Pandit Sreepad Hegde’s vocal performance at the Havyaka Sabha Bhavan in Bangalore recently had audiences chorusing ‘wah’ in delight.

Pandit Sreepad Hegde, who is from Kampli in North Karnataka, first presented raga Gavati. A slow exploration of the raga (bandish: “Ninda Ja”) allowed listeners to grasp its several nuances. Gavati, of the Khamaj thaat, contains familiar phrases that, occasionally in the concert, suggested other ragas: the interplay of komal nishad and rishabh suggested Megh; the evocative dhaivat, on which Pandit Hegde lingered in the opening alaap, was reminiscent of Bageshri. Some in the audience initially tried to guess the raga being sung – it was not announced – but soon surrendered to the complex charm of what they were hearing.

Under Pandit Hegde – who grew up in a Yakshagana family and so had an early entry into music – raga Gavati became a canvas to display the artist’s tightly-controlled mix of technique and imagination. The vocalist was in no hurry: he moved leisurely up the scale, with alaaps that shone for their expressivity, not for being too busy. This was the khayal form at its best: abstract, and imaginative. The faster sections, too, did not see an overdose of speed or flourish: Pandit Hegde presented ethereal taans, sung almost carelessly, but delightful on closer inspection. Pandit Hegde was accompanied ably by the well-known Gurumurthy Vaidya on tabla and Ashwin Walwalkar on harmonium.

The evening, structured around the “parampara” theme, featured short performances by two students before Pandit Sreepad Hegde took the stage. Vishal Hegde, son and student of Pandit Sreepad Hegde, presented raga Puriya Dhanashri.

In “Aaj subah”, the vilambit ektal bandish, the younger Hegde displayed admirable clarity in the lower registers. His ease in traversing a complex scale was evident, but the alaaps perhaps lacked expressivity – fair enough for an upcoming artist, since rasikas often use the alaap as a test to evaluate the artistic maturity of a vocalist. Hegde showed greater sure-footedness in the faster portions of his performance: it was clear his taans were meticulously crafted.

Another student, Radha Desai, presented a full-throated rendition of raga Rageshri.

In “Piya More Nainan Neend Nahi Aaye”, the ektal vilambit bandish, the singer’s voice lent a raw appeal that happily matched the nature of the raga. G.R. Badrinath, front-row attendee at several city concerts, was felicitated by Pandit Parameshwar Hegde.

He noted that Badrinath’s collection of concert recordings was unparalleled. The occasion saw Badrinath hand over a selection of his collection to Pandit Hegde.