The festival “Monsoon Magic” that concluded this week in New Delhi introduced some welcome new names in the Hindustani field

It is always heartening to see new talents emerging in any field of creative activity, and more so if the field happens to be Hindustani classical music. The two-day music and dance festival Monsoon Magic, held this week at Kamani auditorium by Spandan, came as a pleasant surprise as one discovered two young instrumentalists and one not-so-young vocalist whose performances assured us that the future of our music was secure. It was even more gratifying that although the festival aimed to celebrate the onset of monsoon and was not confined to the Malhar group of ragas, one was able to listen to three Malhars in two days.

The festival opened with a jugalbandi between two brothers — Lakshya Mohan Gupta and Aayush Mohan Gupta — who played sitar and sarod respectively. While Lakshya Mohan is in his early 20s, Ayush Mohan happens to be in his late teens. Both have learnt from an impressive array of gurus: the late Umashankar Mishra, Balwant Rai Verma and Sharan Rani. These days they are learning from sarodist Tejendra Naraian Majumdar and Dhrupad exponents Ramakant Gundecha and Umakant Gundecha. They chose Miyan Ki Malhar to present alap, jod and jhala and impressed with their serious musical attitude and no-nonsense approach. In the typical Maihar style, they went for a systematic presentation leaning towards the Dhrupad. Lakshya was understandably in a better form while Aayush was prone to occasionally playing some harsh strokes on the sarod. One wished they had played a more elaborate alap and eschewed some dark, emotional patches in the jhala section. Their treatment of the raga showed maturity and the kanhda component was accorded due importance with its trade mark avrohatmak andolit Komal Gandhar. If the performance sounded quite pre-meditated, one could not fault the performers in view of their age. It was particularly satisfying that they made no attempt to play up to the gallery by showing off unnecessary virtuosity though their taiyari and neat phrasing was there for all to see.

When the duo announced that they would play two gats in Des Malhar, one was a little perplexed. It would have been much better had they played alap and jod followed by a vilambit gat in Miyan Ki Malhar and offered only one drut gat in Des Malhar. It would have saved them from repeating the same phrases many times over. Moreover, one could not discern any Malhar in the vilambit and drut Teen tala gats and the raga sounded as simple Des. Sudhir Pande provided tabla accompaniment with obvious élan.

Hoary Gaud Malhar

Ojesh Pratap Singh, a prominent student of Ulhas Kashalkar, opened the second day’s proceedings with the hoary raga Gaud Malhar. He requested indulgence from the audience as his throat was not in the best of shape because of seasonal variation. However, he rose to the occasion and began with a traditional vilambit khayal of Sadarang in Tilwada tala, “Kahe ho ham son preetam”, a favourite of the Gwalior vocalists. He has a deep voice and follows his guru’s style faithfully. Expertly using behlawa for raga elaboration, his bol-alap at times reminded one of the famous D.V. Paluskar rendering of the same bandish. His treatment of Gaud Malhar was both scholarly and aesthetically pleasing, giving due prominence to the powerful Madhyam. However, his wrapping up of the antara left something to be desired. His bol-taans and aakaar taans were forceful, supple and very well-structured. Ojesh sang a drut Teen tala bandish, “Laade lade si jhooli laadli” in the same raga and followed it up with a brisk tarana. He would have done better had he chosen to sing only one composition instead of two in Jayant Malhar — a combination of Jaijaiwanti and Malhar — as his voice had started to crack in the upper octave. Still, he tried his best to acquit himself well. Insistent on taking full advantage of the occasion, he concluded his recital with a composition “Kaise bijuri chamak-chamak rahi” in Mishra Kafi. Sarit Das accompanied him on the tabla and Vinay Mishra on the harmonium, while Santa Singh and Rakesh strummed the tanpura.