On creative collaboration

I am a student of voice and I have been studying voice in the Hindustani classical tradition for over 30 years now. However, I remain curious about music and the use of voice in all systems and traditions, and in new trends too. And I feel lucky because I live in exciting times where sharing is possible in a million different ways, so I make the most of these opportunities even as I grow older every minute!

If I wanted to keep singing what I sing everyday… then a collaboration would not be possible…

If I wanted to keep singing what I sing everyday, in the manner that I usually sing, then a collaboration would not be possible. But if I am willing to acknowledge that I really like the way a particular musician sings or plays or composes, and I would like to learn from her or him and see if my own work can be enriched by his or her wisdom and skill, then I have approached the gates of collaboration. I still have to bridge the gap between thought and action, and open those gates and be welcoming of whatever may come in.

Since 2011 Aneesh and I have been working with a very well known theatre person in India called Sunil Shanbag. We approached him with the idea of doing a theatre piece around stories, historical accounts, and even extracts from fiction which focused on music making in India. What we wanted to do was to ask Sunil to create a theatre piece from these stories, by stitching together a collage of the stories, all told though theater and music making. So these were, in effect, stories about different forms of music.

The production, which in the past year has had over 30 successful shows is called “Stories in a Song“. We are not required on stage, and therefore, we worked with Sunil to research the piece, create and curate the music. I think what makes this collaboration successful is the inherent strength of the stories, and the magic wand that Sunil uses to make them come alive on stage. In a sense it is a great mix of discipline, hard work, and the imaginative skills of a team that makes the collaboration work as it has.

I think a lack of receptivity, an inability to listen to one’s collaborator, and to treat him/her as a valuable member of a team could be some of the reasons that could come in the way of a collaboration. However, I guess each collaboration is unique and there are no formulae that could ensure success.

Empathy plays a significant role in any creative collaboration as well. Musically, it means a conscious attempt to learn, enrich oneself and then share what one has learnt in the process. It also means extending oneself considerably to accept challenges that might have appeared impossible or even impractical at times.

Shubha Mudgal

Shubha Mudgal

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