From the land of Jagannatha

A rare performance (from left) Aishwarya Vidya Raghunath, Sangita Panda and Sangeeta Chamuah (below) the students of Guru Niranjan performing a pallavi

A rare performance (from left) Aishwarya Vidya Raghunath, Sangita Panda and Sangeeta Chamuah (below) the students of Guru Niranjan performing a pallavi  


The two day Guru Gopal Panda music and dance festival in Bhubhaneshwar highlighted the beautiful Odissi music form that awaits the classical category

In his book, Odishi Raag Rathnavali, the eminent musician and scholar of Odissi music, Gopal Chandra Panda, traces the origins of the genre to Bharatha’s Natyashastra. He says the ancient treatise speaks of four categories Aavantee, Dakkhinaatya, Panchalee, and Udra Magadhi. The Udra Magadhi, he argues, is what has come to stay as Odissi music, as Orissa was back then known by the names Udra, Utkala and Kalinga. He further says that the proof of its existence can be found in Jayadeva’s Geetha Govinda, where, Jayadeva sets his compositions to the Odishi style of music. It’s uniqueness as a form is evident in Geetha Govinda.

If the form has not received the recognition it deserves, the reasons are historical says Gopal Panda. Lack of patronage, Mughal invasion, and dominance of Hindustani and Carnatic music styles are some of the factors that has taken away the attention and impetus the form needed. Since the number of practitioners were small, it did not get recorded in Bhatkhande’s work either. Musicologists of modern India, therefore, remained oblivious of this system of music. However, the form has survived despite all odds, and Gopinath Panda has been urging that the classical status be bestowed on Odissi music, which is as ancient as the Carnatic and Hindustani.

At the seventh annual festival of the Guru Gopal Panda Odishi Academy, in Bhubhaneshwar recently, these concerns were reiterated yet again. “I have dedicated my entire life to the cause of Odissi, both in the theoretical and practical realms. I sincerely hope that it will soon be recognised as the third classical form of music in India, said the emotional Gopal Panda. The highlight of this two day festival was the emphasis given to Odissi music vis-à-vis other musical forms. For those with limited exposure to Odissi music, the festival gave an exposure of how the form has journeyed in the last 400 years.

From the land of Jagannatha

The Odissi music is a synthesis of four classes of music – the Dhruvapada, Chitrapada, Chitrakala and Panchai. All of these were set to Chhanda, the metrical section which is considered to be the core of this music. The Chhandas in turn were composed by the amalgamation of Bhava, Kala, and Swara. The Padi, which is the special feature of this form, is sung in the drut tempo of Navatala, Dashatala or Egartala. Odissi music has its own repertoire of ragas and some of them may find a reflection in the Carnatic and Hindustani music. However, there are also ragas in Odissi music that share their name with Carnatic or Hindustani, but have completely different notes. As scholars note, the rendition of the form is distinctive. “It is lyrical in its movement with wave-like ornamentation. The pace of singing in Odissi is not very fast nor too slow, and it maintains a proportional tempo which is very soothing.” The Odissi uses the percussion instrument mardala, it uses gamak and andolan and every line is rendered differently, with the melodic idea beautified uniquely each time.

As it is the custom every year, this year too, The Guru Gopal Panda Academy of Odissi Music released a CD, Rag Ratnabali V, comprising of ragas sung in the Odissi genre. This was followed by Vrindgaan by the students of the Academy which was both lilting and graceful. Led by musician Sangita Panda, daughter of Gopal Panda and also the architect of this festival, she accompanied brilliantly on the harmonium. The composition set to rag Sindhu Kamodi, had compositions in adi taal and ektaal, with Niranjan Sahoo on the mardala. Before giving the main composition a start, there was a long exposition of the swaras in various permutations and combinations, rendered immaculately. Exploring the lower and higher octaves sequentially, the raga carried effervescence of the Carnatic raga Jhinjooti. , was deeply moving. It was a group rendition, however, it never sounded mechanical, but remained rich with emotions. The co-ordination and harmony that the group achieved was flawless.

The Vadya Triveni, which was the coming together of the tabla, mridangam and mardala (of the three forms of Hindustani, Carnatic and Odissi) explored Aditala (teentaal). Dhyaneshwar Swain (mardala), S. Sairam (mridangam), and Kulamani Sahoo (tabla) showcased the idea of rhythm as it works in these three forms. The opening was a joint display of sorts: though it was dramatic, it was disproportionate failing to create the impact it intended to. During their individual portrayals, all three percussionists showcased their mastery and skill. In an exercise of this kind, the emphasis being proficiency, there is little scope for reflection. Kulamani Sahoo however, brought in some memorable moments in his playing, and in the third round, Sairam had an interesting refrain around which he worked his rhythm patterns, and Dhyaneshwar Swain made an impact with the grand movements of the mardala.

From the land of Jagannatha

On the second day of the festival, there was a similar experiment of the three streams coming together. Triveni Dhara, had three vocalists: Aishwarya Vidya Raghunath, Hindustani by Sangeetha Chamuah and Odishi by Sangeeta Panda. The idea, as before, was to showcase the difference and distinction of the three forms of music. While Aishwarya chose raga Karnataka Devagandhari, Sangeeta Chamuah sang Bhimpalasi and Sangita Panda, Vajrakanthi. After a brief alap, followed by an insightful and evocative exposition by the accomplished violinist Charulatha Ramanujan, Aishwarya rendered the famous kriti, “Bhajare Manasa” by Mysore Vasudevacharya. Her neraval at “Ravi Jathi” was creatively accompanied by Sairam on the mridangam, evoking audience appreciation. Sangeeta Chamuah’s rendition was marked by unsteady moments in the beginning but picked momentum during the latter half. Her good voice and inward looking ability gave depth to parts that seemed laboured. The tabla accompaniment (Biswaranjan Nanda) and the rich tonal quality of the harmonium (Sumanta Maharana) provided stability to her rendition. Sangita Panda chose a mystical poem from the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism set to raga Dhanashri. Her alap was rich and was embellished with dance graces. The musical rendition brought to mind the abhinaya aspects of dance, as she interpreted many of her musical statements. It was a vibrant and dynamic performance. The three of them came together in a Jayadeva ashtapadi, “Kisalaya shayanam” set to raga Ramakiri. The beautiful ashtapadi, trying to capture tender moments and affection between Radha and Krishna was emphatic: it would have been meaningful if the beauty of the poetry was brought out. But as an exercise it was worthy: two established forms having a dialogue with the third.

On both days, the Odissi dance performances -- directed by Alaka Kanungo and Guru Niranjan Rout -- were memorable. The costumes, colour scheme, music, grace and talent of the performers, choreography, and the overall presentation was exquisite.

The well organised and well intended festival will stay in one’s memory for long.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 8:56:00 PM |

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