THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Punk men with shaggy backcombed hair banging their head, with heavy metals all around- that’s the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of a band. That is where ‘Asima’, the only vocal and percussion band in the state differs. The eclectic band from the city has carnatic and hindustani vocalists, uses an ensemble of desi percussion instruments like mridangam, nagara, chenda, and even ghatam along with Western instruments.
The performance of the band is largely driven by the classical music background of its director-composer Devissaro, an Australian born musician who has been living in India since 1980. The musician trained in both Western and Eastern classical and Hindustani music, classical piano, Pakhawaj and Bansuri says, “Merging the rhythm of the West with that of native musical strain has been part of our musical culture for years now. Even Bollywood music has been inspired from Western music.”
Incidentally, Devissaro is the father of actress and dancer Isha Sherwani. Their entire family comprising wife Daksha Seth, and son, Tao Issarao are immersed in the arts.
“The music of ‘Asima’ is original and exciting. The term ‘sima’ means boundary. Ours is music without barriers, which converges East and West and reaches the masses of North and South,” he says.
Five Carnatic singers Anil Ram, Gokul Bhaskaran, Anoop Sivanandan, Anoop Mohandas and Khalid accompanied by Sajith Padmanabhan on percussion, Yakzan Pereira on keyboard and Ben Sam Jones on guitar and bass are the members of ‘Asima’.
“Though hints of folk and jazz are there, much of what we create have classical roots. We enjoy presenting classical music in a new form,” says Devissaro.
“The criterion behind selecting the musicians is that they should have a thorough knowledge in classical music,” says Devissaro. Along with desi percussion instruments of Kerala, dholak, nagara, pakhawaj, damroo, and even the African instrument Cjembe are used by the band members. Along with the percussion instruments, the only musical instrument used is the keyboard.
‘Asima’ band was formed five years back. The band is popularly known as male percussion instrument band since there are no female members. “That has not been a deliberate act. We would definitely like to have ladies too in our band,” says Devissaro.
The band has already performed at 25 venues in and outside India, including BBC Proms classical music festival, at the Kennedy Center, Washington, The music, arts and dance (MAD) festival, Ooty and several others.