The Kala Academy held the 41st edition of the annual Surashree Kesarbai Kerkar Sangeet Samaroha in Goa from January 1 to 14. Amid the third wave of COVID-19, the event managed to bring together artistes from across the country, but one missed the presence of a Carnatic exponent, which has been the norm for the past few years.
The festival opened with a vocal concert by young Ritishka Vernekar from Goa. Slide guitar artiste Deepak Kshirsagar from Baroda displayed a mature understanding of ragas while Mumbai-based Aarti Ankalikar Tikekar showcased her cerebral approach to music and her diverse training with her presentation of raag Jhinjhoti in the Jaipur-Atrauli style. She also sang a Basant Bahar composition of one of her gurus, Pt. Dinkar Kaikini, before concluding with raag Bhairavi, in which her rendition included an unusual nine and a half beat composition by Pt. Chaitanya Kunte, a snatch of a tappa and a tarana. “This stage set in memory of Kesarbai ji calls for a deep approach to music and not for a light presentation,” said Aarti.
Day 2 began with the morning raag Ramkali by Mumbai’s Dhananjay Hegde, who handled it with a sense of confidence. A solid performer, he doesn’t resort to gimmickry to attract attention. He concluded with raag Alaiya Bilawal. The next artiste, sitarist Shakir Khan (the scheduled jugalbandi between him and vocalist Arshad Ali was cancelled) played Shudha Sarang with polish. After an elaborate alap and jor, he perhaps unwisely went back to playing two vilambit compositions in the raag; one wished the pace of the recital was maintained. Ojas Adhiya on the tabla provided wonderful sangat (accompaniment).
The evening recitals opened with Goa-based flautist Sonik Velingar’s performance. Next, Mallick brothers from the Darbhanga dhrupad gharana brought alive the dusk raag Shri in all its grandeur with their skilful rendition. The gravelly full-throated voice of Prashant was beautifully contrasted by brother Nishant’s delicate rendition. Masterly pakhawaj accompaniment during the jor by Mrinal Mohan Upadhyay was an added bonus; this was a thoroughly uplifting performance.
The popular Sangeeta Katti Kulkarni from Bengaluru has a ringing voice that commands attention, but her rendition of raag Yaman seemed prosaic. The abhang that followed was well sung. Sangeeta ended surprisingly with Malkauns. The evening concluded with Pt. Yogesh Samsi and his two disciples, Swapnil Bhise and Chandrashekhar Gandhi, playing the teen taal. One was impressed by the ease with which the disciples took over from the guru, their seamless performance, a result of impeccable training. The gradual progress to a dhrut speed, the display of virtuosity and intricate layakari marked their display.
Played with ease
The artiste for the concluding day’s morning session was Goa-based vocalist, Nitesh Sawant. He acquitted himself well in all aspects of presentation. Sarodiya Debashish Bhattacharya from Kolkata, representing the Senia Shahjahanpur style, played the rare Samant Sarang, handling the raag’s distinctive use of the two ‘ni and ‘dha’ with well-taught ease and saving it from sounding like the more common Sarang, which is now called Madhmaad (originally Vrindavaani Sarang with one ‘ni’). After the alap and jor, the teen taal gat was embellished with the prominent stroke work that is a hallmark of his gharana. Tabla accompaniment by Ojas Adhiya enhanced the concert. Debashish ended with raag Bhairavi.
The evening began with Nashik’s Manjiri Asnare Kelkar’s concert. Referred to as ‘Choti Kesarbai’ in her youth as her voice and style resembled that of the legendary singer. Manjiri is today known as much for her knowledge of rare bandish as her singing.
At the festival, she did not disappoint with raag Gauri, in which she sang two traditional compositions. Her slow Jaipur taans with their controlled pace enthralled. The next raag was the rare Daaguri, in which she said the signature pakar of Meluha Kedar is combined with raag Patdeep, to create the new raag.
A performance by another Nashik-based artiste followed. Prasad Khaparde, who belongs to the Rampur Sahaswan gharana sang raag Kedara. His rich baritone was pleasing so was the profusion of fast taans. He concluded with raag Pahari. Jyoti Hegde on the rudra veena represents a traditional lineage, being the disciple of the seventh generation beenkar, Ustad Asad Ali Khan. Playing in the dhrupad tradition, this artiste from Dharwad showed glimpses of the left-right hand coordination, a speciality of her instrument.
Pt. Ajoy Chakrabarty provided the grand finale to the samaroha. He was accompanied by Pt. Yogesh Shamsi on the tabla and on the harmonium by Pt. Ajay Joglekar. With just the first two opening notes, he was able to convey to the listeners the raag he was about to render — Maru Bihag. The majestic ambience he created, lovingly caressing each note, slowly building up an evocative picture through the lyrics made for an unforgettable experience.
He concluded with a thumri in Bhairavi, gently reminding the audience that traditionally, in a festival, Bhairavi was rendered by the last performer.He sang the thumri in the Benaras style, not the Punjab ang that he has been trained in too. His disciple, Meher Paralikar, gave him excellent vocal support.
The Delhi-based author writes on Hindustani music and musicians.