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Band fuses Carnatic music with sounds from Alps

Drawing different music cultures closer, The Amithias Project, founded by Indian flautist Amith Nadig and German jazz musician Matthias Schriefl, brings Bharatanatyam dance, Carnatic notes on trumpet and yodelling on to the same platform.

Band fuses Carnatic music with sounds from Alps
(left to right): Amith Nadig, Vinod Shyam, Nivedita Sharma, Matthias Schriefl and Sunaad Anoor


Musicians Amith Nadig and Matthias Schriefl, who formed the Amithias Project after a chance meeting a few years ago, strongly believe that those in the field of music must try and bring people with different mindsets and opinions together. Even though their songs like Langenwanger, which attempts a balance between Bavarian and Carnatic yodelling styles, and Madrid Mambo, a funny south European mambo, bring south Indian and European musical traditions together, the musicians reject the word ‘fusion’ to their work.

“The word fusion is overused and outdated. In the current day, what musicians must try to do is bring the world together. How this is achieved is by finding a melting point of cultures and tell the world that we all are one. We would call the Amithias Project as world music rather than fusion,” said the musicians, who recently performed at the Goethe Institut in the city, in an interview.

For instance, in one of their songs, Bharatanatyam dancer Nivedita Sharma performs to a rare mix of musical instruments, including a flugelhorn, percussions and a flute. “One can hear yodelling, Carnatic structures on the trumpet, and even a Cuban mambo played on the mridangam. Everything is allowed and nothing forbidden, as long as it serves the music and sounds good to us. And the fun is not only ours, as even for the audience, this fusion feels natural,” asserted Amith. The group was in Chennai along with two other musicians Vinod Shyam (mridangam) and Sunaad Anoor (khanjira).

It wasn’t easy in the beginning for the south Indian and the western musician to understand each other’s music, admitted Matthias. “It was as if my whole musical world collapsed and stood in front of me like a big wall that I couldn’t climb. I had the same problem with Bharatanatyam, but still saw the beauty in the culture and understood the genius behind it. For Amith, it was hard to understand western harmony. But now, after more than a decade of intense studies of each other’s cultures, the music goes together like the most natural thing in the world,” stressed the musician, who hails from the Upper Alps in Germany.

The group, which had earlier performed in many European countries, and different parts of India, noted that people in Europe attended concerts with no preconceived notions. “Wherever we play in Europe, we perform to packed audiences and standing ovations. We expect the audience to have that kind of an open mind to just look at music and dance in India too, and not associate our music with an already present understanding of music. We love good music, styles don’t matter. We love good traditional Carnatic concerts too,” remarked Amith.

Pointing out that music standing still could mean its “death”, the flautist, who hails from a family of musicians, said, the future of music is not just one path. “It is also important to have traditional musicians who stay in the old manners, develop small changes and keep the old rules alive. The future won’t be an extreme, but a good way in the middle,” he added.

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