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Indian Novelists Who Rock And ‘Rite

September 2007
Indian Novelists Who Rock And ‘Rite

Fusion is the result, many would say, when Indian classical music is combined with jazz, blues and rock. But not according to Amit Chaudhuri, who prefers to call it experimental music. His album—whose tracks include ‘Shree in two keys' and ‘Freewheeling jog'—is, in fact, called This is Not Fusion. Is this the same Chaudhuri who writes elegant novels and erudite essays for the literary set? Yes, and that's probably why his books have sonorous titles like Afternoon Raag and Freedom Song. Trained as a singer in Hindustani classical music, Chaudhuri performs regularly with his Kokata-based ensemble. Then there is Tanuja Desai Hidier, author of a young adult novel titled Born Confused. A lead singer/songwriter with the bands T & A (in London) and San Transisto (in New York), she came out with an album, When We Were Twins, which showcases her electro folk and punk pop songs based on her novel.

The novelist Rohinton Mistry seriously considered a career in music. As a guitar player and singer/songwriter, he was influenced by the music of Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen in his younger days. But he abandoned that dream soon after moving to Canada in his twenties. Which was a good thing, his fans would say, because Mistry left a job in banking and went on to become a world-class novelist. "I felt very comfortable with the books and the music [of the West], but actually living in the West made that same music seem much less relevant," he told Asia Society. "It suddenly brought home to me very clearly the fact that I was imitating something that was not mine, that made no sense in terms of my own life, my own reality."

The formidable Vikram Seth, who sings Schubert lieder in German and speaks Mandarin, among other languages, is also a music aficionado, although he has decidedly more highbrow interests. Not only did Seth write An Equal Music, a novel that has Western classical music as its underlying theme, he has also penned a libretto, Arion and Dolphin, for the English National Opera. And not to forget, he plays both the cello and the Indian flute. Salman Rushdie, using his novel The Ground Beneath My Feet as inspiration, wrote the lyrics for a song, which the Irish group U2 recorded a while ago.

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