Parveen Sultana is hardly the young musician she was when she sang the evergreen Hamein Tumse Pyaar. At a recent concert she proved that music is ageless.

There may hardly be any Hindi music aficionado who has not heard the evergreen – “Hamein tumse pyaar kitna” from the movie Kudrat. And fewer still, may not know the singer of that song – Begum Parveen Sultana. She is the recipient of the prestigious Padmashri award at the age of 25 in the year 1976. Today more than three decades later, her voice still stands testimony for her reigning name amongst the towering vocalists of the Hindustani tradition. On Sunday, she again captured the hearts and minds of Bangaloreans as she regaled them with a splendid performance that was replete with treasures of her marked style. Her performance manifested the grandeur and strength of the Patiala Gharana even as her voice scaled the heights of the octaves and rendered the taans and phirats in a fast tempo!

Beginning the concert with two khyals set in raag Puriya Dhanashri, rendered in vilambit and dhrut – “Laage More lagan” and “Payaliya Jhankaar More”, she electrified the atmosphere with her sharp and resounding voice. The hallmarks of the performance were the higher octaves that she scaled to so effortlessly while smoothly transitioning to an immediate lower scale, making the audience gasp! Interspersed with the swaras, phirats and satta-taans throughout the performance, she held the audience in spellbound attention – some even astounded at the sheer speed and power of her performance especially of the satta-taans. This was followed by a tarana set to raga Hamsadhwani. The Bhajans that followed were compositions of Meera – “Sakhi ri mein giridhar ke rang raachi” set to a variation of the famous raga Maand, and “Bhaj mann nand nandana”. Both the bhajans were soft renditions true to the spirit of the compositions. The devotional fervour that is seeped into Meera Bai’s compositions found light in the soothing tempo it was set in.

It was soon time for the audience to request for the inevitable song – “Hamein tumse pyaar kitna”. It was a walk down the memory lane for Begum Parveen Sultana. Recalling the time when the song was sung to the music set by R.D. Burman, she relived those moments, sharing anecdotes with the audience.

The final rendition was the unforgettable “Bhavani Dayani” set in raga Bhairavi. Amongst the most famous and loved renditions of Parveenji, this song epitomises the devotion she wrought not only to music but also to the divine spirit pervading the universe. It would be a gross negligence if due credit is not given to the accompanists – the renowned and accomplished Pandit Vyasamurti Katti on the harmonium and Pandit Vishwanath Nakod on tabla. They provided the perfect support and established their own ground especially during the rendition of the raga Puriya Dhanashree. One of the most heartening facts of this year has been that Bangalore has provided the platform to witness the brilliance of many stalwart performers and Begum Parveen Sultana’s concert shall surely be listed amongst the memorable ones. However, we as audience seem to have a long way to go in developing the cultural aesthetics and sensitivity that is required for absorbing the essence of a classical performance. It was disheartening to witness petty squabbles breaking in the midst of the concert, while the artist was performing. Music has often been described as the language of the soul and transcends all barriers. The concert while nurturing rasaaswaada , also gave some food for thought. But do we care?