On the third day of the Global GNB Birth Centenary Celebrations, the highlight was the extremely colourful Hindustani vocal recital of Begum Parveen Sultana. The programme was behind schedule as excerpts of the documentary on GNB were screened. The excerpts projected GNB’s unique ability to do the exposition of raga Andolika, his exceptional rendition of kritis such as ‘Brochevarevarura’ in Khamas, ‘Marugelara’ in Jayathasri and ‘Sarasamukhi’ in Gowdamalhar.

Guest of Honour of the day Deepa Malini Devi, Princess of Mysore recalled the association of GNB with the Mysore Maharaja who used to refer him as the ‘Shanmukhapriya boy.’

So Begum Sultana’s programme slated for seven could start only by quarter to eight. On her part, the singer also showered encomiums on GNB as ‘Gandharva’ and ‘Kalanidhi’ of Carnatic music though she did not have any direct acquaintance with the singer but had heard about him from her father, his illustrious disciple MLV and others.

The prime feature of Parveen Sultana’s concert was her instant and easy rapport she struck with the audience. With a pleasant disposition, the Begum enthralled the Chennai rasikas through her outstandingly enviable sweet and sound voice that could traverse nook and cranny of the anu-mandra sthayi to ati-tara region with varying texture effortlessly.

Puriya Dhanashri was the first and the best offering in depth and detail expressing the wide gamut of proyagas through protracted karvais, akaras, slides, glides, throws and swirls. The begum’s extraordinary virtuosity and tonal clarity could be visulalised by the mesmerising raga imagery she created. The booming voice could alternate seamlessly between thick and thin phrases as if one is echoing the other. The raga was brief but the vilambit khayal ‘Laage Mor Lal’ was channalised at length to the madyama and to the dhurit mode with ‘Payaliyan Jhankar More’. To capture the audience of Chennai she included some vilambit and dhurit kala swaras too in her presentation.

The next piece was a Meera Bhajan ‘Mai To Lino Govind’ set in a lighter tune which carried many glamorous twists and turns. She presented a vibrant Hamsadhwani claiming to be her favourite raga and a racy taraana of it composed by her husband and guru Ustad Dilshad Khan. Again she presented strings of swaras to the joy of the rasikas.

When there was a request for her famous ‘Bhawani dayani’, she quipped she would definitely oblige but added, ‘But Chennai audience cannot be held beyond nine o’clock, isn’t it?’ with a chuckle.

The amazing ascends and descends in the ragas, the breath-taking akaras, the incredible switching over of the voice from strong to the silky soft phrases, the jumping swaras were received every now and then with thunderous applause. She acknowledged it by saying ‘Oh, we musicians only die for such appreciation’ which was given in abundance by the rasikas.

Begum Parveen Sultana was ably supported by Milind Raj De on the tabla and Srinivasa Acharya on the harmonium. But, it was Parveen Sultana’s show all the way.

It will be highly preposterous at this stage to review the 74th jugalbandhi (it was informed that the two maestros have so far performed 73 times together!) of Dr. Ramani and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, vidwans of Indian classical music. Probably one can relive the experience the great coming together of these two musical legends.

Though once again, the concert was pushed by an hour’s delay, the raga Kalyani known as Yaman in Hindustani, was taken up as the prime offering by Ramani and Pandit Chaurasia. The bass notes of the Pandit’s bansuri was caressing at the start covering the lower registers and this was balanced by Dr Ramani’s vibrant sancharas of Kalyani.

As the two vidwans exchanged the free flowing phrases short, long, sweet, strong, delicate and invigorating, these were affixed initially by Pandit Chaurasia with a composition in madyam taal with varying gaits. Ramani’s crisp alapana and presentation of GNB’s favourite ‘Nidhichala Sukhama’ in misra chapu with a dazzling niraval and swara package at ‘Mamatha Bandana’ created a Carnatic air. Immediate follow up of swarakalpana by Pandit with spiralling notes encouraged Ramani to join the combined marathon musical journey.

The raga Kalyani is versatile and can become a fantastic melody in the expert hands. The Hindustani Yaman gave a compassionate colour of Kalyani, the Carnatic shade was full of vivaciousness. But, as the two maestros moved on with their imagination confluence into shorter and tapering notes to the active percussion of the tabla and mridangam, the finale was reached to an explosive crescendo of colourful pyrotechnics.

Jog, the nearest equivalent of Chala Nattai, was the next offering, moving from the slow and soft exchanges to powerful sallies in teen taal. Such jugalbandhis reiterate the fact that classical music has the common end of elevating the human soul and intellect to greater heights, beyond just mundane listening. It carries every thing; melody, harmony, glamour, entertainment, arithmetic, accuracy, devotion and above all, a way to integrate everything mentioned into manodharma in an extraordinary manner.

Tiruvarur Bakthavatasalam on the mridangam and Yogesh Sansi on tabla added the necessary spirited props to the main players with complete involvement.