Two impressive musical evenings in New Delhi celebrate the birth anniversary of Pandit Ravi Shankar

Had he lived for another four months, till this past Sunday, Ravi Shankar would have been 93. His was a full, well-lived life during which he had truly immortalised himself as one of the biggest icons of world music, one of the greatest-ever sitarists, a hugely gifted composer of film music, a daring experimenter with an amazing ability to coalesce diverse musical traditions, and, above all, an interpreter of the Indian classical music. He was the face of the Indian music for the world. Classical to the core, he was completely modern in his worldview. Ravi Shankar was our quintessential classical modernist.

To pay tribute to his genius on his birth anniversary, Kalashri Foundation organised an evening of music at Muktadhara auditorium in New Delhi featuring junior as well as senior artistes. The evening opened with a tabla solo recital by Ravindra Soni followed by a vocal performance by Bhupinder Malhotra who sang Yaman followed by a short rendering of Jog.

The highlight of the event was a sarod recital by Mukesh Sharma, who has received training from sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan besides many others. He chose the pentatonic Jog to offer a short alap and jod. This raga with its delightful komal gandhar-shadaj meend omits rishabh and dhaivat and has its roots in Tilang. Mukesh played a reposeful alap that seamlessly moved into the jod section.

He displayed a serious musical attitude and did not resort to the usual gimmicks. He played a slow jhaptal gat and two faster gats in teen taal. Although he did not rise to great heights, his recital did not leave one disappointed either. It was a satisfying, competent performance. Gyan Singh provided good accompaniment on tabla.

Just a day before, LNJ Bhilwara Group too began its two-day music festival “Bhilwara Sur Sangam” at Kamani Auditorium and dedicated it to the memory of Ravi Shankar.

Violin maestro N. Rajam along with her daughter Sangeeta Shankar and grand daughter Nandini Shankar opened the first evening with the evergreen raga Yaman.

A devoted disciple of the late Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, one of the great Gwalior gharana vocalists of the last century, she faithfully reproduces the gayaki of her illustrious guru and has trained Sangeeta and Nandini well.

The tonal quality of all the three violins matched with one another beautifully and when they played together, one felt as if only one violin was doing all the talking. Rajam is well-known for her bowing and fingering techniques and the long meends and melodious gamaks that she executes on her violin are so well-suited to the vocalisms of the Gwalior style of khayal singing. She played a vilambit, madhyalaya and drut gat in Yaman enchantingly and chose the evocative Jhinjhoti as the next raga of the evening.

The young Nandini Shankar was given ample opportunity to display her talent and she took utmost advantage of it, regaling the audience with her impressive interventions.

A raga that blossoms in the mandra and mandya saptak, Jhinjhoti is considered by some as the principal raga of the Khamaj thaat. No wonder that few musicians would give it a treatment reserved for a major raga and Jhinjhoti, like Khamaj, is employed mainly for thumri and dadra.

However, Rajam offered a serious version of the raga and brought out its hidden pathos quite well. As Ramnavmi is round the corner, she rendered a Tulsidas bhajan “Thumaki Chalat Ramachandra”, made famous by the late D. V. Paluskar.

However, her choice of a dadra after rendering a bhajan was rather surprising because the shringar-pradhan dadra after the bhakti-laden bhajan did look out of place. Anyway, her rendering of it with the attendant lilt was most satisfying. Ramkumar Mishra gave a good account of himself on tabla.