Artist may understand the importance of community better than the rest of us. When they are at the beginning of their journey they are often dissuaded from pursuing their dreams. Few start of as prodigies and of those few, even fewer persist in the creative path. For those who persevere and hone their abilities and talent, they meet others along the way whom they can relate to. Those of different artistic mediums are kindred spirits; they understand the struggle, desire, and determination it takes to become successful. This occurs on a local scale as well as a global one, causing many artists to seek out creative talents from other cultures. The result of this is a geographical blending of creative accents. When Shreenath Muthyala wanted a composer to work with on his production of “Padam Live” he didn’t seek out one from another country but rather a composer from his own homeland who was expertly versed in both the music of Indian and traditional Western Musical styles. He explains, “Sai Sriram Maddury and I go way back. We started our careers simultaneously. Through our numerous conversations over the years, I’ve come to a deep awareness and understanding of his style. The progressive approach I wanted to use for ‘Padam Live’ was a task that he was ideally suited for. He quickly understood my requirements and later envisioned this to make for a successful performance at the erasing borders festival organized by the Indo-American Arts Council. His ability to work through complex soundscapes of music is truly amazing! His use of both contemporary genres of sound infused with classical traditions of music from Indian subcontinent is transcendent!"
“Padam” is one of the historical compositions by the poet-composer Kshetrayya which has been a historical lyrical song in Madhura Bhakti period (Bakthi movement 12-18th Century CE). Padam has an important significance in Carnatic music (South Indian Classical Music), and also in Bharatanatyam (Indian Classical Dance in which the performer expresses the story and emotion through dance). The Padam is a monologue that expresses the relationship between Nayaki (Woman) and Nayaka(Man). For Muthyala’s production, Sai composed a piece that leads into the song “Paiyada” in the Padam dance video and live performance.
The essence that Shreenath wanted was to communicate this art form with a hint of familiarity while still retaining its individual voice when being presented to a different culture. Maddury set about to write music with Indian sounds that complemented the tradition and history of Padam but also to blended it with the western harmonies. This created a positive correlation to the Padam choreographed by Shreenath with a message of cultural togetherness of Bharatanatyam and Western ballet. This is more complicated than it might seem. Padam is a very sensitive subject which revolves around a very traditional Indian song. The representation must be handled with great care as to not appear disrespectful. Beyond the etiquette, the challenge for Sai was to blend the Indian Classical traditional elements with the Western Classical ones for this live peformance. Maddury explains, “Padam is sensitive in terms of it is great historical importance in the Bakthi movement. I had to be very careful not to write something vastly different from the song itself. Because the music I have written needs to lead into the song, I had to make sure that the piece I wrote perfectly and smoothly transitioned to the song.” To create this, Sai chose the Cello to play the lead melody with the notes and articulation reflecting that of Indian Classical music. While the “speaker” of the instrument was not ethnic, the scale or notes and the articulations authentically expressed the story of Padam.
An uncommon consideration when composing music for a live performance was presented to Maddury by Shreenath when he communicated it was very important that the score reflect the lights on the stage. Musicians often relate the energy in music and instrumentation in terms of color. Sai concedes that he always relates the score to the colors and light in visual terms but doesn’t often hear this from purveyors of other artistic mediums. The music was to be synced with the lights during the performance. Shreenath discussed what he was thinking in terms of temperature and emotion, leaving Maddury to choose appropriate instrumentation and themes.
The Padam Live event was held at the Schimmel Centre in New York City for ‘Erasing Border Dance Festival’ 2016 to a crowd of somewhere between five hundred and a thousand, with legendary dancer Astad Deboo in attendance to witness the event. The production received such immense praise that Shreenath has enlisted Sai to work on his upcoming feature film, ‘Bandhe’ (in pre-production stage) which will again require a score that blends the Indian Classical Music and Western Classical music as the story revolves around the Indian freedom struggle during the British-India era. As a talent who has always found himself immersed within influences from different cultures and embraced the creative opportunities they afford, this composer is passionate about creating works of music which exhibit how the blending of different cultural influences combine to make art that can be appreciated by all. He relates, “I am so glad that I got an opportunity to express a story in a universal language without considering any boundaries in terms of Indian or Western Classical music. I had a privilege to bridge them both and show that a human emotion or an expression is universal in the world and that can be reflected in music without having any boundaries.”