Constantinople and Shashank Subramanyam at the Grand Théâtre

Constantinople and Shashank Subramanyam at the Grand Théâtre

By Daydree Vendette

The description of the show on the Grand Théâtre website gives a lot of space to the flutist Shashank Subramanyam, and paints the participation of the 4 member Constantinople as a supporting role.

The beauty of this concert is that the premise of Indian flute music is unassuming and misleading enough that the reality of 5 musicians at the top of their game coming together to create auditory landscapes cannot be anything but a revelation to someone unfamiliar with their music.

In reality Constantinople has been making music since 1998 and they seem to have a stable fan base. The audience at the Grand Théâtre, having an average age of 50, seemed to have an expectation of what was coming their way. They responded to the music emphatically, bursting into laughter at the playfulness of the percussionists, Parupalli Phalgun and Keyvan Chemirani, who were locked in a call and response challenge for an extended period, at the beginning of the concert. The audience broke out into applause mid-song several times during the show, drowning out the music on stage and making the musicians slow down until the appreciation subsided.

Kiya Tabassian, the sitar player of the ensemble explained the format of the concert to the audience in French. He introduced the compositions of several members and explained how improvisation would play a role in each song. There were two songs that included singing by Tabassian, with lyrics taken from Indian poetry.

The viola de gamba player, Pierre Yves Martel’s composition allowed him to show off the range of his playing. His skill was evident throughout, however his playing both anchored and supported a lot of the improvisation of the other members, leaving less time for him to wander.

Funnily enough Shashank Subramanyan had a cold. He could be heard coughing and sniffling during the intervals when he wasn’t playing the flute. I am speculating that the place of improvisation in the concert left enough room for the other musicians to step forward and improvise for longer stretches, in order to give Subramanyam time to catch his breath. This in no way diminished the experience. Rather, it created a space where a cold became, not a condition to lament but a serendipitous occurrence that modified the way the show unfolded.

Subramanyam’s flute playing was beautiful and the sounds he is able to produce ranged from high pitched and bird-like coos to lower sounds that very much sound like air moving through a tunnel. Subramanyam took the time to explain some aspects of Indian music and also the Indian flutes and the ways that sound could be produced, not with specific holes that correspond to notes but with finger placement and pressure.

Because I am unfamiliar with traditional Indian music, most songs felt like a soundtrack to an unfamiliar place. While someone with more cultural guideposts would find references and understand the traditional language of the music better, having that empty space to fill in let my imagination roam. The first few songs were haunting and meandering, at once playful and sad. That combination took me off guard. Later songs were funny and forceful, each one with its own character.

The concert Constantinople et Shashank Subramanyam flute indienne « Ciel de l’inde » played in the Octave-Crémazie concert hall at the Grand Téâtre on February 19, at 20h. The show lasted until 21h40. Members of Constatinople will also be giving concerts on June 11, 2018 and April 8, 2018.


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Categories: Arts & Culture, Reviews

About Author

Daydree Vendette

Daydree Vendette is passionate about all things that spread good vibes like animals, yoga, her rock collection, vegan food and creative expression in all forms. She has a master’s degree in literature and is a nerd searching for a field of study to latch onto next. She works as a technical writer and translator while pursuing other creative projects. She should travel more.

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