A diplomat’s tryst with Hindustani music

Ambassador Chinmaya R. Gharekhan’s concert showed he struck a balance between his career and passion

May 27, 2023 02:30 pm | Updated June 08, 2023 05:05 pm IST

Chinmaya R. Gharekhan performing a full-fledged concert at the India International Centre in  New Delhi. He was accompanied by Vinay Mishra on the harmonium and Vinod Lele on the tabla.

Chinmaya R. Gharekhan performing a full-fledged concert at the India International Centre in New Delhi. He was accompanied by Vinay Mishra on the harmonium and Vinod Lele on the tabla. | Photo Credit: Courtesy CFTV News

Very rarely one comes across a diplomat, who launches his book and follows it up, after a few days, with a classical concert. The event was recently held at the India International Centre in New Delhi, when ambassador Chinmaya R. Gharekhan released his book Centres of Power: My Years in the Prime Minister’s Office and Security Council (published by Rupa), within days presented his Hindustani recital. The book launch was followed by a panel discussion featuring M. Hameed Ansari, former Vice President of India, K. Natwar Singh, former Minister of External Affairs, Maharaj Krishna Rasagotra, former Foreign Secretary of India, and Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, formerly India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the author of the book. It was chaired by Shyam Saran, president, IIC,

Those who knew Chinmaya Gharekhan only as a diplomat got the opportunity to know about his passion for classical music as he presented a full-fledged concert. His journey in music began in 1968 when he was posted in New Delhi as a Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs. He trained under Pt. Amar Nath, the principal disciple of Ustad Amir Khan, the founder of Indore gharana. He later learnt from Shanti Sharma, the well-known disciple of Pt. Amar Nath. Currently, he is being groomed by Pt. Vidyadhar Vyas of the Gwalior gharana.

Foray into music

His tryst with music had, in fact, begun in 1955, when he won the first prize in a vocal music competition as a student of Government Law College in Bombay. He used to regularly perform bhajans on All India Radio. His love for music continued even after Chinmaya Gharekhan joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1958. His regular riyaz continued for more than 50 years despite his distinguished career as a diplomat holding important positions.

He was also the president of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and the chairman of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Delhi kendra. He has also authored the widely acclaimed book, The Horseshoe Table: An inside view of the UN Security Council’.

Chinmaya Gharekhan’s solo performance that evening included several bandish in a variety of raags. Accompanied by ace artistes such as Vinay Mishra on the harmonium and Vinod Lele on the tabla, he opened the concert with Bhimpalasi, one of the melodious afternoon raags that we rarely get to hear because concerts are held in the evenings. No doubt, it was a welcome choice for his main raag but It took a while for his voice to bring out the beauty of the raag. But his expansive alap, which gradually gathered momentum, covering the lower and middle octaves managed to create the perfect mahaul, before rendering the traditional bada khayal, ‘Kagwa bole’, set to vilambit ek taal. The leisurely alap, bol-aalap, bahelawa and the taan sections brought out the gayaki’s essential features, before Chinmaya Gharekhan presented a couple of medium tempo compositions (in Teen taal) such as the popular ‘Ja ja re apne mandirawa’ and ‘Biraj mein dhoom machaai shyam’.

Touch of melody

Jog was a good choice for the second raag. It was sung with restraint and a balanced approach that compositions like ‘Pir parai’, composed by Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan of Agra gharana, (who wrote under the pseydonym of Praan Piya), call for. It stood out with apportioned sargam and aakar taans. Tilak-Kamod came as a contrast with melodious compositions such as ‘Koyaliya bole amavaan ki dalariya’ and ‘Neer bharan kaise jaaun sakhi ri aaj’ opening vistas of possibilities in medium tempo Teen taal. This was followed by a Meera bhajan, ‘Hari tum haro’, composed in the karun swars of raag Bhatiyar. The concert concluded with the traditional Bhairavi ‘Ab tori baanki’, a bandishi thumri, that got him a standing ovation.

Prof. Vidyadhar Vyas praised the dedication and sincerity of his disciple, Chinmaya Gharekhan, who had made him proud.

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