Madhyami’s presentation on Guru Purnima in Kolkata featured a galaxy of junior and senior artistes.
Madhyami is an alluringly delicate raga invented by Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan. But ever since the loving ustad gifted the name of his beloved raga to his disciple and christened his school ‘Madhyami’, the heady blend of ragas Pilu, Gara and Kafi became synonymous with love, hope and life for Harashankar Bhattacharya, the sole, veteran representative of the Jafferkhani baaj (see box) in Kolkata. Young Deepshankar, his son and disciple, carries the mantle with élan now.
With great reverence the senior Bhattacharya strings some beautiful gat-bandishes, composes, teaches and orchestrates; only to offer a melodic garland to his guru on the auspicious day of Guru Purnima with the help of a few dedicated students. This decade-old ritual of ‘tayazeem’, offered annually as an opening item of the musical tribute organised by his ’Madhyami’, sprang a pleasant surprise this year.
Apart from the usual band of sitars, guitars, tabla and dholak, Bhattacharya included a keyboard and the powerful voice of Koyel Dasgupta with great effect. The beautiful gat (composition meant for instruments) in Rageshri set to Jhap tala was studded with harmonised phrases, intricately intertwined melody, rhythm-based patterns and dramatic pauses. It displayed neat orchestration — not a mean feat by any standards!
A brief spell of Western rhythm on tabla and dholak led to the lower pitch to facilitate singing. A sizzling, swooping taan picked up the Teen tala composition in Desh raga with each fine nuance sparkling like a chiselled gem. Another rhythmic interlude helped revert to the original scale of the instruments and again back to the lower one to showcase a Pahadi-based traditional song accompanied by the dholak — a folk instrument that found pride of place in Jafferkhani style.
The stringed instruments, with the help of a piece on the keyboard, picked up the threads. These swift changes were handled very deftly and the group moved on to a fast Teen tala jhala that blended Kalavati and Gara. The ecstatic move came to a standstill on komal Nishad and a beat before the sam — just a step beneath the final resting place of both melody and rhythm. This, probably, indicated that Madhyami’s quest for perfection is an ongoing process without any respite.Promising artistes
The musical evening featured a clutch of less-known but promising musicians at Sisir Mancha. The tabla duet presented by Sunil Banerjee, a disciple of Pandit Shankar Ghosh, and his son-disciple Unmesh Banerjee was offered as the thrilling finale. This definitely was one of the recently held events that indicate the tabla’s ever-rising status as a highly evolved solo instrument.
The duo, accompanied by Sanatan Goswami on the harmonium, presented Jhap tala replete with alap-like elaboration, crisp kaidas with rhythmic variations, complex parans, gat, rela, laggi, tihais — almost all the different idioms of tabla playing within the frame of the 10-beat cycle of the tala with tricky numerical permutations and combinations. Young Unmesh displayed different shades of “ghe-re-na-ga” with superb clarity. Both shared great rapport to the delight of the listeners.
Earlier vocalist Sandip Nag presented seasonal ragas Megh and Gaud Sarang, and violinist Sanjay Ghosh played Bageshri.
The Jafferkhani baaj
Invented by Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, the Jafferkhani baaj makes the sitar sing with ornate use of embellishments technically known as krintan, lahek, zamzama etc. Simultaneous use of the main string and a few others produces harmonic melody. Multiple notes emerge with one stroke of the mizrab. The blend of the classy tabla and the pastoral dholak adds a unique flavour to the baaj that is distinct from all the established styles.