Biswajit Roy Chowdhury and Viswa Mohan Bhatt shone among the instrumentalists at the Chirantan festival

The two-day music festival ‘Chirantan’, organised recently by Pune’s New Age Foundation to pay tribute to the memory of Jaipur-Atrauli gharana’s legendary vocalist Mallikarjun Mansur at Chinmay Mission auditorium, concluded with an excellent sarod recital by Biswajit Roy Chowdhury. Biswajit happens to be the only instrumentalist in the country who reproduces the khayal vocalism of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana on his sarod with great fidelity. Trained by Maihar gharana sitarist Indranil Bhattacharya as well as sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, he is also the only instrumentalist to learnt the nuances of raga sangeet at the feet of Mallikarjun Mansur for nearly 12 years till the great singer’s death.

A front-ranking sarod player, he began his recital with the familiar Jaijaiwanti and presented alap, jod and jhala. The air-conditioning played havoc with his sarod and for quite some time he had to struggle with it. As a result, he could not remain absolutely focused and his Jaijaiwanti did not rise beyond the level of competence. However, he blossomed in Sampurna Malkauns, a favourite of the Jaipur-Atrauli vocalists, in which he played two compositions. This variant of Malkauns is obtained by dropping the prohibited rishab and pancham into the raga and making it complete. Hence the name Sampurna Malkauns. Biswajt did justice to the raga and his first composition constantly reminded the listener of Mansur’s unforgettable rendering of the bada khayal “Baraj Rahi”. His dazzling taans and riveting jhala were a testimony to his amazing virtuosity as well as musicianship. He excelled himself in the second composition in faster tempo and deftly avoided a drift towards Kaunsi Kanhda. Ram Kumar Mishra was a good match on tabla.

Viswa Mohan Bhatt was the other instrumentalist showcased by the festival. A prominent student of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, he has modified the Hawaiian slide guitar adding 14 strings and rechristening it as Mohan Veena. (Most people have forgotten that in the 1950s, sarod maestro Radhika Mohan Moitra too had created a new instrument after making certain changes in the structure of sarod and named it Mohan Veena. He, in fact, played it on AIR’s National Programme of Music.) Bhatt came into prominence in 1994 when he collaborated with Ry Cooder for an album that went on to grab the Grammy Award.

He chose the lilting Maru Bihag as his main raga and presented a leisurely alap followed by short jod and jhala sequences. His gats in slow, medium and fast tempos were charming, and he took recourse to all the popular tricks-in-the trade — sawal-jawab, ladant and saath-sangat with tabla — to keep the listeners glued to their seats. He later offered a long presentation of a ragamalika in which he weaved Jhinjohti, Hansdhwani, Kesariya Balam (Rajasthani Mand) and Bhairavi. It was a satisfying performance. Himanshu Mahant offered competent accompaniment on tabla.