There was variety and experimentation in Arijit Mahalanabis’s repertoire.

Arijit Mahalanabis presented a Khayal recital under the auspices of eAmbalam recently. He was supported by Kishan Patel on the harmonium and M.T. Aditya Srinivasan on the tabla.

The Seattle-based Hindustani musician began with Raag Yaman in vilambit 14 beat jhoomra taal. The raag was built up gradually and elaborated. Jhoomra Taal in vilambit is often difficult to maintain tempo, but Aditya, the up and coming tabaliya, demonstrated his competency here.

Tilak Khamod is usually considered a light raag meant for shorter pieces but Arijit presented this in detail. A traditional composition, ‘Sur Sangat Raag Vidya’, enumerating the qualities of a good musician, was presented. The singer effectively showcased the raag, clearly demonstrating its distinction from Desh which shares the same notes. (In Hindustani music, there are many raags that have the same scale and the same notes with the differences being only on the emphasis given to notes).

While the composition was originally set to the seven beat Hindustani Rupak taal, Arijit chose to present it in the 10 beat Jhap taal. The artist explained that the bandish was a challenging one since the words had deep meaning and required careful splitting to avoid corrupting the same. The oft held opinion that lyrics had little importance in Hindustani music was put to rest.

Bahaar was next. Arijit explained that this was considered a Spring raag, suitable for this time of the year. Bahaar is not often chosen for extensive elaboration, but the artist explained that his research indicated that it was capable of the comprehensive delineation that followed. Arijit is extensively trained in dhrupad and is one of the few artists who regularly perform dhrupad, khayal and thumri.

He presented a Nom Tom alaap in dhrupad style followed by a conventional composition in Teen taal – Kaise Nikh Si Chandni.

A kajri, a folk song, was next in raag Manjh Khamaj set to Deep Chandi taal, a 14 beat cycle, which brought out the facets of this raag to the fore. The customary concluding Bhairavi was then presented with the popular bandish ki thumri, ‘Kaise Yay Balaayi Re.’

Following resounding applause, several rasikas asked the artists to continue and many raags were requested, leading one rasika to observe that another entire recital would be needed to fulfil everyone’s wishes!

Arijit continued with a chota khayal in raag Nandh set to teen taal. The bandish was ‘Payal Mora Bhajey’ composed by Pt. S.N. Ratanjankar. The singer explained that the original bandish had, in fact, been ‘Payal ‘Mori ‘Bhajey’, which did not lend itself to comfortable exposition as a result of which Pt. Dinkar Kaikini, the composer’s disciple, changed ‘Mori’ to ‘Mora’ with Pt. Ratanjankar’s permission.

Kalavati was the final piece with Pt. Gyan Prakash Ghosh’s bandish, ‘Pala Na Laagi Mori.’ Arijit did a murchana on this, using the Pa of Kalaavati as the Sa, thus bringing out another of the requests, Abhogi.

Kishan, on the harmonium, provided capable support throughout and was particularly vibrant in the final pieces.

With insightful explanations suited to the local audience, Arijit demonstrated his extensive teaching experience as the founder and director of the Seattle Indian Music Academy. One came back the feeling that the future of classical music was in safe hands.