Concerts by some of the recipients of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards-2006 regaled Delhiites the other day.

Hindustani classical music had its judicious share at the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards function this year when Pandit Kishan Maharaj was made a Fellow of the Akademi. Besides, Vijay Kumar Kichlu and Rashid Khan (vocal), Shahid Parvez Khan (sitar) and Kumar Bose (tabla) were also presented with the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 2006 by the President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Kamani auditorium this past week. Following the ceremony, a weeklong festival of music, dance and theatre that showcased some of the awardees came as the most appropriate celebration. The festival had a flying start with a vocal recital by Rashid Khan and a sitar recital by Shahid Parvez, accompanied on the tabla by Kumar Bose, on the inaugural evening. Born into a family of classical musicians and trained under the watchful guidance of Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan of the Rampur-Saheswan gharana for decades, Rashid Khan has developed exceptional expertise in his renditions, right from the slow elaboration of vilambit (slow) khayal to the tarana his guru was famous for, and exhibits in his gayaki all the characteristic features of this style.

Detailed treatment

All this and much more was apparent in his detailed treatment of raga Bihag. Opening with an introductory alap, he presented the bara khayal set to vilambit Ek tala, which bore out in full measure the sweep of his imagination and capabilities. He was fluent, tasteful and extempore during the elaboration of the bandish (composition) and in his weighty taans. This was followed by the popular chhota khayal, "Aali ri Aali... " set to a medium tempo Teen tala, sung with warmth and wistfulness. The neat enunciation of the bandish with the `layatmak khilwaad' of hide and seek and the colourful spray of sargam taankari was mesmerising. The raga was further embellished with a tarana in Teen tala, which had the unmistakable stamp of Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan. Anand Gopal Bandopadhyay on the tabla and Mahmood Dhaulpuri on the harmonium gave him ideal accompaniment.

Soothing sitar

Shahid Parvez, the next artiste of the evening, gave a scintillating sitar recital. Shahid belongs to a traditional family of musicians and was groomed by his father Aziz Khan, a musician and composer of the Etawah gharana, not only in the sitar but in vocal music as well. This is perhaps the reason for his style being a combination of both gayaki (vocal) and tantrakari (instrumental) approaches. It is also distinguished by the intricacies of rhythmic patterns that adorned his compositions in raga Jhinjhoti, the most appropriate melody time-wise that he chose for his main raga. The tonal quality of his instrument and the richness and amplitude of his base Shadja was imposing from the very beginning of his alap-jod sequence. The slow composition set to Jhap tala of 10 beats was followed by a Razakhani gat in Teen tala where Shahid showed his fertile imagination and technical virtuosity in full measure. His urge for graceful expressions, however, was best displayed during the Khamaj dhun that came as a concluding piece set to Dadra, akin to Khemata with a lively folk air of Bengal. Kumar Bose on the tabla proved himself to be an equally sensitive artiste, fully deserving of the SNA Award.

Tabla solo

The festival also presented Pandit Kishan Maharaj in a memorable tabla solo recital which turned out to be more of an interactive session, where he explained the intricacies of his unique baaj. It was a rare treat to listen to the invaluable bandishes (compositions) from the precious treasure of the Benaras gharana repertoire passed on to him by his illustrious guru Kanthe Maharaj. A revered guru himself, Pandit Kishan Maharaj was doubly honoured when his disciple Kumar Bose received the SNA Award while he was decorated with the Academy Fellowship.