Veterans Hariprasad Chaurasia and Birju Maharaj along with young vocalist Kaushiki Chakrabarty proved three is musical company, writes Anil Srinivasan

This is by no means a review. For one, the main protagonists are too iconic to be subject to analysis. For another, they are artistes who have mastered the ability to transport audiences into realms of delightful discovery and learning without making them feel overwhelmed.

Tridha saw the collaboration of two formidable forces — Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pt Birju Maharaj and the greatly talented vocalist Kaushiki Chakrabarty. As if this weren’t enough, percussive support was rendered by Shubankar Banerjee, a force in his own right.

As the opening act of The Hindu Friday Review November Fest, this production was everything that the festival aims to be — endearing, electrifying and magical.

It will be impossible to articulate everything we went through as an audience. There were several introspective pauses in the evening, where we were offered insights into a rich legacy that each of them has inherited and continues to pass on. When Birju Maharaj recalled dancing a thillana sung by the legendary Balasaraswati at the same venue decades ago, there was a moment of revered silence. And to see him continuing to delight in his dance like an excited child is beyond mere inspiration.

In sync

After a brief essay in Khamaj, Chaurasia indulged the audience’s request for Malhar. He then yielded the stage to Kaushiki, who started with a brilliant exposition of Raag Madhuvanti. ‘Kahe Maan Karo’, (a khayal set to teental) in its yearning and sensuous intricacy revealed the vocalist’s mastery over her oeuvre. Specifically, her variations using the swars ‘pa-ma-dha-pa’ with the occasional shadow of the nishaad, stretched across her impressive three-octave range, brought the raga alive, eliciting appreciation from the master flautist as well as the audience. Her voice sounded thin especially on the upper registers in the beginning, but opened up completely later on. Harmonium support was mercifully minimal, allowing the improvisation to be heard fully and clearly. Shubankar Banerjee’s involvement and support added lustre to the rendition.

The curtains closed. As the anticipation and excitement grew, the curtains opened to reveal the Kathak maestro, entering the arena with grace and brilliant theatricality. ‘Kaise Bajaoon’, redolent with the imagery of a gentle Krishna, was succeeded by one of the highlights of the evening, Birju Maharaj taking the mic to explain the significance of rhythm — literally and metaphorically. Stressing on the importance of the ‘sam’, the first beat in any rhythm cycle, he went on to depict his own composition, ‘Main Na Manoongi’, at once becoming the main measure (Krishna) and its constituent measures (the gopikas).

The coming together of the artistes in Raag Basant, lyrics describing the onset of spring, had moments of improvisational brilliance from all three. While it was evident that this was perhaps the first time they were combining on stage, their artistry stitched seemingly disparate strands together effectively.

The evening ended with a composition by Birju Maharaj’s grandfather, Pandit Bindadin Maharaj, set to the dadra cycle of six beats in Pahaadi. The delectable depiction of the peacock as the curtains closed for the last time brought the audience to its feet for a standing ovation.

Yes, they did seem like three unconnected performances occasionally. Yes, there were moments where playing to the gallery trumped oneness among the artistes. But these are extraordinary creators. They serve as representatives of what’s best in our artistic heritage. Indeed, of what matters most — artistic integrity and a ceaseless quest for perfection.

(The author is a well-known classical pianist, composer and educator from Chennai)

The Schedule:

November 15: Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia with Pt. Birju Maharaj & Kaushiki Chakrabarty

November 16: Indian Ocean

November 17: Vikku Vinayakaram, Vidya Shah & the Manganiyars

November 18: Mandolin Rajesh, Jayateerth Mevundi, Rakesh Chourasia & Trichur Brothers

November 19: Coco's Lunch

November 20: Monsorate Brothers

Venue: Music Academy

Time: 7.30 p.m.

For the detailed schedule of Nov Fest 2013 in all five cities, click here.

Tickets:

Price: Rs. 600, Rs. 350 & Rs. 200. Season passes at Rs. 3,000 & Rs. 1,800

All tickets can be purchased online at www.thehindu.com/frnf2013

Tickets will also be available at All Landmark Outlets: Apex Plaza, Nungambakkam, Spencers Plaza, Chennai Citi Center, Ampa Mall and at The Hindu Office

Helpline: +91 93806 64381

Reserved seats are available for Rs. 750 per seat. Those who wish to avail this facility must call 044-28575807.

Follow us:

Website thehindu.com/novemberfest

Facebook at Friday Review November Fest

Twitter @FRNovfest

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