Many notes, one tune

Many notes, one tune
Veteran guitarist Prakash Sontakke pays tribute to his parents through a multi-faceted musical festival

When Michael Jackson's Fever was a rage in the '80s, young Prakash Sontakke would strain his ears and listen to the music through a small tape recorder with (almost) negligent speakers. His parents, musicians and educators Mani and RB Sontakke, unlike most parents of that generation, didn't reprimand him for listening to Western music but instead asked him what ragas he could find in MJ's famous high-pitched notes. Inspired by this magnanimity, he is conducting the Sontakke Global Music Festival in the city — an amalgamation of music from classical Hindustani to jazz, as a tribute to his parents.

From Carnatic vocalist Manasi Prasad to flautist Praveen Godkhindi, violinist Padma Shankar, saxophone player Ian Bellamy from London, Norwegian drummer Thomas Stroenen and rockband Thermal and a Quarter, there is something for everyone in this 10-day festival. Sontakke's personal experiences of interacting with world class musicians have helped him see that language should be no barrier when it comes to art. "I have been doing several tours over the years, and every musician who is part of this festival is a friend. I emailed or called them with the idea, and all they wanted to know was when I was doing it," he says. No one needed any extra persuasion or follow up.

The festival, which was conceptualised and finalised over a year, is being supported by the Shankar Mahadevan Academy and Octavium. It will be conducted across eight venues in the city — Alliance Francaise, Bricklane, Jagriti Theatre, Octavium Academy (where Sontakke is a mentor and consultant) Opus in the Creek, Gayana Samaja, Bflat Bar and Dining and Chowdiah Memorial Hall. "When I host an event at Gayana Samaja in South Bangalore, my friends in Whitefield cannot attend, and vice versa. I don't want anyone missing good music and entertainment just because they cannot reach a venue on time. Bangalore is a beautiful city, and every corner has something to offer to everyone," he believes. With a balance between new and modern spaces like Jagriti and Opus, and conventional performance venues like Gayana Samaja and Chowdiah, the festival ensures participation from all walks of society.

This will be a free event, except for the show on the last day, which will be a ticketed event — proceeds of which will go to a fund meant for the welfare of children with diabetes. Sontakke is grateful that proprietors and owners of all the venues have been supportive of his endeavour, and have not charged him exorbitantly. "I'm quite lucky to have been able to pull off this event. I have friends in every sphere of music, and they have all given me sound advice and guidance."

The idea is to inculcate enough interest in crowds so they are encouraged to watch more performances. Sontakke believes that to gauge the depth of a musician's talent, one should attend several shows. With a burgeoning interest in different genres of music, the guitarist believes everyone has their place under the sun. "Karnataka has a thriving musical culture, and this is a great time for collaborations. People are discovering so many genres and appreciating it."

Not ticketing his shows is deliberate. "We come from a land ruled by kings. They were entertained by musicians, who mostly performed for free, and the general public got their dose of arts and culture the same way. I believe there should be free and unrestricted access to something culturally rich and vibrant." Not reprimanding their son listening to MJ has certainly paid off, as this musician is pulling all stops to ensure music reaches everyone in Bangalore.

The Sontakke Global Music Fest, from Dec 15 to 25. Call 9886766647/9448357975 for details or email

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