The Lalitarpan festival featured three instrumentalists who gave listeners food for thought in New Delhi the other day

Well-known Kathak exponent Shovana Narayan’s dance institute Asavari organised its two-day annual festival Lalitarpan on September 6-7 at the India Habitat Centre. Its music component included performances by three instrumentalists but ignored vocal music altogether.

Sarod player Chandrima Majumdar, despite being an amateur artiste, has the serious approach of a professional musician. A student of sarod maestro Narendra Nath Dhar, she made an appropriate choice in Sur Malhar to begin her recital. After playing a brief but soulful alap, she went on to play jod and jhala before offering a traditional vilambit gat that was redolent with charming tihais and an attractive way of arriving at the sam. She played another gat in madhya laya and increased the tempo while playing a fast jhala. She concluded her recital with a lilting Tilak Kamod bandish. What impressed one most was her attempt to remain true to the raga and eschew the temptation to resort to gimmicks or to show off taiyari. Durjay Bhaumik’s understated accompaniment on tabla was performance-enhancing.

The second day’s fare included a violin recital by young Ragini Shankar, granddaughter and disciple of famous violin maestro N. Rajam, and a Rudra veena recital by Baha’uddin Dagar, son and disciple of late Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. So far, one had heard Ragini accompanying her celebrated grandmother and this was the first time one was treated to her solo performance. She chose Maru Bihag and went straight to play a vilambit and a drut gat. Like Rajam, she too played the Khayal gayaki of Omkarnath Thakur and made alap-like movements while developing the gat. She has obviously been trained well by N. Rajam but at times her youthful exuberance got the better of her and she showered tihai after tihai in an attempt to make an impressive show. Occasionally, her violin lost some of its sweetness but her overall performance showed considerable promise that was enough to assure one that a bright future lay before her.

Music lovers have been concerned for a long time about the future of the Rudra veena. Asad Ali Khan who died last year was its last great exponent. Till the end of the 19th Century, the instrument was placed on such a high pedestal that when Wazir Khan agreed to teach Allauddin Khan, he asked him to take a vow that he would never touch been (Rudra veena) ever. However, the next century witnessed the ascendancy of sitar and sarod and the audiences for Rudra veena gradually and steadily dwindled. A mature artiste, Baha’uddin Dagar must be aware of this situation. In view of this, it was rather strange to see him playing in a manner that would, instead of attracting newer listeners, discourage even the committed ones.

For reasons known to himself, Baha’uddin chose a Carnatic raga Nattai that is, unlike Hansdhwani, Abhogi or Charukeshi, not a familiar raga to the North Indian audiences. The raga displayed such close affinity with Jog of the Hindustani system that one was left wondering why he did not choose the familiar Jog. Baha’uddin played a listless, languorous alap as if he had all the time in the world. After finishing with Nattai, he chose another Carnatic raga Amritavarshini that is close to our Maru Bihag, throwing listeners completely off-balance as they had already heard Maru Bihag from Ragini Shankar. On earlier occasions, one had heard Baha’uddin playing much better and one hoped that this was one of those rare days when he was not in the best of moods or form. However, Dal Chand Sharma rose to the occasion and offered excellent accompaniment on pakhawaj.