The recently concluded SaMaPa Sangeet Sammelan presented an array of satisfying performances.
The three-day SaMaPa Sangeet Sammelan concluded on Sunday with a virtuoso performance by Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj who, at 76, proved that not only his class, but his form too is permanent. Even those, like this writer, who are not well-versed with the finer points of Kathak could make out that what was happening on the stage was truly extraordinary. Expert tabla player Akram Khan kept pace with the intricate layakari and startling upaj displayed by Birju Maharaj.
The Kathak performance was preceded by a tuneful violin recital by Kala Ramnath who was ably accompanied by Rafiuddin Sabri on tabla. Born into a family of professional musicians, Kala Ramnath was initiated into music by her grandfather, Vidwan A. Narayan Iyer. She later trained under renowned Hindustani vocalist Pandit Jasraj, thus incorporating his style of Khayal gayaki into her violin playing. The influence of Jasraj was evident in her delicate and sensitive treatment of the swara as well as the taan patterns. She chose the charming audav-sampoorna Kalyan thaat raga Shuddh Kalyan to begin her recital and stayed with it throughout. As is well known, Shuddh Kalyan skips Madhyam and Nishad in its arohi or ascending movement (just like Bhoopali) while employing all the seven notes in its avrohi or descending movement. The sangati between Rishabh and Pancham lends it a special charm of its own. To keep it apart from Bhoopali, Madhyam and Nishad are employed in the form of a meend without ever spending any time over them.
Kala did justice to the raga and offered four compositions in varying tempi. Her bowing and fingering techniques suited the kind of emotional music she played and her tunefulness impressed. However, the taan patterns sounded repetitive at times. Ashok Mishra handled the tanpura.
The evening had started with a Swar-Laya Samvad in which Rishi Shankar Upadhyaya on pakhawaj and Abhishek Mishra, Sachin Sharma and Zuheb Khan on tabla participated. This percussion ensemble was conducted by Vijay Shankar Mishra.
The Gundecha Brothers — Ramakant and Umakant Gundecha — have over the years emerged as able representatives of the Dagar style of Dhrupad singing. Though initiated into music by their father in Ujjain, they were trained by renowned Dhrupad singer Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and later by the distinguished Rudra veena maestro Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar at the Dhrupad Kendra in Bhopal. Continuing the tradition of duet singing, they perform as one artiste and beautifully complement each other with one picking up the thread from where the other leaves.
Accompanied on pakhawaj by Ravishankar Upadhyaya and on tanpura by Ajay Mishra and Prachi Asthana, they opened their recital with a detailed alap in the Bilawal thaat audav-sampoorna raga Bihag that omits Rishab and Dhaivat in its ascending section and sparingly employs them even in the descending movement. It’s a beautiful raga and the Gundecha Brothers sang it with total involvement, displaying how well they have imbibed the voice culture which the Dagars have been justly famous for with the expert use of gamak and the mandra saptak (lower octave) movements.
The use of mnemonic syllables (non tom, etc.) to make a systematic exposition of the raga was expertly done. They sang a dhamar in the same raga “Kahan se tum mad pee aae ho” and concluded their recital with another dhamar, “Naad Parabrahma”. It was a very satisfying performance.
However, Salil Bhatt on his guitar (that he chose to call Satvik veena) left a lot to be desired in his loud performance wherein he was joined by Casius Khan from Canada. He chose Jogeshwari, a raga created by Pandit Ravi Shankar by combining Jog and Rageshwari, and played the usual alap, jod and jhala. Ravi Shankar had created Parameshwari, Kameshwari, Gangeshwari and Rageshwari too, but of all the ragas, only Parameshwari could click while others fell by the wayside. Therefore, it came as a surprise when the young guitar player chose Jogeshwari as his raga of the evening. He also played two gats in the same raga but failed to make much of an impact. Casius Khan and he seemed more interested in displaying showmanship that was, alas, devoid of any real show of skill or depth.
The three-day festival, organised by the Sopori Academy of Music and Performing Arts, also featured Ragini Rainu (Sufi vocal), Abhay Rustam Sopori (santoor), Anup Jalota (devotional vocal), and Ronu Majumdar and Rafique Khan (flute-sitar duet).