Venu is a modern exploration of classical ragas by flautist HS Venugopal and producer Sandeep Chowta
THE CARNATIC FUSION album, Venu, marks the return of legendary flautist HSVenugopal after an eight-year gap. “It is a presentationof Indian classical ragas in their true form, but with a sliver of contemporary harmonies,” says the artiste who has graced venues such as the Durbar Hall in the Mysore Palace and Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru with his performances. The album is a collaboration with producer Sandeep Chowta, the man behind the iconic scores of movies such as Mast, Satya and Om Shanti Om. Venu blends Sandeep’s jazz and cinematic music experience, with classical Indian melodies, and was released by Sandeep’s label Namma Music, last week.
“To be honest, I was reluctant about recording this album at first,” Venugopal confides, adding, “But it was a great joy working on it. The compositions are set to ragas Hamsadhwani, Charukeshi, Amruthavarshini and Abheri.” The artiste has been supported by Srihari Rangaswamy on the mridangam and flautist Shashank Jodidar. The aim of this album was to keep the compositions authentic and stick to their original form, but then add layers of musical enhancements to them.
The name Venu was chosen, naturally as an homage to the flautist, but also because it fittingly means flute in Indian languages. For Sandeep’s record label, which has focused on electronic music and rock, this marks the addition of a new genre to its roster.
Our favourite songs from the album include Vande Anisham Aham, Sudhamayi, Hoova Taruvara Manege and the titular track Venu. Boasting a rich tonal texture, the melody of the flutes add a rare depth to the numbers.
Venu is an experimental number and the flautist says it was his first time working on a track like that. “It had a set of chord progressions over which I had to play a melody. I had to improvise using inflections of different ragas would fit in with the chords individually. This was new to me. It was very enriching to see how the mood and the colours changed with every transition, ” he tells us. Speaking about the collaboration, Sandeep says that it was an incomparable experience “Collaborating with Venu sir was absolutely incredible. There’s always so much to learn from him,” he says. Thankfully, the recording of the album was done just a week before the country went into lockdown.
“I have been part of a few Carnatic classical fusion concerts and projects in the past. But collaborating with Sandeep musically and with his record label, has been a special experience for me, and will have a place in my heart. Also, I had a lot of freedom to apply my manodharma or flow of thought, while playing,” Venugopal signs off.
Available on online streaming platforms