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Music under the tamarind tree

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Invocation to Tansen: The Gundecha Brothers perform at the Samaroha.
Invocation to Tansen: The Gundecha Brothers perform at the Samaroha.

ROSHAN SHAHANI

The annual Tansen Sangit Samaroha in Gwalior gets one thinking about the wellsprings of melody and beat.

PERHAPS, no State in India, except Madhya Pradesh, has had such a long tradition of instituting umpteen annual awards in the cultural field. An ongoing platform for artists to perform and represent themselves is more readily available here than elsewhere; to boot, yearly cash largesse is awarded for excellence in multifarious art activities. Over the last 25 years, pre-eminent and national figures from theatre, music, dance, art and literature have been recognised and honoured through these awards.The Tansen Samaroha organised in Gwalior every winter, by the Allaudin Khan Sangit and Kala Academy, is supported by the local press and eagerly looked forward to by the scores of young people, especially the women of this city. The annual changes in ruling State heads, political parties, and consequent confusion notwithstanding, the Tansen Samaroha goes on doggedly.

Unique gathering

The Kalidas Samman award for 2005 was given to Malini Rajurkar, a Gwalior gharana exponent of Khayal. She aptly delved into the dramatic beseeching of the well-known Bageshri bandish, "Sakhi mana, lage na" in her renderings on the opening day. 2005 was the 81st year of this unique gathering of music performers and kindred souls. The performers, who are invited by the cultural department of the government from all over India, find a compelling piety in paying homage to Miyan Tansen. Indeed, the tomb at Hazira and the birthplace, 40 km away at Behat have imbued this region of central India with a socio-historical significance, as a pilgrimage site for musicians. Leaves from the tamarind tree, growing on the tomb, are eaten for acquiring a clear and sweet voice and luck in one's musical career. The stark four-pillared tomb, protectively overpowered by the monumentality of Mohommad Ghaus' memorial near it, is an eloquent testimony to a kind of unassuming individualism, which is a hallmark of Indian music. Historical persona, and a traditional classical music icon, Tansen epitomises musical knowledge, its practice, its sensuous pleasure and its strict demeanour of music making. Listening to music under the shamiana, erected on the spruced up lawns, and under the watchful eye of the Archaeological Survey is a pleasurable but troubled experience. For people who come for the baithaks from the metropolitan cities, and for those who listen to several of the performing musicians anyway back home, the Samaroha, is full of promise for an alternative ambience. Starting the evening with the shehnai, Ustaad Ahmed Husain Khan serenaded the audience with raga Nand. The Gundecha Brothers' bandish in Bihag was appropriately an invocation to Tansen and his plurality of vision. Their popular rendition of the Kabir verse, "Jheeni jheeni chadariya" in raga Charukesi added mood and meaning to the much-desired harmonies that we, as a civilisation, harp on given our senseless and violent history of sectarian violence.Other vocalists judiciously chose compositions that fore-fronted Tansen, the seniya gharana stylistics. Raja Kale, Vidyadhar Vyas, Wasifuddin Dagar, Devaki Pandit and Kalapini Komkali, sang with the dard and pukaar which their compositions demanded.

Celestial music

It was Ulhas Kashalkar however, who pushed his voice beyond the limits of mere sweetness and sentimentality, into celestial realms, wherein he seemed to converse with and reveal new and mellifluous frontiers of the raga and bandish. He sang pieces in Malkauns, Sohoni, Khamaj and Bhairavi.More music by the artistes displayed complex skills on sitar, sarod, violin, mohan veena bansuri, tabla and dholak. Kala Ramnath made short journeys in shuddha kalyan and basant. Arvind Parikh and Buddhadev Das Gupta, sitar and sarod maestros, put a substance into the sarangs and jog ragas, in spite of certain unforgivable lapses on the part of the culture officers, the loud television crew and sundry photographers. Even then, Tejindra Narayan, Ustaad Usman Khan, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Rajendra Prasanna held attention. The Samaroha ended with a young set of music-makers, performing at Tansen's birthplace, Behat. All India Radio records these concerts. One day, we hope, we can buy the CDs and re-hear many of those inspired moments of Indian artists.


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