my journey has been  about  understanding and appreciating the beauty of Indian Traditional Music which continues to be my passion.

Why did you choose to play the flute ?   
The sound of the flute not only soothes my soul but inspires me to use music to heal the world. I remember times when I used to be hypnotized by the beautiful tunes of  Pundit Hariprasad Chaurasia, a legendary bansuri player. I was intrigued by how such a beautiful sound was produced a single hollow shaft of bamboo. This then brought me to my guru, Sri Ghanavenothan Retnam.

Tell us more about about the C asean Consonant.

C asean Consonant is an international Traditional Ensemble which aims to integrate the heritages of ASEAN nations through the universal language of music. It involves a collaboration between 10 Traditional Music Instrumentalists from the 10 ASEAN countries to co-create captivating performances using traditional musical instruments in a series of C asean Consonant concerts. The ensemble is organized by C asean , a subsidiary of Thai Beverage Company. Besides integrating the ASEAN community through music, C asean also provides a platform for younger generations to develop, share, learn and preserve the traditional music of ASEAN. The ensemble’s Music Director is Acharn Anant Narkkong who holds a 1st Class honors degree in Thai Music from Chulalongkorn University and M.Phil in Ethnomusicology from SOAS.

We had our debut concert in Bangkok on 13th December 2015 at the C asean Auditorium and held our second concert, The Sound and Spirit of ASEAN, in Malaysia and Singapore from 30th March 2016 to 9th April 2016.

This month, we  will be performing at the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival 2017,  China’s  2nd biggest music festival, and later this year, at the ASEAN–China Music Week 2017. In August, we will also be performing in the Philippines and Indonesia for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of ASEAN.

How did you become involved with this international ensemble and what role do you play ?

Dr Joseph Peters presented me the wonderful opportunity to be part of this ensemble, upon referral from Mrs Lalitha Vaidyanathan, conductor of Singapore Indian Orchestra and Choir. As part of the ensemble, I am the sole representative from Singapore and I play the Bansuri/Venu . Through this experience , I have been able  to learn more about the various ASEAN musical systems while fusing in elements of Indian Traditional Music into them .It’s actually pretty overwhelming to see the beauty in the vastness of music.

How has the experience been,working with an international ensemble?

It’s been enlightening for me because it required me to utilise a different set of skills compared to the ones I use in Carnatic and Hindustani Concerts . Besides adding ornaments to basic notes, I had to also understand the flow of melody lines. This is an element deviating from Carnatic and Hindustani Concerts which center around Manodharma. With an open mind however , over time, I was able to appreciate the nuances and melodic movements from different regions and embrace the various ASEAN musical systems .

Who are those whom have been monumental in bringing you this far?

This journey would not have been possible without the guidance of Dr Joseph Peters and the referral from Mrs Lalitha Vaidyanthan. Additionaly, I would also like thank my guru Sri. Ghanavenothan Retnam, my parents and friends .  I am thankful for all the support you have given me. It has inspired me to continue to practice and perfect this art form.

Learn more about C asean Consonant HERE.


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