Veterans at the recently concluded Delhi Classical Music Festival showed the class that comes only with experience.

The curtains came down on the five-day Delhi Classical Music Festival, organised by the Punjabi Academy of the Delhi Government’s Department of Art, Culture and Languages at Kamani auditorium, on Saturday with a riveting jugalbandi (duet) between two veterans — santoor maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma and flute wizard Hari Prasad Chaurasia — whose names have become synonymous with their instruments. As is well known, Shiv Kumar Sharma is solely responsible for elevating the santoor, a 100-stringed folk instrument of Kashmir, to the level of classical concert, overcoming the obvious limitations of its staccato sound and structure-induced lack of meends and gamaks. Hari Prasad Chaurasia too is an innovator and has introduced many novel techniques of blowing to expand the expressive possibilities of the flute. It was a most apt choice to present them together as they have been very closely associated with each other, both at a personal and a professional level, having composed music for several acclaimed Hindi films like “Silsila”, “Lamhe”, “Chandni” and “Darr”.

Rendering an uncommon raga does not pose as much a challenge as performing a common raga that has been attempted by almost every artiste of every generation. It’s not a mean feat to do wonders in a raga like Yaman. However, both veterans chose this most commonly heard raga and showed what mature musical thinking, creative dialogue between two top notch artistes, and an unhurried serious approach can achieve. It was virtually a lesson to younger artistes as well as keen listeners. After a very satisfying alap, when the duo entered the jod section, they were “informally” joined in by Vijay Ghate on tabla who used only the baayaan (left drum) and participated in the process of rasa nishpatti (production of rasa). It was an unusually lively jod, and one marvelled at the fecund musical imagination of both the veterans who were visibly enjoying playing together. They played an Ek tala vilambit gat, meandered into a Roopak tala madhya laya composition and then went straight to a Teen tala drut gat where they resorted to the too familiar sawal-jawab sequence.

An expert tabla player and a disciple of the famed Suresh Talwalkar, Vijay Ghate rose to the occasion and regaled the audience with his prompt retorts. Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hari Prasad Chaurasia played raga Durga before concluding their memorable recital with a charming Pahadi dhun. Takahiro, a Japaese student of Hindustani music, accompanied them on tanpura.

Buddhaditya Mukherjee’s sitar recital was another highlight of the festival although, for some inexplicable reason, he rendered only one raga, Tilak Kamod, and played for a little over an hour, leaving the audience craving more. He gave a wide berth to alap and straightaway began with a vilambit Teen tala composition a la Vilayat Khan, elaborating the raga through the gat. Even as a teenager, Buddhaditya had won acclaim as a virtuoso but now he comes through as a mature maestro. His handling of this Khamaj-thaat shadav-sampoorna raga (employing six notes in the ascendant — skipping Dhaivat — and all the seven in the descendant), was most impressive, although one would have liked him to treat it as a serious, high-brow raga, rather than one merely suited for lilting gats. Nevertheless, the long meends from Shadaj to Pancham were an absolute winner and so were the volleys of his super-fast taans executed with precision. Young Soumen Nandy on tabla was exceptionally good. All through the performance, he remained focused on his tabla and provided a very stable, understated and sweet theka. He displayed his virtuosity when given a chance and especially impressed with they way he handled the baayaan.

Sarod maestro Biswajit Roy Chowdhury has over the years emerged as an instrumentalist in a class of his own. Although everybody talks of the gayaki ang, he is one of the few instrumentalists to have cared to learn the intricacies of the Khayal gayaki from an authentic representative of an established gharana — in his case the great Mallikarjun Mansur of the Jaipur-Atrauli stream.

He played alap-jod-jhala in Shyam Kalyan and went on to render the Jaipur speciality Bihagda, a variant of the more familiar Bihag. The introduction of Komal Nishad and the faint aroma of Khamaj are the two elements that distinguish this raga from its parent Bihag. In Bihagda too, the gandhar is very strong. As usual, Biswajit painted a most beautiful picture of the raga, bringing back memories of Mansur’s “Pyari pag haule”. Surprisingly, after Bihagda, he chose Bihag to conclude his recital and offered a very competent rendering. Akram Khan of the Meerut-Ajrada gharana provided good tabla accompaniment.

Manjari Asanare-Kelkar, also of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, chose Jaitshri, a raga she has sung in Delhi many a time, to render a Roopak tala vilambit bandish “Jab te piya sapne mein aaye” and a Teen tala vilambit bandish, “Bahut din beete”. Hers was an intellectually stimulating yet emotionally deficient rendering, placing more stress on technique. An accomplished singer, she did not disappoint but one was not particularly impressed either. She sang two bandishes in Nat Kamod, giving more importance to Kamod than one is used to hear in other Jaipur renderings. Her taiyaari is truly impressive. Utpal Dutt on tabla and Vinay Mishra on harmonium offered competent accompaniment.

This writer could not attend the performances of Mashkoor Ali Khan of the Kirana gharana, Meeta Pandit of the Gwalior gharana and Girija Devi, the doyenne of the Poorab ang Thumri-Dadra, who also sang in the festival.