Cambridge-based Indian classical musician Deepti Navaratna has been making her presence felt and carving a name for herself in the local classical music scene, since her arrival in Boston in 2008. And with the recent release of her maiden CD, appropriately titled ‘Aarohanam’ (or ‘ascent’), this vocalist is set to claim her unique space in the world of classical music.
The CD is only one of several achievements that this musician has to her credit. She received the Emerging Artist Award from the St. Botolph Foundation in June 2011, and will receive Lokvani’s Spotlight on Excellence Award for Amazing Artists in September. Currently a research associate at Harvard Medical School, Navaratna makes time for her music career, describing herself as an “artist trapped in a scientist’s cortex”. An A-grade artist of All India Radio since 2000, Navaratna has performed under various banners, including the Asia Society, Yale School of Music, Thyagaraja Festival and the Museum of Fine Arts. She was also featured as a Carnatic soprano in a multi-chamber opera produced by Boston Musica Viva, under the direction of celebrated composer Shirish Korde.
“I want to live two lives - as a traditional musician, and as a musician who wants to experiment with the different sounds of the world,” Navaratna says. “I clearly believe that in the future, music will be collaborative; the most exciting music will come from the melding of traditional landscapes because we live in a global culture.” It is the traditional musician who is on display in her Carnatic CD, ‘Aarohanam’, which follows a short concert format, with 6 pieces including varnam, krithi and thillana. Navaratna’s expressive voice is accompanied by Krishnan Parameswaran on the violin and Mahalingam Santhanakrishnan on the mridangam. Described as an excellent starter CD for non-traditional audiences to discover Carnatic classical music, Aarohanam was completely recorded and produced in Massachusetts, and is available on cdbaby.com.
A musician for our times, Navaratna’s passion for inter-cultural collaboration is obvious when she speaks about her projects. She was recently selected into the prestigious Contemporary Improvisation program at the New England Conservatory, where she will learn how to synthesize Carnatic music skills with jazz and music of other cultures. “Carnatic music is a tradition that celebrates ‘Manodharma’ or musical ‘self-portrait’ …… I am excited that the program presents itself as a wonderful opportunity to hone a distinct Manodharma; that is informed by sounds within and outside of my tradition,” she says.