After vocalists like Girija Devi and Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra illuminated the national stage with their singing prowess and made their home town Banaras proud, there has been a rather long gap in the flow of talents from Banaras. Now, one sees the trend meeting a change. A handful of young artistes in classical music are emerging from Banaras with a lot of promise.
Take, for instance, young vocalist Sharada Velenkar. She recently proved at a performance her talent and ability to sustain in Khayal. In the Pandit Omkarnath Thakur auditorium of Banaras Hindu University, this disciple of Pandit Surendra Mohan Mishra from Banaras gharana gave more than a ray of home to the residents of this ancient city with a great history of music.
Sharada began with a not-so-commonly heard raga Bhoopeshwari. Pandit Ravi Shankar once created five Ishwari ragas like Parameshwari. Bhoopeshwari is one of them. This is actually raga Bhoopali with an exclusive use of soft dhaiwat. If one stays at gandhar in five shuddha notes — sa, re, ga, pa, dha, it becomes Bhoopali.
But if one stays at dhaiwat, it becomes raga Deshkar. Hence, if one stays at dhaiwat in Bhoopali with a soft note, it should be called Desheshwari, not Bhoopeshwari. Sharada has an answer to that: “The raga has been constructed in a manner where we introduce the new raga on the very basis of Bhoopali. Komal dhaiwat unfolds the essential nature (swaroop) of this new raga and its intrinsic beauty appears simultaneously.”
Sharada, who is a next generation artiste after Pandit Pashupatinath Mishra from Banaras gharanahas also specialised herself in thumri, dadara and popular folk songs of the eastern region of India.
After Sharada, we have another young talent in Khayal — Parul Dixit. Though Parul is much junior to Sharada, this disciple of Pandit Vidyadhar Vyas is constantly proving her talent in terms of rigorous riyaz. Recently, she recited raga Maru Vihag, impeccably designed with firat and sapaat taans.
Carnatic music too
Yet another talented young artiste from Banaras is K. Sashi Kumar. In this musically evolved city, he is cultivating himself in the area of Carnatic music. At this stage, he is unparalleled.
Ram Kumar Mishra is another young artiste shining in the art of tabla playing. A grandson of Pandit Anokhelal Mishra from Banaras gharana and son of Pandit Channulal Mishra, Ram Kumar is now a national artiste, accompanying regularly the likes of Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Ronu Mazumdar.
His solo performance attracts listeners more where he shows his exceptionally trained style of angustana after Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Pandit Samta Prasad, Pandit Swapan Chawdhury, Pandit Kumar Bose and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee. The coming decade is going to be proud of Ram Kumar.
Rajesh Shah in sitar and Swarna Khuntia in violin are also in the list of young talents from Banaras. Swarna does not belong to the city. A disciple of Prafulla Chandra Ray and then of N. Rajam, she is from Orissa and teaches violin in the Faculty of Performing Arts, BHU.
Besides, there are some more names which have the potential to make Banaras proud. They are young tabla players Jaideb Mukherji (disciple of Pandit Kumar Lal Mishra) and Shubh Maharaj (disciple of Pandit Kishan Maharaj), young Dhrupad exponent Pallav Das (disciple of Ustad Fariduddin Dagar), Khayal vocalist Madhumata Bhattacharya (disciple of Vanmala Parvatkar) and Kathak dancer Vidhi Nagar.