String Temple in this special segment brings Mr.Eero Hameenniemi who is among the most revered western classical musicians in the international circuit. Influences from the South Indian Classical Music has been an integral part of his music since his early visits to India. His collaborations with Mrs.Bombay Jayashri and Shri Karaikudi R. Mani Iyer was well received among the global audience. He is also known for his extensive literary work. This interview provides a deep insight on his association with India and the Tamil Language.
What has been your association with Indian and Carnatic Music citing your regular visits to the country?
I’ve visited India annually since 1984, but even before that I’d studied Sanskrit at the university in Helsinki. At first I went to Delhi and North India, but from 1991 I began to participate in the Chennai Season. For many years I have had a regular seat at the MFAC during the Season. I enjoy Carnatic music very much, but I am just a listener. Being a professional musician in the Western tradition is quite enough for one lifetime.
You are also known for your literary works, especially in Tamil Literature. Can you throw some light on it?
I have always had a very keen interest in languages, and I have had the extraordinary blessing of having been able to study Tamil under the guidance of Dr. I Sundaramoorthy, one of the greatest Tamil scholars of our time.
I’ve written 7 books, four of which deal with India and Indian culture. A decade ago I included some translations I had made from sangam literature into one of my books, but only next year, 2015, a proper collection of translations into Finnish from Ainkurunuru, Kuruntokai and Purananuru is due to be published by my publisher, Basam Books.
I have used Tamil language texts in two of my main works for Mrs. Bombay Jayashri and Symphony Orchestra: “Red Earth and Pouring Rain” and “Yaadum uure”.
We would like to hear about your collaborations with the Indian artists such as Smt.Bombay Jayashri and Karaikudi Shri R. Mani.
I have been extremely fortunate in finding truly great musicians to work with. My collaboration with Guru Karaikkudi Mani Sir started in 1995, and in 1997 he and the Sruthi Laya- ensemble came to Helsinki to play with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Mani Sir returned in 2010 to perform with the same orchestra in my work entitled “Never Stop!” I hope he never will! My Nadam- ensemble has also performed with the musicians of Mani Sir both in India and in Finland, and we’ve made a CD entitled “Unmatched”, which I believe is available in India even now.
Another very important collaboration had been with Mrs. Bombay Jayashri, the greatest singer that has ever performed my music. I have been blessed with the opportunity of writing three large works for her. They have been performed in different European countries, and new concerts are being planned as we speak.
I have also had the opportunity to write music for the absolutely wonderful flute virtuoso Mr. Flute Shashank Subramanyam and an excellent string quartet from Finland, Meta4. Another dear friend and important collaborator has been Dr. K.S.Subramanian of the Karaikkudi veenai tradition.
What is the scenario of Carnatic music in Finland? How well it is received by the audience and musicians?
Unfortunately Carnatic music is rarely heard in Finland, but the great musicians who have come for my projects have often also given classical concerts. They have been very well received.
What you think about the works of Mr.V.S.Narasimhan especially the Madras String Quartet?
I have been able to meet with Mr. V.S. Narasimhan on many occasions, and I have the deepest admiration for his work with the Madras String Quartet. I think that his arrangements of Carnatic classics for the string quartet are something unique and wonderful and I hope that he and the quartet can soon come to Finland to perform. I am certain that they would be much appreciated in my country, because the Madras String Quartet makes the string quartet, so familiar to us, into something very fresh, new and interesting.
Can you let us know about the radio program for Finland in which you highlighted the music of Madras String Quartet?
On occasion I have made radio programs for the Finnish National Radio YLE 1. In one of the programmes I spoke about the interaction between Western and Carnatic music, and as one of the examples of very succesful cross fertilization between our two traditions I mentioned the work of Mr. Narasimhan, who has found a way of making Carnatic classics sit very well with the string quartet. I also played his arrangement of Papanasam Sivan’s kriti Eesanee in the same programme.
What is your opinion about the Western Classical Music scenario in India?
TheThere are many musicians in India who are very well versed in Western music, but my impression is, that it is not often heard in concert in Chennai. Maybe more so in places like Mumbai.
What are your upcoming projects in India and abroad?
Many projects. I am working on a new piece for Mr. Flute Shashank Subramanyam and the Meta4 string quartet. For this I have a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation of the US. I have made arrangements for a string orchestra of my Urdu language songs (“Sab Kahan?”) for Mrs. Bombay Jayashri andthey are due to be premiered in Germany and Finland in 2016. I also hope to be able to write yet another large work for Guru Karaikkudi Mani Sir and a large Western Orchestra.
Check out the article in our special segment of String Temple Records in the September issue : http://thescoremagazine.com/september-2014/16/