Five Canadian artistes presented their understanding of Indian art forms at Triveni Kala Sangam.
Harmony was in the air this past week, when the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute presented five of its fellowship recipients, Canadian nationals who have dedicated themselves to learning an Indian art form. It was a mixed bag at Triveni Kala Sangam, as Richard Tremblay gave a presentation titled “Research and Creation of Kathakali Dance-Theatre”, while Tanya Jacob, Chloe Bennett-Pinel, Sasha Ghoshal and Sonia St-Michel gave 20-minute recitals of Hindustani vocal, Rabindra Sangeet, Hindustani flute and Odissi respectively.
In a world forever in danger of being polarised, such exchanges cannot but be welcomed. But there were times one feared this point alone would be the programme's laudable feature, what with the varying standards of performance. However, since all the performers are in the process of training under distinguished gurus, and every serious guru has a unique methodology to sculpt an artiste out of an aspirant, this performance should be treated as a work-in-progress.
While Tremblay, who seemed the senior-most practitioner of the five, had a number of interesting points to make, the occasion, the microphones and his own bemused way of presenting his thoughts did not help to bring them before the audience as vividly as did the short video clips of his performances and choreographic works. His references to his own work of creating Kathakali atta kathas (scripts) for European classics such as Homer's Iliad were quite fascinating, as were the few clips shown.
Anirudhya Kumar Ghoshal, who goes by the name of Sasha, thrilled the audience with his baritone rendition of Tagore songs in quick succession. His cheerful North American twang disappeared, luckily, the moment he started singing, and with a percussionist and a keyboard player for company, Sasha delighted listeners with songs chosen from a variety of Tagore's works, including his theatrical compositions, his love songs, etc.
At the end of the evening, Hindustani music maestro Pandit Jasraj, who sat patiently through the proceedings, gave a succinct and compassionate appraisal of the efforts of the Canadian scholars. While he whole-heartedly praised Sasha's voice, he noted that Chloe had picked up the tone of her guru Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, which was highly praiseworthy in a disciple. Tanya, he noted, tried her “level best”, while the Odissi was very good. Tanya is currently under the tutelage of Guru Padma Talwalkar, while Sonia, who started learning Odissi in Canada, has been travelling to India to train with Guru Aloka Panikar since 2005. As for Tremblay's talk, Panditji felt Prachi Kaul of SICI was more qualified to talk about it! Once the maestro had delivered judgement, what could lesser mortals venture?
There was only one thing left to do. Sasha was asked to lead the entire assemblage in singing the national anthem. Everyone rose and joined in. India and Canada were on song.