True to its reputation, the annualVishnu Digambar Jayanti featured lesserknown and established musicians with anunerring eye for quality.

The guru's guru

Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, born on August 18, 1872, placed Hindustani music oncourse for public appreciation and brought it within reach of the non-elite.Paluskar was born in Kurundwad, in the Bombay Presidency, present-dayMaharashtra. He lost his eyesight due to an accident but his musical talent wasnurtured thanks to the local king, who ensured he was trained by the stalwartBalkrishnbua Ichalkaranjikar. Later he learnt Dhrupad under Pandit ChandanChaube. He is the first reported musician to have given a public concert, charginga nominal fee. This was a significant change from the usual practice of givingperformances either in palaces or temples. He pioneered institutionalised musicteaching by establishing the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Lahore in 1901 and latera branch in Bombay. He also pioneered a system of notation for Hindustani music.His holistic approach ensured his students were aware of the Carnatic system ofIndian classical music, on which he published a book back in 1901.His students including Omkarnath Thakur, Vinayak Rao Patwardhan, Narayan RaoVyas and his own son D.V. Paluskar became celebrated teachers and vocalists.Some of India's favourite songs associated with the nationalist movement are setto music by this doyen. These songs include his own composition of VandeMataram in raga Kafi, the bhajan "Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram" and his ownversion of "Saare Jahan Se Achcha".He died on August 21, 1931.

The venerated Vishnu Digambar Jayanti Sangeet Samaroh-2008, presented in four sessions of Hindustani and Carnatic classical music for three consecutive days at Kamani auditorium this past week, marked the 136th birth anniversary of the great savant of music and philanthropist who devoted his entire life with missionary zeal in service of music. Jointly organised by Gandharva Mahavidyalaya and Saraswati Samaj this annual event is eagerly looked forward to by music lovers, because alongwith the established stalwartsit also showcases youngtalents turn out to be thestars of tomorrow.

Opening with the invocatory"Jaya Jagdish Hare" composedby Pandit Paluskar andpresented melodiously by thestudents of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya,the festival took aflying start with the scintillatingsitar-sarod duet by thegifted young Kedia Brothersfrom Jharkhand. Currentlyunder the tutelage of PanditSunil Mukharjee, they aretrained in the Senia Maihartradition by Ustad Ali AkbarKhan and Annapurna Devi.Their impressive presentationof raga Jhinjhoti thisevening was marked by strictclassicism, fidelity to pitch,rhythm and ornamentationsof their own gharana. Theyplayed a detailed alap- jodjhalawith remarkable executionin the bass octave, followedby stylishcompositions in slow and fastTeen tala. Their mutual compatibilityalso bears a perfectblend of emotive appeal andtechnical virtuosity. RashidMustafa on the tabla with hiscrystal clear `Na Dhin DhinNa' during the jhala sequencegave them superb support.Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar,the senior artiste of the inauguralevening, opened hisvibrant vocal recital with ragaJayant Malhar, a lovely combinationof ragas Jaijaivantiand Malhar. The bada khayal"Barakha ritu aayi", set toslow Ek tala saw the gradualdelineation of the monsoonraga with the judicious blendof its dual components. Thechhota khayal in drut Ek taladepicted the thunderingclouds and torrential rainswith an impressive variety oftaan patterns. The khayalnumanand tarana in raga Malkaunsnext came as a comelycontrast, before he concludedwith Bhairavi. The authenticand aesthetic blend of theGwalior, Agra and Jaipurgayaki (styles of singing) werethe most captivating qualityof his vocal recital that hadthe enhancing accompanimentof Arvind Thatte on theharmonium and Vinod Leleon the tabla.

Melodious surprise

Manjusha Patil from Punewas a melodious surpriseDelhi's music lovers, many ofwhom heard her for the firsttime.

Born in Sangli, Maharashtra,Manjusha was initiallytrained under ChintubuaMhasikar and later by Kanebuaat Ichalkaranji, hence shetotally adheres to her authentictaleem (training). HerMultani was pathos incarnatein the slow emotive badhat ofthe bada khayal "Rabbamere" set to Vilambit Ek tala.The long perch on the TarShadja, and the variety of sargamand aakar taans that followedeven during the chhotakhayal, were impressive. Shesigned off with an equally delightfulBihari Nat, a popularraga of the Agra gharana,hence her treatment of themedium tempo composition"Javoji tum jaavo" had enticingglimpses of the rhythmicplay typical of the school.Prasoon Chatterjee on the tablagave her inspiring supportwhile Vinay Mishra providedharmonium accompaniment.Pandit Shivkumar Sharmaplayed raga Jhinjhoti on thesantoor at length. Tablamaestro Anindo Chatterjeegave him appropriate accompaniment.The Sunday morningsession saw Anindoplaying a brilliant tabla duetwith his gifted son and discipleAnuvrat, accompaniedon the sarangi by Murad Ali.The Teen tala presentationopened with an alap-like gaitand went on showcasingcomplex rhythmic permutationsand chakkardaar tihayisculminating in the crescendoof drut laya (fast tempo) withthe choicest of compositionsfrom their rich repertoire.Pandit Debu Chaudhury offeredhis own creation KalyaniBilawal and a bhajan as atribute to Paluskar. He wasaccompanied by the ace tablaplayer Akram Khan.

Grand finale

The electrifying vim andvigour of the Carnatic flute byyoung Shashank Subramanyamwas followed by themellowed aesthetics reflectingthe lifelong tapas of theformidable Pandit Jasraj. Heexplored the microtonal regionsof Miyan Malhar tobring out the soul of the raga.The ponderous deliberationof the oscillated (andolit) KomalGandhar and the twinNishads were fundamental tothe sculpting of the profoundraga in his memorable concertthat came as a befittingfinale to the festival.