Myriad moods of maestros

DIVINE APPEAL: Pandit Jasraj

DIVINE APPEAL: Pandit Jasraj  

From Pandit Jasraj’s meditative performance to the languid notes of Kala Ramanth, Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival in Pune was a delight for connoisseurs of classical music

Sawai Gandharva is today remembered as the most well known disciple of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, mainly due to the festival held in his name since 1953. The Ustad had other disciples as well – best known being his son Suresh Mane, daughter Hirabai Barodekar, and Roshanara Begum, but for today’s generation, it is mainly through Sawai Gandharva that he truly lives on, 80 years after his death in 1937. His turbaned photograph is a familiar sight at the festival, with his hooded mystic eyes; apparently his eyes prompted theosophist Annie Besant to ask if he was intoxicated on drugs; to which she was told, yes, the drug of music!

A gharana of music is usually said to be deemed as one after there have been three generations of practitioners of that style of music; Ustad Abdul Karim Khan is a rare musician whose unquestioned path breaking style was called the “Kirana gayaki” even before three generations had adhered to it. He belonged to the small village of Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh before finally settling down in Miraj. Today, of course, his music is followed by fourth and even fifth generation of singers, some of whom were given the opportunity to present their music at this edition of the festival.

Dr Anupam Joshi, a Pune resident and musician, recalled how earlier the festival was held through the night, and such was the dedication of the listeners, they never left their positions throughout the night. Then, there were no tea and snack stalls, to which listeners now throng between recitals.

Myriad moods of maestros

The Sawai Gandharva festival has traditionally been for vocalists only; around 40-45 years ago, instrumentalists of immense stature were also given a platform. This year too, the line up of instrumentalists included the very talented (twice Grammy nominated) though understated Debashish Bhattacharya on a modified version of slide guitar (unlike others guitar players, he plays his 24 string instrument, called the “chaturangi”, like a Western guitarist) on the opening day.

Tremendous virtuosity

The maestro played raga Madhuwanti, an afternoon raga, with great lyricism and tremendous virtuosity. His next composition was a dhun. It was touching to hear his memory of Pt Bhimsen Joshi; he used to hear his recordings on the radio, which was all he had in the village as there was no electricity, and he finally had the great opportunity of looking after him in 1989 at a festival in Calcutta, as the errand boy!

The festival had started traditionally with shehnai by Madhukar Dhumal. The concluding artist the first day was the incomparable Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia with raga Bihag, accompanied by Vijay Ghate and Bhawani Shankar on pakhawaj.

The second day had Grammy winner, and this year’s Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee, Kala Ramnath on violin, accompanied by none other than Yogesh Shamsi. She had thought she would play Raga Aiman, but on the advice of Yogesh, shifted to raga Sham Kalyan – he told her her Sham Kalyan was special. Kala created a soporific atmosphere with her slow movement of notes; almost too languid one felt at times. Yogesh Samsi was as always truly sublime. Kala’s command on her instrument is admirable, as is her subtle layakaari, perhaps more effective than in-your-face tihaais that are nowadays so popular.

The third day featured Maihar exponent Kushal Das on sitar; his Marwa aalap jor and jhala was succinct, the subsequent Aiman was a polished presentation. The concluding dhun on overwhelming request was quite prosaic.

Of course the vocalists dominated festivities. The first day saw Pt Bhimsen Joshi’s UK-based,disciple Dr Vijay Rajput who sang the ever popular raga of his Guru, Puriya Kalyan. His powerful virile voice reminds one of his Guru. The next hori based on raga Pilu was somewhat strangely structured, the concluding bhajan “Raghuvar tumko meri laaj” again took one down memory lane. The evening concluded with Pandit Rajan Sajan Mishra singing raga Puriya, followed by Sohani, concluding with a bhajan by Guru Nanak. The deliberation with which they present a khayal is uniquely their own; the “bhakti bhaav” they bring to their spiritual pieces unmatched.

The second day commenced with Bhuvanesh Komkali who correctly, following the raga time rule started with raga Multani, before settling down to a lovely combination raga – Nand and Kedara, in which he sang a composition of his grandfather Pt Kumar Gandharva. The concluding folk song, based on raga Kafi, from the Malwa region had been “discovered” by his father Mukul Shivputra.

Star performer

The star singer of her generation Kaushiki Chakravorty pulled in even greater crowds, making it difficult to move around! Her first raga was Maru Bihag, followed by a very brief tarana in Jhaptaal, then drut Ektaal khayal in raga Bageshwari, invoking Devi Saraswati, ending with the ever popular “Yaad piya ki aye”- as she wryly commented , its popularity and constant requests have become like “a National Anthem”. This rendition had some novel note combinations; she brought in snatches of Sohani and Lalit most effectively. Kaushiki’s vibrato taans are somewhat disconcerting; a more interesting Patiala technique is her breaking into double speed in the middle of a taan; something Satyajit Talwalkar on the tabla emulated too.

Undoubtedly, the finest concert of the second day was by Mewati doyen, octogenarian Pt Jasraj. Incredibly, the years have added an additional, reflective, meditative quality to his concerts. He sang raga Shankara, both his compositions dedicated to Lord Shiva. The next was Raga Bahar, “Hey ri mayi”, a brief Nayaki Kanhra, concluding with his famous haveli sangeet composition. He was accompanied most brilliantly by disciples Rattan Mohan Sharma and Ankita Joshi; the addition of his wife seated behind him on stage was a touching sight.

The third day commenced with a vocal recital of Gayatri Joshi, currently disciple of Arti Anklekar. Her powerful voice, proficiency in the higher octave, and well taught renditions in Madhuwanti, which included three compositions was most interesting, as was the Meera bhajan “Mharo ghar aao ji”. She ended with a bhajan to Ma Durga. Patiala gharana exponent Samrat Pandit’ s Gorakh Kalyan was indeed well sung with carefully crafted, suitable embellishments and impressive taans. The concluding Khamach thumri was beautiful. Dilshad Khan’s accompaniment on the sarangi was a delight.

The evening ended with the now matchless Pt Ulhas Kashalkar. In his home crowd of Pune, with the prestigious Tansen award to be presented to him later this month, the maestro was in his element.

A small raga like Nand was expanded without being repetitive in the most exalted fashion, indeed Ulhas ji has the ability to transport his audience whenever he sings. The next piece was Arana, ending with Bhairavi “Jagat Ke Daata” a composition that had been taught to him by the great Ustad Vilayat Khan, who was always known for his mastery over Bhairavi.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 12:41:28 PM |

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