Some of the most prestigious festivals and conferences of Indian classical music take place in the winter months. Now, the winter in Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore is far from being chilly, or at least unpleasantly, bone-marrowingly chilly, but if you happen to be scheduled to perform somewhere in northern India, you could have more than a bit of trouble warming up. I remember a concert in Jaisalmer one January, in an extraordinarily beautiful garden retreat (which could have been a splendid setting for a concert had the temperature not been a numbing 2 degrees Celsius), with the audience, elegant and regal in priceless shawls and designer clothing, sitting around angeethis with glowing embers, while every swara I sang was heralded by a puff of smoky frosty breath.
Swathed in several layers of woollen clothes, it was pretty tough to settle down and start concentrating on the music, though eventually and mercifully, that did happen. It’s a different matter, though, that when I gesticulated as I usually do when I sing, my hands, which I couldn’t bare on account of the extreme cold, appeared like stumps bandaged in the folds of my shawl. Imagine what would happen to us desi musicians then if we were invited to the Ice Music Festival at Geilo where the venue, the stage, the instruments and even the decorations are all made of ice!
‘Winterreise’: Terje Isungset plays instruments carved out of ice.Photo by Knut Bry
Don’t believe me? Check www.icefestival.no, which has several pictures of the different instruments carved out of ice, and even a video of ice sculptor Bill Covitz merrily working on an ice harp, www.icefestival.no/en/html/ice/harp/. This unique and intriguing festival takes place at Geilo, midway between Oslo and Bergen, in Norway. The festival website makes it seem fairly simple to get there, by bus, train or car. For some of us who are not used to the cold, leave alone heavy snow, it may require some, er, getting used to. But those of us who may be less intrepid and brave of heart could well sit at home, huddled in our shawls and mufflers, and listen to the exclusive all-ice tracks on an exclusive and dedicated Ice record label titled, what else, All Ice Records. Not surprisingly, the albums are appropriately titled Hibernation, Igloo and Iceman Is.
The ustad of icy tunes appears to be a far from frosty looking gentleman called Terje Isungset. A set of videos that I watched showed him in concert playing a variety of icy instruments. The following link is available for all interested icy Kansens: http://home.online.no/~isungz/
Though ice music concerts seem to be gaining popularity and travelling far and wide to London and Istanbul and elsewhere, I am not so sure they would be travelling in the near future to do a jugalbandi with our very own Munni and Sheila. Among other things, ice from the Norwegian glaciers would need to be flown down to make the instruments!
Write to Shubha at firstname.lastname@example.org