Classical concerts at the India International Trade Fair received mixed response.

The rich and varied cultural fair representing major performing art forms organised by the India Trade Promotion Organisation during the recently held India International Trade Fair (IITF) had a sumptuous segment of classical music concerts at the Shakuntalam Theatre.

Pandit Madhup Mudgal gave it a flying start with his meditative Kabir bhajans that had the inimitable imprint of his guru Pandit Kumar Gandharva's signature. Madhup has a deep musical sensibility which brings a luminous quality to whatever he sings.

Manjari Asnare Kelkar, the gifted vocalist of the Jaipur Atrauli gharana opened her recital in raga Kedar with a vilambit (slow) khayal set to dheema Teen tala. The gradual delineation of the raga during the alap, bol-alap and the bol-taans had the typical nuances of her famed gharana. The chhota khayal was also rendered in Teen tala but with the marked difference of the medium tempo and the fascinating variety of taan patterns.

Malkauns was her next choice where she sang a couple of comely compositions in Jhap tala and Teen tala. With hardly 15 people sitting in the hall, it must have been quite disheartening for the artiste, but — kudos to her dedication to the art — she performed with sincere earnestness. Vinay Mishra on the harmonium and Vinod Lele on the tabla tried to cheer her up with their lively accompaniment.

Pandit Upendra Bhatt, an accomplished vocalist of the Kirana gharana, at once reminds one of his legendary guru Pandit Bhimsen Joshi with his well seasoned pliant voice and the power packed taans. He opened his recital with the evening raga Puria Dhanashri. The vilambit khayal “Paar karo araj suno”, in praise of Ajmerwale Khwaja, was set to slow Jhap tala of ten beats.

The systematic development of the raga structure saw total balance of intellect and heart. He would travel to mandra Shadja with effortless ease even during the flourishes of taans. The famous chhota khayal of this raga, “Payaliya jhankar”, was followed by a tarana set to drut Ek tala. Paromita Mukharjee's brilliant harmonium accompaniment, especially her mijaazdaar sangat during the thumri Khamaj, could hardly be heard. Vinod Lele's tabla accompaniment had the same fate, due to lack of proper balancing of the sound system.

Crowd puller

The biggest crowd puller was Pandit Bholanath Mishra of the Benaras gharana who performed on the concluding day. Opening his vocal recital with the popular Carnatic raga Hamsadhwani, he sang “Sharade Mata var de”, the vilambit khayal in Rupak tala, invoking the Goddess of learning and music.

The chhota khayal followed in Teen tala, where the powerful flow of the taan-packed mukhada depicted the flow of the river Ganga in “Gali-gali bahi aayo”. After the impressive Khayal compositions, he switched over to thumri-dadra, the especialty of Benaras. The thumri in Desh, “Mora saiyaan bulaave”, and the dadra in Gara, “Jiya na laage”, saw the typical bol-banaav of the Purab ang gayaki (style).

He had excellent support in Bharat Bhushan Goswami on the sarangi and Mithilesh Jha on the tabla who beautified his riveting renderings. On popular demand he had to sing the famous Bhairavi thumri “Baajuband khul khul jaaye” and even a romantic ghazal.