While Abhisek Lahiri displayed a good command over his sarod, M. Venkatesh Kumar’s recital had no apparent flaw, yet something felt missing.
It is always a gratifying experience to listen to young talents as they reassure us that our musical tradition will not only continue but will also be further enriched. Last week, one got the chance to attend a sarod recital by Kolkata’s Abhisek Lahiri who played on the last day of a two-day music festival organised by Sangeetam at India Habitat Centre. Son and disciple of his father Alok Lahiri, the 29-year-old Abhisek blends all the three major styles of sarod playing — the Shahjahanpur style of Amir Khan and Radhika Mohan Moitra, Maihar style of Allauddin Khan and Ali Akbar Khan, and the gayaki-ang style of Amjad Ali Khan.
Abhisek Lahiri chose the hoary Kalyan thaat raga Kedar that is named after Shiva. He presented alap, jod and jhala before playing two gats in Roopak and Teen tala respectively. His leaps from Shadaj to Madhyam were particularly arresting. His alap and jod was more inclined towards the swara-centric style of Ali Akbar Khan while the jhala bore the distinct impress of the Shahjahanpur style of using the plectrum. In the gats, one could get the glimpses of the Amjad Ali Khan influence. He was technically proficient and had good command over his instrument. Moreover, he displayed a serious approach towards music and did not spend too much breath on dazzling the audience with the speed of his jhala.
He concluded his recital with two gats in raga Tilak Kamod created by his father and guru. The long meend from Shadaj to Pancham was charming. He played both the gats well but the second one had an uncanny resonance of Vilayat Khan. Shubh Maharaj from Banaras offered him very good accompaniment on tabla.
M. Venkatesh Kumar is a familiar vocalist on the Capital’s concert circuit. Over the years, he has emerged as a vocalist of considerable significance by fashioning his own compact style wherein other influences — especially those of the Kirana gharana that remind of Amir Khan and Bhimsen Joshi — have been aesthetically woven into his essentially Gwalior gharana gayaki. A student of Puttaraj Gawayi, he combines the Gwalior gharana’s robust style of singing with the Kirana gharana’s tunefulness, attention to swara and myriad ways of its nuanced application.
Venkatesh Kumar chose Khamaj thaat’s audav-shadav raga Rageshri to open his vocal recital. Rageshri uses both the Nishads but skips Pancham altogether. After establishing the raga in the first few minutes with great sensitivity, he went on to elaborate it through a bada khayal, “Kaase kahoon man ki baat”, making intelligent use of behlawa, sargam and boltaan. He displayed his taiyaari in Gwalior-style gamak-laced forceful aakaar taans. He offered a chhota khayal, “Dekho Shyam gah leeni”, in the same raga.” He also sang the Carnatic raga Saraswati before concluding his recital with a Bhairavi composition.
While there is no apparent flaw in his singing and he always impresses with the compactness of his neat presentation as well as his tunefulness, there are occasions when one feels that something is missing. Although it is not always easy to put one’s finger on it, it seems that the very neatness of his recital leaves something to be desired. And that something is the unpredictability of the singer that keeps the listener on his toes.