A look at some of the concerts featured at the Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival that concluded in New Delhi recently

The four-day Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival concluded on Sunday evening at Kamani Auditorium. It was the 66th edition of the festival but was presented as the Diamond Jubilee Concert of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra. Appropriately enough, the festival was dedicated to the memory of the iconic musician Pandit Ravi Shankar who had played an important role in the post-1947 years to infuse fresh life into the cultural world of Delhi. Along with the late Sumitra Charatram, he was instrumental in the founding of a music circle Jhankar and the starting of the music festival. For at least three decades, he played regularly at the festival. Needless to say, this festival is counted among the most prestigious events in the country, although it is not the oldest festival as the organisers claim in the brochure.

The festival opened with a vocal recital by Manjiri Asanare who has received rigorous training from the late Madhusudan Kanetkar, a representative of the Jaipur gharana. She began with raga Kedar, an ancient raga named after Lord Shiva. It’s one of those Kalyan thaat ragas that accord greater prominence to Shuddh Madhyam and uncover their face in the ascending movement. Manjiri sang sthayi and antara together in the bada khayal “E Ri Ye Mero Nain” and brought out the character of the raga through beautiful use of the Dhaivat-Madhyam meend. An accomplished singer, she tried to play with laya while rendering clear, neat and aesthetically-constructed taans that were not very fast. She also sang a drut khayal, “Chatur Sughar Balma”.

Though technically there was nothing wrong with her singing, it somehow did not come on par with her past performances. However, Manjiri came into her element in Khokar, a typical Jaipur raga, and sang the traditional composition “Anand Mukhchandra”. Her emphasis was happily not on showing off her technical virtuosity — which she has in plenty — but on bringing out the musical beauty of the raga. Khokar can be viewed as a variant of Bihagda with a more pronounced Komal Nishad. Her sparkling aakaar taans as well phirat were impressive. She concluded her recital with a pada of Master Krishnarao. Vinod Lele on the tabla and Shama Kumar Bharti on the harmonium provided adequate accompaniment.

Santoor maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma chose Gavati as the first raga of his performance. This raga, supposed to be very close to Bhim, is not heard often on instrument, and it requires a true maestro like Shiv Kumar Sharma to handle it with competence. He regaled the audience in the leisurely played alap-jod-jhala section where he lovingly lavished attention on exploring the nooks and crevices of the raga. He then moved over to render a Rupak tala and a Teen tala composition in the same raga and rounded off his recital with a lilting Pahadi. Like always, his sincerity left a lasting impression on the serious listener. Ramkumar Mishra accompanied him well on the tabla.

Uday Bhawalkar emerged as a new talent in Dhrupad nearly two decades ago. Trained by the stalwarts of the Dagar family, he brought a fresh approach to handle the hoary form. He surprisingly chose Shuddha Kalyan to open his recital and rendered a longish alap that was dull at places. With a strong dose of Bhoop in the arohi movement, this raga scantily uses Teevra Madhyam and Nishad. Uday made liberal use of the Dagar-style gamaks and sang a dhamar, “Khelat Dhamal Nandkumar”, in Sool taal. He chose Hamir as the second raga of the evening and concluded with a composition in Des. His was a competent performance but nothing more. He was accompanied on the pakhawaj by Pratap Awad.

Other artistes featured in the festival included Manjusha Patil, Abdul Rashid Khan, Shounak Abhisheki, Shahid Parvez Khan, Kaushiki Desikan, Ronu Majumdar and Chhannulal Mishra.