Wednesday, December 12, 2007

His Music is for mankind

His Music is for mankind
Syed Ali Mujtaba

‘Eyes wide shut’! Stanley Kubrick’s movie starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman is quite well known but little known is the fact that a Tamil singer, Manickam Yogeshwaran, has sung a piece in this Hollywood blockbuster.

Yogeswaran, 45, born in Sri Lanka, is well-known as a Carnatic singer. Now based in London, he has been a visiting lecturer at London’s Goldsmith University since 1996. Yogeshwaran is active in the international music circuit exploring new vistas in his musical journey.

As a composer he has also created and sung with a number of select dance companies including the acclaimed Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company and accompanied many Bharatanatya arangetrams across Europe.

The versatile international singer came to Madras at an early age to learn Carnatic music under T V Gopalakrishnan besides P Muthukumar Swamy and S Balasingham.

Yogeswaran said, “I have been performing Carnatic music all over the world and am well-known to Carnatic music lovers worldwide. I am basically a singer and composer, but I can play the flute, mridangam and other percussion instruments with ease.”

“I have done a number of CDs in Tamil. This includes projects such as Tamil Classics (1997) and the Tamil Classic Band. In 2001, I recorded Tirukkural in 133 ragas. Besides, I have also sung Tamil Hindu and Christian devotional songs.

His latest album, ‘Peace for Paradise’, is about the peace process in Sri Lanka. Last year, he visited the subcontinent for concerts just after the horror of tsunami and recorded the song ‘Life Goes On’, the audio visual track that UNICEF picked up to promote its relief work in the wake of the disaster, to raise funds. I am also singing for a Sarat Kumar-strarrer. The film is yet to be named but has music by Paul Jacob, of Bodhi group fame.

Based in London for more than a decade, Yogeswaran, sipping a cup of Nilgiris coffee on a visit to my house on Pongal holiday, likes to talk about his foray into western music that’s little known or written about in this part of the world.
A young man with receding hairline, Yogeswaran gives a long description about his work. “I am the first ever Tamil singer to sing for a Hollywood movie,” says Yogeswaran with a smile. In ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ my voice could be located in the background score composed by Jocelyn Pook, where the lead pair Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are involved in an intimate love scene. This was the last film of ace director Stanley Kubrick before his death. The other Hollywood movie to my credit is ‘25th Hour’ directed by Spike Lee where I sing for composer Terrence Blanchets’s soundtrack.

Yogeswaran says he is quite comfortable before western music audience. “I am the lead singer of a multi cultural jazz band for ‘Dissidenten’ of Germany. There are over 140 people in this group where I sing various Carantic ragas and fuse them with Tamil, English and Arabic words.”

Yogeswaran describes one of the pieces he enjoys singing most with ‘Dissidenten’ that describes about the industrial growth, environment and general life by the side of the Danube, the longest river in Europe.

“When I perform this, the response from the crowd is amazing,” he says adding that his singing could be heard on Dissidenten’s Instinctive Traveller (1997), Live in Europe (1998) and A New World Odyssey (2004).
“With ‘Dissidenten’ I have appeared at several of Europe’s high profile music festivals including the Montreaux Jazz Festival, JazzOpen at Stuttgart and twice at Glastonbury, Europe’s largest and possibly the most famous music festival, where usually 80, to 100,000 people come to watch.”

Describing his other singing activities in Europe, Yogeswaran says, “I am singing with western classical group, ‘Big Voice Band’ ‘The Shout’, which has 16 singers, with me being the only Asian. This voice group with no instruments is directed by Orlando Gough and Richard Chew and does theatrical performance all over Europe and the world,” he says.

‘The Shout’ performed at the Vienna Festival and the Arts and the Ideas Festival in USA. I vocalised with them for ‘Tall Stories’ during the tour of US in 2000. ‘Tall Stories’ is about European immigrants to America in the early part of the 19th century. We did, ‘Shouting Fences’, in Amsterdam, that’s about the plight of the Palestinians living along the Egyptian and Syrian border. This was later repeated in Ireland and Germany. The latest from ‘The Shout” is Deep Blue, a collection of love songs, done in theatrical format, with which the group toured all over Europe,” says the Tamil singer.

Making forays into Arabic, he says, “I am picking up the language, in the company of an interesting group based in London who call themselves ‘Lovers of Rumi’, a medieval Arabic poet and philosopher. There, some recites Rumi’s poetry, while others play western classical music, and I join them in singing,” he said.

Yogeswaran calls himself as an ambassador of humanity. “My music is for the service of mankind.”
Published on Jan 20th, 2006 at Chennaionline

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