Music

From the archives: Tradition has a knack of choosing its custodians

Immersed in his music: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

Immersed in his music: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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It would be a dreadful thing to do to approach tradition with a loveless mind and heart. The musical excellence of classicism never yields itself to such an approach. Tradition remains away from a presentation which is not emotionally identified with it. This does not mean that tradition is dead. It only means that the artist has failed to involve himself in it. Proficiency in classical music means nothing in the absence of this involvement. It can produce only insensitive performance. Since it is also mechanical, its lifelessness is readily branded by the detractors of traditional classicism as inevitable.

They argue that tradition is a dead thing and you cannot bring it to life. The best thing to do would be to forget it. Against this background, the responsibility of upholding tradition becomes all the greater. Life cannot be sane and meaningful without tradition which represents its very moorings and the vital means of ensuring the continuity of its culture. This traditional culture is very beautiful and expressive. It has to be constantly relived and it is in this reliving of tradition that one discovers creativity and not only renews it but substantially enriches it. The beauty and expressiveness of tradition can be perceived only by the loving heart and by the mind which is identified with it. In classical music, this perception opens out a wonder world of conceptions that give ceaseless and unlimited glimpses of the infinite gamut of traditional excellence and. at the same time, confers on the artiste the skill and sensitivity needed to communicate with his listeners and share with them the joyful experience of these lovely vistas. It is only musicians who attain this blessed level who are capable of fulfilling the responsibilities relating to classicism with complete fidelity to its values. It is by them that tradition is liberated from its frozen state into an eternally flowing stream dancing its way from the past into the present and from the present into the future. Tradition also seems to have a knack for choosing the musicians who will take care of it and act as its custodians. It is also an observed fact that the musicianship of the stature needed to do justice to tradition runs generation after generation in certain chosen families.

Pedigree counts in classicism and it is from these families that musicians are thrown up who serve it truly and well. Of the musicians in the North who practise Hindustani classical music, Amjad Ali Khan is one who offers pedigree artistry. He hails from a reputed family of musicians and preserves the sarod musical legacy bequeathed to him by his father Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan with great love and loyalty. Splendid show: Amjad Ali Khan was jointly presented in a concert in the City by the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Memorial Society and the Maharajapuram Viswanatha Aiyar Trust.

The venue was the Rani Seethai Hall and the performance was splendid on the strength of Amjad Ali's superb sarod artistry and the sterling collaboration of tabla player Shafaat Ahmed Khan who was enormously enlivening in the numerous melody-cum-rhythm highlights of the show. The handsome sarodia was quick to bring the tabla player into the picture since he proceeded from the opening alap in Yamun to the vilambit theme in the raga without wasting time on the jod and jhala progressions. They really were not needed considering the volume of exciting workmanship that was to be pushed into the vilambit and drut melody-cum-rhythm themes in Yamun played by Amjad Ali. However, exciting workmanship was not the ruling principle of the show and it always came only after reposeful and deep spells of music by way of alap. "Give me more of the musician and less of the maestro," a wag used to remark and he would have had no complaints at this performance because Amjad Ali offered effervescent virtuosity judiciously and let enduring music take its rightful place. The alaps covered Yamun, Malkauns, Durga and Bhairavi. The phrasings were passionate and intense and also spacious. The mysterious power of classicism was suggested at the very outset by the leisurely, thrice-repeated simple stroke covering just the two notes "saa and nee" which ushered in the atmosphere of Yamun instantly. Later, the audience was enveloped in the experience of the raga. The enjoyment level was again high in Malkauns in which one of the compositions played could be followed in the enlivening rhythmic gait of the "kanda nadai". The joy of rhythm in the sarod-tabla exchanges and fusions in the course of the concert was always allied to sarvalaghu rasa and never for once smacked of stilted "kanakku" exercises. Altogether, the performance was thoroughly exciting and enjoyable. It was made so without any loss of dignity.

Bright patches

One has known Nalini Ramprasad sing in better form than she did for Saraswathi at the Srinivasa Sastri Hall, Mylapore. The fact that she had to confine herself to non-Trinity fare was a handicap. Her selection of songs also was not always judicious. But through it all, one could see that Nalini has a musical sensitivity which is not generally a part of the routine cutcheri artist. There were many bright patches in the performance and one of them was provided by Nalini's alapana of Kalyani. Meera Narayan (violin) combined richness of tone, firmness of technique and strength of skill in her melodic collaboration. On the percussion side, Janaki Achuthan (mridangam) fulfilled her role with expertise which always wore a seasoned look. Robust duo: The robust vocal duo of Tiruvarur Sethuraman and Kulikkarai Viswalingam was seen in action at the Srinivasa Sastri Hall, Mylapore, performing for Nadopasana. The classicist hue of their music was bright but the result of their sincere efforts was effectiveness only in the matter of force. They could not really communicate the beauty of Carnatic music because of their generally aggressive approach in respect of both tone and execution. Percussively, it was all right and the double-mridangam support which Guruvayur Dorai and his son Guruvayur Kannan provided seemed called for by the exigencies of the situation. It was admirable too. Viswalingam sang an excellent Pantuvarali as an introduction to "Ninnunera Namminanu" while Sethuraman showed some imaginative fire in his Mohanam (Evarura) alapana though it was marred by lapses of tone and execution. Violinist M. S. Gopalakrishnan was a picture of pure and sweet melody and played with sincerity to his style. - NMN

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 8:21:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/from-the-archives-tradition-has-a-knack-of-choosing-its-custodians/article25880948.ece

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