Vasundhara and Kalapini Komkali, heirs apparent to the legendary Kumar Gandharva gayaki, rendered compositions that celebrated his rich legacy

Rasiya ho na jaa…they began in a magnificent Maru Bihag with an unhurried vilambit exposition inviting you to experience the romanticism, grandeur, deep philosophy and dynamics of classical music.

On day two of The Hindu Friday Review November Fest, the mother-daughter duo of Vasundhara and Kalapini Komkali, heirs apparent to the legendary Kumar Gandharva gayaki delved with flourish into their dharohar to demonstrate how they have become their master's voice. As disciples, and wife and daughter of Kumar Gandharva, their singing mirrored the maverick composer-singer's highly distinctive style that was as much derided as it was hailed. But the performance also reiterated 81-year-old Vasundhara's reputation of a musician with intellect and Kalapini's as no slack shishya, singer and successor.

The senior artiste traversed with maturity, resorting to no sudden twists and turns through the three layas and compositions of the khayal. The emphasis was clearly on systematic exposition in Vasundhara's simple and economical swara phrases.

Poetic imagery

Kalapini's interpretation of the traditional pieces showcased her command over the genre and her constant search for new expressive possibilities. There was delightful drama in her malleable, full-throated vocals that plumbed with élan to touch the mandra saptak while at the same time robustly rising to reach the tar saptak. Her mother and guru nodded appreciatively as she delicately spun and swirled notes at the end of phrases.

The brief evocative Gaud Malhar alaap created the mood to celebrate the poetic imagery in a rare monsoon composition that followed the opening piece. The notes fell perfectly into grooves like tiny rain drops and flowed seamlessly though octaves like rainwater down the hills.

Spawning moods and seasons, a spirited lok geet sung during the Sawaan Teej (spring festivities) in their hometown Dewas in Madhya Pradesh was taken up next by the singers.

Kumar Gandharva's concerts were as inventive as they were explorative. He made folk songs and bhajans an integral part of his renditions. May be that was his way of reaching out to the masses. He took a great liking to Kabir's devotion-soaked and philosophical nirguni bhajans. But he also sang bhajans of other saints such as Surdas, Tulsidas, Gorakhnath and Shivguru.

In keeping with the family tradition, after the popular dadra ‘Tod layi raja' with its well-balanced bhava and technique, Vasundhara and Kalapini resorted to some soul-searching with bhajans that shone with their fine blend of poetry and music.

The introspective lyrics such as ‘Guruji main to ek niranjan dhyaunji, duje ke sang nahi jaunji' and ‘Nirbhay nirgun gun re gaunga' (the import well-explained by Kalapini) were conveyed unerringly through Kalapini's rousing and meditative singing.

Vyasmurthy Katti's harmonium was empathetic. His playing faithfully followed the two singers without being intrusive. So was Sanjay Deshpande on the tabla. No showy rhythm-play, like a true accompanist he extended strong support through the concert.

Though by the end of the programme, Vasundhara seemed a little ill at ease, the octogenarian singer's vigour and commitment to the higher ideals of her art struck a high note.

“I will come back next year to sing for you,” she cheerfully commented. “Rasiya ho na jaa…”

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