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Chords & Notes


Gangubai Hangal:

Live in Ayodhya 2002

Swar Shodh, Rs. 75

VIMLA DEVI Foundation Nyas, Ayodhya, has been established in memory of the late Rajkumari Vimla Devi, who was herself a semi-classical and Awadhi singer. The foundation works towards reinvigorating and preserving Indian culture, philosophy, arts, literature, and music. With this in mind, it organises concerts every year and confers awards on musicians. It has, of late, come out with some unusual recordings of outstanding musicians. This album, by Gangubai Hangal, is one such recording.

Gangubai is 86 and ailing. Nevertheless, she continues to sing. One gets a taste of her indomitable spirit in this album. As one listens to it, one is reminded of Gangubai in her heyday, the androgynous power of her voice that compelled us to listen to her. Incidentally, the doyenne, even as a teenager, was fascinated by Zohrabai Agrewali's macho style of singing, and always wanted to sing like her. Serendipitously, a minor throat operation worked in her favour. Sadly, an audience that has for seven decades been treated generously to such a masculine voice and style has to now come to terms with a voice that it is failing.

Gangubai takes up Raga Shudh Kalyan, the Kalyan That raga, for detailed exposition. This raga, with all tivra notes, sounds beautiful in the mandra and madhya sapthaks. Gangubai begins with a brief alap and gets on to the famous bandish, "Mondar Baaje Re". She gets a good deal of support from her daughter Krishna Hangal. While Gangubai doggedly makes negotiations with every single note in her base voice, Krishna provides a contrast by the lilting phrases that she weaves in her soft, mellifluous voice. Gangubai works out some exquisite meends, particularly the sa-ni-da and pa-ma-ga movements. The final structure that it acquires is at once meditative and majestic.

Bahar, a spring raga, belongs to the Kafi That (Kharaharapriya), and has an exuberant appeal. The ornate tans heighten it further. The use of the two nishads is masterly. This raga has shades of Bageshree, Sugaharayee, Suha, and Adana in it, which makes for interesting listening.

What is rather unusual about the album is the sarangi accompaniment by Kamal Sabri.

DEEPA GANESH

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