Raga Bhairavi | Shashank Subramanyam | Carnatic Music | Darbar VR360

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#darbarfestival #VR360 | Shashank Subramanyam’s first musical immersions came with singing and violin, but he fell in love with the venu bamboo flute as soon as he picked it up.
► Welcome to the Darbar VR360 Festival. We’ve released over 50 immersive VR videos showcasing some of India’s finest artists performing in breathtaking natural landscapes, spanning Hindustani, Carnatic, Dhrupad, and percussion.

For the best experience use a VR headset with headphones. Experience being the sole ‘audience member’ right next to the musicians for your own private raga performance, enjoying the music amidst India’s natural world. For more info, including the full program, see www.darbar.org/video360

Born to a biochemist father in the extraordinarily musical village of Rudrapatna, in Karnataka, Shashank Subramanyam started learning early in life - some say he could recognise all 72 Melakarta scales by the age of two-and-a-half. His first musical immersions came with singing and violin, but he fell in love with the venu bamboo flute as soon as he picked it up, focusing on it from that point onwards.

Initially he taught himself, but soon entered the gurukul as a student of legendary Carnatic flute maestro T.R. Mahalingam. His guru insisted that he should continue his vocal training, and avoid listening to other top masters of the day in order to develop his own style. The approach worked, and his tireless study led to the creation of new forms of gamaka (singing ornament) and breathing techniques.

He has incorporated overblowing textures and novel hand positions, and immersed himself into the grammar of Hindustani music too, frequently collaborating with artists from the North, including a jugalbandi with sitarist Pandit Kushal Das for Darbar. Over the past decade he has worked with artists including Paco de Lucia, Terry Riley, and Remember Shakti, and is today recognised as among the finest bamboo flute exponents to have ever lived.

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"It’s about ‘kalpanaswaram’ - how aesthetically you can combine these mathematical structures with music." (Shashank Subramanyam)

Bhairavi is often described as the ‘queen of ragas’. It takes its name from the Hindu goddess of destruction, and conjures versatile moods. To some it can evoke ‘awe, terror, and chaos’; to others ‘a pleasant sobering atmosphere of love and piety’. Though usually heard as the final piece in a concert, its natural, original home - showcased here - is the sunrise hour.

Understanding the raga is crucial to broader Hindustani musical learning - bansuri master Pandit Rupak Kulkarni (who also appears at Darbar VR 360 Festival), recounts the approach of his guru Hariprasad Chaurasia: “Guruji taught me Raag Bhairavi for five years. When I complained about the repetition, he said: ‘You have to practice Bhairavi until your last breath’. That is what made me realize what swarabhyas [the study of notes] means”.

It is based on the form SrgmPdnS - all scale swaras [notes] are komal [flattened] except Sa, ma, and Pa. The vadi and samvadi [king and queen notes] are typically taken to be ma and Sa, and the raga can take a versatile mishra (‘mixed’) form - all 12 notes are allowed, thus injecting some comparatively rare chromaticism into Hindustani music. It resembles the Carnatic Raga Hanumatodi and the Western Phrygian scale.

Recorded by Darbar in 2019, on location in West India:
-Shashank Subramanyam (venu)

Technical team credit:
-Jagdeep Shah (DOP)
-Sandeep Virdee (location sound)
-Nirmal Singh (360 editor)
-Christoph Bracher (ambisonic sound dubbing)
-Special thanks to Sherna Chatterjee & Mortimer Chatterjee

Darbar believes in the power of Indian classical arts to stir, thrill and inspire. Through shared experiences and digital connectivity we ensure that one of the world’s finest art forms reaches the widest possible audience. Founded in 2006, we deliver premium quality live events, music education, broadcasts and online engagement through promoting artistic innovation and creative technology. We are also committed to providing a platform for new talent from India and the UK.

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