Ashwini Bhide’s stunning vocalism explores the mystery of music
Sunday morning 8 a.m., on a day and time you would think city audiences would choose to rest — the hall was chock-a-bloc. Music lovers had gathered in silence and enthusiasm to listen to the exceptional Jaipur-Atrauli maestro Ashwini Bhide Deshpande. To an overwhelming applause of admiration and respect, Ashwini began her Morning Ragas concert with raga Lalit. The rendition of khyal is a three-tiered one and Ashwini introduced the bandishes she was going to present, all set to different rhythm cycles.
The audience was still making mental notes of what she said, but Ashwini had already slipped into the folds of beautiful Lalit. Her union with the raga was so organic and immediate, it seemed like her very persona was an embodiment of music. Hours later, after receiving the Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur Award conferred on her by the Bangalore Kidney Foundation, her words bore testimony to this experience. “Whatever I have to say is expressed through music, and not words.”
“Jaagiye Nandalala”, the bandish set to vilambit teental, opened to mellow, tranquil notes. Ashwini, with remarkable repose, coaxed little Krishna to wake up, at once becoming the affectionate mother Yashoda. Her austere exposition of Lalit was characterised by a style in which melody had homogenised with rhythm, a typical feature of the Alladiya Khan style. The variations were subtle and sophisticated, as if even the slightest angularity would disturb the stillness of the morning. Her fresh improvisations conjured up images of the sky at dawn, gradually changing colours, making way for the glory of sunrise. The mukhda “Jaagiye Nandalala” was rendered to stunning impact, and in fact when she was joined by her disciple Nishad Matange, it seemed like the entire universe was in chorus to wake up the endearing Nandalala. With her extraordinary vocalism, Ashwini’s unadorned passages brought to fore her reverence for the poetic element. With shifting accentuations she unfolded the emotions in the microtonal meanings of the notes leaving the listening experience rich and moving. Her splendid akaar tans, coupled with bol bant and laya bant, didn’t alter the mood of the piece, in fact, it heightened its emotional appeal.
As she moved to the evocative bandish in madhyalay “Kamala Pankhuri Kholo” and the drut bandish “Ab to Jaago Kanhaiya”, Ashwini, through her superb architecture, achieved an integrated picture of technique and thought.
From subtle, to mellifluous, to robust, her masterly Jaunpuri was a portrait of intense colours. Her rendition, marked by poise and deep reflection, unravelled her superlative imagination and craftsmanship. She stunned the audience with her broad taan inventory as she delineated the drut bandish “De teri shaan” — they were at once torrential and distinguished. Stripping the khayal of its formal reserve, Ashwini Bhide showered it with vibrancy and gusto, reminiscent of the sensuality and lyricism of the Kirana style. Her Shuddh Sarang was indeed a grand finale. The exposition through the bandish “Khwajaji” sparkled with an inner luminosity. Throughout the recital, Ashwini was supported brilliantly by Ravindra Yavagal (tabla) and Ravindra Katoti (harmonium) with their sensitive understanding of artistic temperament.
Ashwini Bhide is truly one of the most mature musicians of our times. Her music is a creative withdrawal of the spirit.