The finest maestros came together at the mammoth eight-day music and dance festival at Kamani, Delhi

While Delhi has always been a great centre of music and dance, these arts were largely confined to the aristocracy or the wealthy businessmen, along with the clans of the musicians and dancers themselves. The educated middle classes in the first half of the last century were by and large not very enthusiastic towards them. Drawing inspiration from his guru Vinayakrao Patwardhan’s guru Vishnu Digambar Paluskar who had founded the first Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Lahore in 1901, Vinay Chandra Maudgalya (universally known as “Bhaiji”) started a similar school in a modest flat in Connaught Place in 1939. With active help of his wife Padma Devi, he played a historic role in popularising classical music and dance among the educated middle class of the Capital. The Gandharva Mahavidyalaya grew from strength to strength and today stands as a true memorial to its founder.

The music segment of the mammoth eight-day music and dance festival at Kamani celebrating Mahavidyalaya’s 75th anniversary began on Thursday with a vocal recital by the institution’s principal Madhup Mudgal who chose the serene sandhiprakash raga Puriya Dhanshri to sing a vilambit khayal. He gave a good account of his art and treated the Pancham-laden raga with the seriousness it deserved. Though brief in his exposition, he did delve into laya-baant and also gave some space to sargams. His next offering was Shri Kalyan, a raga created by his legendary guru Kumar Gandharva. One felt that he slowed down the original composition’s tempo a little bit and wound up early so as to leave the stage to sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan. Shambhunath Bhattacharjee and Arvind Thatte accompanied him on tabla and harmonium respectively.

Amjad Ali Khan chose evening raga Jhinjhoti to offer an emotion-filled, well-elaborated alap and a very neatly conceived jod where pakhawaj player Fateh Singh Gangani too joined in. Durga is one of his favourite ragas and he played a vilambit Teen tala gat and a six-and-a-half beat drut gat in it. However, one felt that the sarod maestro was not able to create the kind of magic his Durga renderings are associated with. The next two gats in Zila Kafi and Charukeshi brought out the vintage Amjad Ali Khan whose virtuosity and sense of rhythm are truly extraordinary. However, one was at a loss to understand the logic behind taking two percussionists — Shubhankar Banerjee was the main tabla player — when Gangani too started playing tabla after briefly playing pakhawaj in the jod sequence.

Gwalior gharana exponent Malini Rajurkar began her recital with the late afternoon raga Madhuwanti, a close relative of the more famous Multani but with Shuddh Rishab and Shuddh Dhaivat, and sang both slow and fast khayal compositions in it. Initially, her voice did not seem to be in fine fettle but soon it regained its luminosity. She also sang a charming and playful drut Teen tala composition in Dhani which was enjoyable for the bol and taan patterns woven intricately into the rhythm. She rounded off with a crisp Kafi tappa. Bharat Kamat on tabla and Arvind Thatte on harmonium provided very good accompaniment.

Veteran artiste N. Rajam presented a violin duet with her daughter Sangeeta Shankar and chose Bageshri Kanhda to open her recital but Shahana kept intruding. A top-ranking violinist, Rajam was her usual self without any affectation and Sangeeta proved to be a worthy disciple of her mother. They concluded the recital with a Bhairavi. Ram Kumar Mishra played tabla with them.

Over the years, Ulhas Kashalkar has emerged as a versatile and an amazingly creative vocalist who has imbibed singing styles of Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur-Atrauli with equal ease. He presented a magnificent Marwa and sang vilambit and drut khayals in it besides offering a crisp tarana. His next offering was the Des-inspired charming raga Tilak Kamod in which he sang the bandish “Sur sangat raga vidya…” that is said to have been composed by Alladiya Khan, the founder of the Jaipur-Atrauli style. In a slower tempo, he sang only the sthayi but displayed stunning layakari before rounding off his recital with a chhota khayal. Ojesh Pratap Singh offered good vocal support. He was accompanied by senior tabla maestro Suresh Talwalkar who also presented a solo recital the next day. Vinay Mishra provided harmonium accompaniment. Santoor wizard Shiv Kumar Sharma announced that he would play Kaunsi Kanhda although it was much before its assigned time slot. He presented a tight alap-jod and played two gats in Roopak and Teen tala. As always, he impressed with his serious approach and command over the instrument.

The festival concluded with a vocal recital by veteran vocalist Jasraj who sang with aplomb a vilambit and a drut khayal composition in the Khamaj thaat raga Nat Narayan that gives prominence to Rishabh and Pancham. He sang a playful bandish in Khamaj Bahar before singing his favourite “Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevaya”. Ratan Mohan Sharma and Tripti Mukherjee provided vocal support while Ram Kumar Mishra and Mukund Petkar were on tabla and harmonium respectively.