Yarlinie and Kobini speak about Inner Voice

Our good friend Mithila messaged us a while back now introducing us to Zeroclassikal, a project at the time we thought was quite unusual, where the rules of Carnatic music would be questioned. Immediately we thought of harmonies, predominantly a Western concept which we were exposed through listening to Western Classical music, everyday radio and even soundtracks to films, and applying these to the context of Carnatic music. Being British-Born Carnatic vocalists, this idea appealed to us, as both styles of music have influenced us from a very young age. However, although the idea excited us, we found ourselves quite overwhelmed as it meant breaking the rules of an ancient art form. So as we’ve been working on this, we thought it was time for a little update on our progress! 

We didn’t quite know where to begin. Having not been taught harmonies, (as it is not part of any classical training), we decided perhaps we should take it to the basics and start with a very famous Carnatic composition, Vathapi, and directly transpose notes to make a new harmony. However, even here we realised the future obstacles that lay ahead of us. Not only will we need to be clever with our harmonies but also think of pitch, even half an octave makes all the difference and with our vocal ranges, it can be difficult to pursue a harmony as we had originally imagined. Therefore we’ve started to change the pitch for each song just to make it more effective. This isn’t typically done in a Carnatic concert and our Miruthangam accompaniment isn’t going to be pleased when we tell him we need more than one Miruthangam!
As we started to understand the basics of harmony, it was time to attempt something more difficult and just to be more adventurous we decided to jump directly into the deep end! We’ve picked a few compositions by a great Carnatic musician and composer, Lalgudi.G.Jayaraman, whom has inspired us with the incredible thought behind each of his compositions and the way he interprets raga into emotion. With these, we were quite hesitant, as his pieces are very intricate. However, as we began, we found some aspects not as challenging as we thought. His thought in exposing ragas through emotions meant that from a harmonic point of view, we had a clear direction in the kinds of harmony we should be looking to add depending on the mood of the composition, and this has been quite fun!
We have had many questions from the beginning as to whether this will work, such as how can we sing complicated gamakams and still harmonise, what if we change the essence of the composition? Yet these are all things we’re slowly working on and it’s great to see the scope there is for harmonies within Carnatic music. We’ve also suddenly found whilst practicing these pieces together, that a lot more concentration and understanding of each other is required as it’s not easy singing one thing whilst the person next to you is doing something completely different! A few weeks to go now to perfect this and its time to get the percussion involved and see what we can come up with! In the meantime, please spread the word, Karamel Lounge on 19th November - see you guys all there!