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Women of rhythm

Thursday, November 29, 2018

As curator of the annual Women of Rhythm, co-partner Aditya Prabhu discusses his ideas for the series and his interests in art and music with Verus Ferreira

Did you know that one of the artistes featured in Women of Rhythm Season 3, Mumbai’s Mukta Raste was chosen to teach Sonam Kapoor how to play on the tabla for the movie Padman and that Srishty Patidar from a small village Palba in Madhya Pradesh is a world record holder? Two years ago, Patidar broke the world record of 24 hours set by a Mexican girl, by drumming for 31 hours non-stop. The record was recognised by the US-based Golden Book of World Records. Did you also know that Charu Hariharan, a mridangam artiste with a Masters in Psychology decided to leave it for music?

Raste, Patidar and Hariharan’s story is as inspiring as it gets. The notion of “girls can’t do a particular thing” gets to them each time, proving that “Nothing is impossible”.

It is a known fact that in India and maybe some parts of the world, we’ve idolised male performers, who have taken the highway to monetary gain and fame. But the trend is changing for despite sexism, racism, poverty and a host of other troubles, the female voice is finally using their talent to be heard, either vocally or musically.

Today a new generation of entertainers is shaping youth culture with sparkle -laden drums solos and percussion instruments that one could regale in. “The problem across the world is that girls/women are told what they can or cannot do,” says Aditya Prabhu, adding, “And that’s a serious problem. Girls don’t play drums is a common notion. In Indian music that disparity is even bigger. While percussion, drums, guitar, sitar, sarangi and almost all other instruments are male-dominated, women have to settle for the violin, piano, dance and vocals. In every 10 male musicians, we find just 25 per cent female musicians in the Hindi film music industry loosely called Bollywood Music. This however, is changing, and we are in the process of bridging that gap.”

Prabhu has been organising the Dumru Percussion Festival since 2011 and has featured some of the best percussionists in the world. Surprisingly in the three seasons of the Dumru Festival, they had never featured women percussionists. “Maybe it was our negligence or lack of research that we didn’t recognise and promote women who played percussion. This was our main reason to organise a concert series for women percussionists where we could find, develop and promote talented women who played percussion.”

Season 3 of Women of Rhythm brings on new and unique collaborations between artistes who have never met before or played together. Some are really young and in demand artistes who have never performed in Mumbai. It also showcases inspiring stories of artistes and their struggles and how rhythm has helped them overcome their problems. So choosing who goes on stage would surely be difficult.

“We curate each act. We don’t simply hire bands or known artistes and ask them to perform,” says Prabhu who, in the first edition, brought in six solo performances. “For example, the first act to perform is a curated collaboration between three Stick Drummers Srishty Partidar, Siddhi Shah, and Ananya Patil who are at different levels in drumming, Drummer Patidar, along with Shah on djembe and Patil on daruba, will be presenting a world rhythm in Act I at Women of Rhythm. So it’s basically bringing them out of their comfort zone and allowing them to explore the enormous variety there is in percussion”. What about the main headliners this time? “That’s also unique and well curated, the audience is treated to something new and fresh”.

Like almost every small or big event, sponsorship is the number one challenge, especially when the “Different event” factor arises, which Prabhu claims was the most difficult part.  His team has been working hard to convert sponsors. “No money means no readily available resource to adequately market the event. Hence we have to spend from our own pocket, sometimes borrowing from family and friends,” states Prabhu. But what really pushes him to bring on such an event is the talent of these percussionists, the variety and freshness they bring to the performance, the willingness and eagerness to learn and experiment with new sounds and the lack of promotion they receive.

Despite the odds that go against him in organising such an event, Prabhu also feels that there should be equality in payments for women artistes. “Luckily for us, our artistes are very adjusting and they have always considered the fact that we are trying hard to make them comfortable and produce a successful event. The disparity in male and female artistes is as shocking as the payment gap. We make sure everyone gets their due”.

All the women who play at Women of Rhythm are self-empowered girls or women. They fought for years to get where they are. There is no second to their resilience. They don’t want to be called “Female Percussionists” They just want to be knows as Percussionists or Artistes. How many times have we heard Male Artiste or Male Percussionist or Male Drummer? Thankfully, says Prabhu, drummers in our country are very supportive and they make sure they help in any way they can when young artistes go to them for help and advice.

When not organising events, the team works on artiste management. “At least we try to,” says Prabhu “We promote artistes with event management companies and festival organisers so they could be featured in their events. So far we have received numerous enquiries for our Women of Rhythm. We also assist artistes in making show reels and profiles which can be sent to promoters across the world. Our social media pages are doing well for our artistes. There is a lot more we can do and in time we will,” he signs off.

Following their dreams

Charu Hariharan A mridangam artiste, she is excited about her collaboration with young Chenda playing sisters Sobhita and Rahitha Krishnadas. Speaking from her home in Trivandrum, Hariharan says, “Women of Rhythm is a very special event for me. It brings out the best in women and gives women a platform to showcase their talent and at the same time also displaying the talented women of our country. Both my parents are musicians, while my parents didn’t mind me playing the Mridangam, it was my relatives who dissuaded me from it.” She has composed three songs for a Malayalam film which releases next month. Hariharan started performing at the age of 15 and is also skilled at playing the kanjira, cajon and a few European folk percussion instruments, besides being a good singer. Her icon is Danish jazz percussionist and drummer Marilyn Mazur.

Ananya Patil The 15-year old drummer from Pune watched drummers play at the Ganpati festival while growing up and wanted to be a part of it. But her parents were against it, bargained with her and finally bought her a drum set. She underwent training at the Furtados School of Music and forayed into metal drumming after idolizsing Joey Jordison from metal band Slipknot. She picked up the daruba, an Arabian instrument, by watching YouTube music videos and is all set to play it for the second time at the Women of Rhythm event.

Srishty Patidar A world record holder, she comes from a small village Palba in Madhya Pradesh. She has been playing various instruments since childhood. She has also played for various bands in Indore. A farmer’s daughter, Patidar faced a bit of opposition from her parents in the initial stages of her career, but watching her rise to the top, her parents let her go the path she wanted. Patidar plans on ruling the drumming world one day.

Women of Rhythm will be held on November 30, 7 pm, at St. Andrews Auditorium Bandra. Tickets on Bookmyshow.com and Insider.com Student tickets @ `99 on producing ID card.

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