Monday, 8 April 2013

what a voice! (Deccan Herald, Jan 2013) http://www.deccanherald.com/content/306409/musical-medley.html


Musical Medley

Juanita Kakoty, Jan 20, 2013
Improvisation
Antoine Redon allows a piece of music to breathe, take its own turns, and find its own character in the space that it is performed. And when he jams, he lets his soul free, along with his voice and music.
“I like taking music beyond the formal, beyond set standards,” he tells me. “This is the magic of musical improvising. It is all about flow, rhythm, communicating with fellow musicians and getting on to the mood. It is about how you move the form or shape of music; very trance-like.”

“My music is inspired by different styles and influences — Western classical, African, Spanish, Ethiopian, Reggae, Jazz, Dylan, etc.” reveals Antoine, “I am more into mixing of voices and harmonising them, improvising as we go along.” Improvisation is a performing act and it involves engaging with musical compositions creatively in the moment. “There is a whole lot of engaging with emotions,” says Antoine excitedly, “Besides, of course, the inherent element of spontaneous response to the other musicians around you.”

Musical improvisation, or composing in the moment, has always been a great skill in Western music. The likes of Mozart and Beethoven have engaged with it as is evident in the sonatas and cadenzas they have left behind. Jams (extended improvisational segments) have been the spark of live performances and have been well explored by bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead, The Doors, Velvet Underground and the Jim Hendrix Experience.

Jamming culture

About four years ago, Antoine started performing monthly at The Living Room in Hauz Khas Village, a cultural hub in New Delhi. “This was the beginning of the jamming culture that we now see regularly around Hauz Khas Village.” Coming to India was a choice that Antoine and his wife consciously made.

“India was already in my mind because my wife Capucine, a TV reporter in France, had already travelled around India and was in love with the country. So we decided to come to India,” smiles Antoine. To this, Capucine adds, “I wanted to report only about India, and for Antoine, it was clear that he wanted to set up musicals in this country. So, he got together with the Neemrana Music Foundation to set up opera here in India.”

In 2008 and 2010, Antoine put up his own musical Hair, an adaptation of the Broadway musical by the same name, composed by Gerome Ragni and James Redo, with some improvisation. It was very well received by the audience. “The musical is about the 70s revolution — flower power, inner revolution, etc. I brought many artistes together — dancers, singers and instrumentalists. Improvising means redoing the music as well as training voices. It was great fun, and a lot of hard work.”

“In France, all the parents want their children to become violinists or classy dancers,” offers Capucine. That’s how, Antoine informs, he got into music. “I was seven when I started going for violin lessons. But I quit music for studies only to get back to music again. I went to business school in France, but for three years there, I only did musicals. The good thing that came out of it was that I learnt to budget and organise my own show while at the business school. After that, I started making my own musicals in France; and I spent a lot of time training new singers too.”

For someone who is so good with his voice and who has been a voice coach, it is hard to believe that he has had no formal training. “I was a boy scout. We used to go to the forest and stay there for about three weeks, build houses, cook, live in a community, and sing everyday by the fire, for hours and hours. That’s where I developed my scale,” admits Antoine candidly. “But it was in India that I associated with opera singer Situ Singh Buehler and picked up some fine techniques.” And in the same vein, he confesses that he is fascinated by the gypsy or nomadic music, from which he draws a lot of inspiration.

Wherever Antoine goes, he picks up music and techniques from the land. And from his stay in India, this is what he has to say, “What I like about Indian classical music is that there is plenty of room for improvisation. Also, the travelling musicians’ culture, for example, the Bauls, is very precious here in India. There is a lot of freedom in that kind of music. 

I have just formed the group, Acapalla (which means ‘voice only’), to do music like the gypsies — with a lot of freedom to take the voice and the music to all kinds of levels.” As Antoine carries on, one hopes, for the sheer pleasure that one can draw from it, that he continues to play with musical possibilities. And that he continues to enchant with music that is as free as his voice.

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