Hindustani Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar's concert, held in Mumbai recently, was drenched in melody.

The pleasure of listening to raag sangeet in the presence of connoisseurs in a more intimate space was demonstrated once again when Mumbai based cultural organisation Udayan, recently invited Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar for a concert at Nehru Centre's compact hall. Accompanied by musicians Ajay Joglekar, on the harmonium and Ajinkya Joshi on the tabla, the three-hour concert was a rich and memorable experience.

The musicians, led by Pt. Abhyankar, were able to use the khayal format to remind listeners of the rigour and creative potential that lies at its heart, while simultaneously inviting the audience to understand the artistic, cerebral and emotive approaches employed by them. These conversations with thinking musicians, looking to enhance their communication with their listeners as well as the unhurried pace of the recital, were appreciated by the rasikas.

Pt. Abhyankar began with a bandish in raag Poorvi, Vilambit Ek taal, ‘Binati Suno Sri Shyamala Maat Mori,' and drut teen taal, ‘Kaali Maiya Daya Karo Mori Maa.'

The low key start and the slow development of the notes enhanced the contemplative mood of the raag, whose emotional effect was contentment. There was a great deal of controlled layakari towards the middle section of the development of the raag, with the holding and stretching of the notes to the fullest that created a mood of depth and stillness.

In addition, the controlled use of sargam, spoke of the artist's maturity of approach and dignity of execution. The harmonium accompaniment by Ajay Joglekar showed the fine artistry to be expected from a student of the renowned Pt. Tulsidas Borkar.

Mood of contemplation

Next came a bandish in Chandrakauns, Rupak taal, ‘Binati Suno Mori' and a taraana in drut Teen taal. This second piece was well chosen and deepened the mood of inwardness, which had begun with the previous raag.

The literal meaning of the words was overpowered by abstraction and a searching intellect on the one hand and deep emotion on the other, which never degenerated into sentimentality irrespective of the direct meaning of the lyrics. At some moments it felt like the artist was conversing with other notes and calling them back before sending them on a journey, continuing in this manner to complete a complex trip of criss-cross patterns that allowed listeners to be momentarily a part of it too. This raag presentation ended with a greater deal of sargam and forceful taans and belied its quiet beginnings, extending the audiences' experience of surprised joy in this shared discovery.

After the two raag expositions, Pt. Abhyankar spoke about the nature of the musical endeavour elaborating on the idea of perfection of notes, character of a raag and the implicit invitation to use the provided musical structure to improvise and create a full bodied musical experience.

He also pointed out that the exposition of a raag had many invisible facets. For instance, the musicians were involved in myriad intuitive, artistic processes in the course of developing each raag, which led them to have a series of musical dialogues with each other that was subtly different from the one they had with the listeners.

After a brief break, the musicians came back for a second session and began with a light classical song probably at the behest of the organisers. This is fast becoming the prevailing format and musicians of the highest calibre are made to believe that some light classical offering, after a deep experience, is expected.

At least in some cases this could be a profound misreading of the audience. After the heights reached by the pure classical music and the deep, emotive calm and intellectual stimulation that they offered, the light classical music soon after, was like a spell being broken that bewildered the audience.

Showing remarkable sensitivity and openness, Pt. Abhyankar too realised that the shift in mood was perhaps too sharp and immediately offered the audience another glimpse of pure classical music in all its glory. For this he chose raag Des, delighting the audience once again with two wonderful compositions.