When Philippe Bruguiere (rudra veena) and John Boswell (pakhawaj) came together to present a soiree of dhrupad, they proved that osmosis across cultures combined with diligent shiksha can contribute significantly towards keeping traditional art forms alive. The event was organised by Prakriti Foundation at the Alliance Francaise.
Given that the art of playing the rudra veena is fast vanishing chiefly because of the long, arduous training involved in mastering both the instrument and the dhrupad style, the two artists struck a welcome note with their commitment and dedication.
Two ragas were delineated with alaap, jod and jhala followed by bandish – Pancham Kauns and Jog.
Raag Pancham Kauns was laced with the inherent melody of Malkauns with the pancham note that surfaced in permutations that were as unexpected as they were charming. Tones took on a particular richness and resonance. Slow glides and heavy oscillations of double gamakas emphasised the very vocal quality of the style for which the Dagar tradition is famous. Restraint and discipline tempered Bruguiere's vision in the progression to the tara sthayi shadja. As the exposition gathered momentum, shades grouped and regrouped to emerge in vibrant washes that glowed and faded, merging seamlessly into the raga fabric. The mood evoked was consistently gentle, tenderness brushed with soberness both in the prelude and in the composition set to Chau Taal (12 beats).
In raag Jog, the smooth glide from shadja to tivra gandhar and the silky descent to the komal gandhar in the opening suite immediately established the flavour and atmospherics. Slow, deliberate glides strengthened the identity. The composition was set to Tivra Tal (7 beats). The sonorous resonance of John Boswell's pakhawaj enhanced without eclipsing. The percussive style provided support with assurance and anticipation.