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Ariane Gray Hubert, drunk on love

By Alison Hird

Franco-American pianist, singer and composer Ariane Gray Hubert began her musical journey in India 15 years ago. She took her piano 'an alien instrument in India' and struck up an altogether original dialogue with players of tabla and the less well-known ghatam. She talks to RFI about 'breaking the rules to create a language of [her] own' by blending Western and Eastern classical music traditions.

 

Gray Hubert is a concert pianist with a deep love of the Indian continent, notably the Carnatic and Hindustani percussion traditions from south and north India respectively.

For her latest programme, Ivre d'Amour (drunk on love), premiered at the Namasté France festival in Paris in October, she's enlisted the talents of percussionists N. Rajaraman (gatham and kanjiram) and Anubhav Chatterjee (tabla).

The repertoire includes her take on a kind of Carnatic rythmic composition known as a Tilliana. Using the story of Le Petit Prince by St Exupéry, she blends French and Sanskrit. And joins N. Rajaraman for some neat Indian scat known as Konnakol.

In Om Ganapataye, an incantation sung in Sanskrit and Latin, she explores the essence of both her own Gregorian chant and the sacred Vedic chant from India "bringing the two traditions together at a deep level".

N. Rajaraman masters the ghatam - a kind of clay pot made near Madurai in south India and one of India's oldest instruments. The nephew of renowned Indian ghatam player Vikku Vinayakaram, he says performing alongside Gray Hubert was an great opportunity to bring his instrument to new audiences.

"I'm really happy to be part of this because my intention is this instrument be reached all over the world and not only for the particular community so this is the best platform I got through her."

Gray Hubert meanwhile recognises that working with a range of Indian percussionists and string instrumentalists "with different mind sets" is rewarding and has enriched her "sense of improvisation".

"As Rajaraman said to me 'it’s great to do that with you because we are proposing something new from our tradition as well'. And that’s I think the meaning of music for me."

Gray is indeed bringing something new to the Indian tradition of sacred Vedic chant, which until 2011 was reserved exclusively to men. Even now it remains very rare for women to pronounce the mantras in temples.

The Franco-American is warmly welcomed in India and will perform Ivre d'Amour on December 14 in New Delhi, and December 25-30 in Chennai. She hopes to further the cause of Indian women.

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