Kathak dancer Uma Sharma on Sangeet-Nritya Mahotsav


DYNAMIC FORCE: Uma Sharma   | Photo Credit: V_Sudershan

As the 14th edition of Swami Haridas-Tansen Sangeet-Nritya Mahotsav gets going, veteran kathak danseuse Uma Sharma talks about its genesis and its legacy

The penchant to preserve, promote and propagate ancient gharanas of music and dance is not everybody’s passion. Artistes are way too busy scheduling their own performances that anything beyond the boundaries of their own art looks intimidating and justifiably so. But kathak maestro Uma Sharma is made of a different mettle. She allows her performances to speak for herself while she pursues her passion to speak of other great masters in the field of classical arts. The ongoing Swami Haridas-Tansen Sangeet-Nritya Mahotsav, her brainchild, is a reflection of her deep commitment to art in general, more so the art of those great musicians and dance maestros who have bequeathed a legacy in the form of art to generations after them, establishing an unending stream of pure tradition that speaks of our cultural identity to the rest of the world. The old, classical style of presenting music was prevalent during the Mughal period exemplified by two great geniuses of music – Swami Haridas, the saint-composer of Vrindavan and his disciple Miyan Tansen.

“My sole objective in conducting this festival with fervour for the past 14 years without a break is to bring the great gharanas to the present day aspirants and audiences by presenting the descendants of these gharanas who have inherited the treasure of music and dance from their ancestors and imbibed their style in its pristine purity. In them, we can see reflections of the ancient masters of the gharanas who are now no more. Their vast repertoire should not be lost along with their physical presence is my contention. And who else but their progeny or their principal disciples can hold the torch and light up those paths paved by their illustrious ancestors,” says Uma Sharma with ardour.

When did this concept take root? “Well, originally, this samaroh started in the ‘70s at Vrindavan and was occasionally staged in Delhi too. The Swamiji associated with Vrindavan and Banki Behari temple where Swami Haridas composed and sang was very interested to have an annual music festival in his name and so we used to hold it there. But after the present Swamiji turned unwell, we shifted the festival to Delhi. I’m dedicated to this festival with a single-minded purpose of bringing the ancient, sterling tradition ensconced in the music of these masters to the younger lot so that they can listen and learn pure music and dance. I don’t wish the younger generation to forget our hoary tradition and the sculptors of this paddhati which is flowing ceaselessly to date. I want to create a mehfil-e-andaaz.”

Listing out the performers for this Mahotsav, the doyenne of kathak says, “It’s my ardent belief that assimilation of great masters is learning in itself. Swami Haridas was a vidwan par excellence in vocal music and his disciple Tansen carried the mantle forward. Like this, I can quote any number of torch-bearers of each of the famed gharanas. I want to keep the masters of yore alive, reverberating through their genuine disciples. Otherwise our wealth of music will simply vanish without trace. For instance, Girija Devi is lost to us now. So, I felt, we should bring Chhannulal Mishra who is in her legion and ensure that her style continues. The descendants and disciples are like beacons lighting our path and I’m very particular to have genuinely interested audience by invitation,” there is a decisiveness in her voice.

But how many such maestros are there to perform every year? Pat comes the answer, “Not many, which is why I repeat gharanedaar, can’t help it . This year we are felicitating Birju Maharaj.” Which means she doesn’t cater to popular performing artistes. “They will have a different platform,” she says crisply, adding, “Delhi is not a closed society, not an orthodox sanskriti. There is enough room for all with equal patronage of and appreciation by audiences,” she gently signs off.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 8:19:16 PM |

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