Vishnu Digambar Jayanti Sangeet Samaroh presented an array of scintillating performances as always.

Vishnu Digambar Jayanti Sangeet Samaroh is one of the oldest and most prestigious music festivals in the Capital and is known for providing platform to young talents along with established masters. In an effort to introduce North Indian audiences to the South Indian Carnatic style, it always features at least one Carnatic musician.

The three-day festival opened last Friday at the Shri Ram Centre of Arts and Culture with an Indian slide guitar recital by Debashish Bhattacharya. He chose the sombre evening raga Shree and played dhrupad-ang alap, jod and jhala. Despite his serious temperament and command over his instrument, the exercise was not entirely satisfying as the alap was a little too brief and the jhala section did not sound best-suited for the Indian slide guitar. However, the two gats in Jaijaiwanti that followed Shree were truly elevating. Debashish ended his recital with a dhun on the shorter version of his guitar. He was ably accompanied by Rafiuddin Sabri on tabla.

Gwalior-gharana vocalist Venkatesh Kumar, who has imbibed quite a lot from the gayaki of the Kirana stalwart Bhimsen Joshi, showed how greatly pleasing a recital can be if it is well-proportioned and well-conceived. A highly talented vocalist, Venkatesh began with a madhyalaya bada khayal “Tum bin kaun khabar” and followed it up with a drut chhota khayal using the celebrated Sadarang bandish “Mondar baaje re”. He also offered a full-fledged treatment of the rainy season raga Gaud Malhar, sininging the familiar bada and chhota khayals “Kahe ho” and “Balma bahar aayee”. He also rendered a composition in Ramdasi Malhar “Badarwa gahar aaye” before concluding his recital with a Bhairavi bhajan. He has a pleasant, tuneful voice and impressive taiyari that comes through in his well-formed, fast and neat taans, and restrained use of layakari. The only jarring feature was the undue emphasis on singing sargam or solfa bols. Bharat Kamat on tabla and Dr. Arawind D. Thatte provided competent accompaniment.

Impressive

Malini Rajurkar is one of the top vocalists in the country today and belongs to the vast musical clan known as the Gwalior gharana. She gave a truly memorable performance on the second day of the festival by singing a difficult raga Kaunsi Kanhda — a combination of Malkauns and Darbari Kanhda. Her bada khayal “Rajan ke sirtaaj Shri Ramachandra” was simply captivating and she offered an unhurried and methodical treatment to Kaunsi Kanhda, paying due attention to both the constituent ragas. She had a very attractive way of arriving at the sam and used sargams for the badhat of the raga much in the same way as Guru Dutt used songs to take the story of his films forward, making them an integral part of the performance. Her aesthetically-rendered bol taans too attracted attention. She sang a drut composition “Kahe karat mose barjori” with elan. However, it was surprising that her Kafi tappa “Madhav Mukund Murari”, originally composed by Dinkar Kaikini, did not impress much although the Gwalior gharana is famous for its tappas. The extensive use of sargams in a tappa was also a little unusual although she justified it by saying that as she was performing for the Vidyalaya, she was singing svarmalika too. Bharat Kamat on tabla and Dr. Arawind Thatte on harmonium were very good.

Master stroke

Shiv Kumar Sharma has done to santoor what Bismillah Khan did to shehnai. He not only introduced this Kashmiri folk instrument to the world of Hindustani classical music but firmly established it as one of the most popular concert instruments. It is a truly great achievement in view of the fact that meend and gamak are virtually impossible to produce howsoever one may coax and cajole this instrument that specialises in staccato notes. Yet, Shiv Kumar Sharma through his sheer musicianship and technical virtuosity has overcome these limitations. On Sunday evening, he chose the mint raga Bageshree and offered a brief alap that was followed by jod and jhala sequences. He also played two gats composed in vilambit Jhap taal and drut Teen taal before concluding his recital with as lilting dhun. The audience lapped up every note that he played and offered rapturous applause. Ram Kumar Mishra provided tabla accompaniment.

Flautist Kailash Sharma, Chitra veena maestro N. Ravikiran and vocalists Anuradha Kuber and Rattan Mohan Sharma were the other artistes showcased in the three-day festival.

Musicians, especially those who are yet to make their mark, are displaying a surprising arrogance by not announcing what they are going to sing or play. A few months ago, one saw flautist Rajendra Prasanna staring his recital with a virtually unknown raga Chandraprabha without announcing its name. In this festival too, even a good vocalist like Venkatesh Kumar fell prey to this tendency followed by Rattan Mohan Sharma. One has heard the greats of yore like Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Nisar Husain Khan, Sharafat Husain Khan, Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan and Nikhil Banerjee always announcing the ragas that they were going to sing or play. Everybody who makes an effort to spare time and come to a concert is not a musicologist. For lay listeners, a concert is a source of enjoyment as well as education. The tendency not to announce the names of ragas displays a regrettable disrespect to the listeners who take the trouble of commuting long distances to attend a music concert. Such musicians should perform only in a small mehfil of cognoscenti and shun the public platform.