In safe company

Maestro at his best: Rashid Khan in performance

Maestro at his best: Rashid Khan in performance  

The 73rd edition of the Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival added a note of cheer to the sombre atmosphere

The COVID-19 scare made its impact on the 73rd edition of the Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival as well. The turnout was low in comparison to previous years but the seasoned musicians were in full flow.

The superb tabla accompaniment by India’s top artists was one of the highlights of the festival. It started with Punjab gharana exponent Pt. Yogesh Shamsi, who accompanied Senia Maihar sitariya Niladri Kumar on the first day of the festival. Keeping his accompaniment within the parameters explored by Niladri, Shamsi matched the sitarist’s thoughts perfectly.

Niladri had started with an aalap in raga Bageshwari, impressively focusing on slow longs meends on both his kharaj wires. The gats in Rupak and then Teen taal providing a wide canvas to explore the laya. Both played smaller improvisations rather than elaborately structured longer pieces, keeping the pace of the concert taut. Appreciative of his expert and highly musical accompanist, Niladri later shared, “I cut short my drut gat to play a longer jhala than usual, as I wanted to savour his amazing “na dhin dhin na” theka a bit longer.”

Bhairavi bandish

Pt Shubhankar Banerji

Pt Shubhankar Banerji  

Pt. Suresh Talwalkar with Pt Ulhas Kashalkar, as always, lent sensitive support. Their interactive jodi brings out the best in each other. When Pt Kashalkar sang raga Bihagada, sadly, the sound system was not well set and his voice amplification was not at its best. However, his rendering of the raga Bahar composition, “Kaliyan sang karta rang raliyan”, was simply divine. But the piece de resistance of his concert was his Bhairavi bandish in memory of Ustad Vilayat Khan’s death anniversary. Pt. Subhankar Banerji, who accompanied Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, revealed his total mastery over the tabla, but again within the parameters set by the Ustad. During both Rageshwari compositions, Zila Kafi and concluding Bhairavi, Banerji played with finesse and restraint.

The fourth noteworthy tabla player at the festival was the much younger Ojas Adhiya who accompanied both Rakesh Chaurasia on the flute and Ustad Rashid Khan.

Vidushi Shubhra Guha was a welcome addition to the festival. She is one of the rare female Agra gharana exponents and her singing style remains pure, confined to her gharana. Starting with raga Chayanat, she sang two khayals, then a tarana, before moving onto raga Basant Bahar in which she sang a complicated composition of Pt Dinkar Kaikani “aayee basant ki bahar”. Her concluding Holi revealed her mastery over thumri. Her focus was on establishing the mood rather than displaying vocal virtuosity and over embellishment as many younger exponents of thumri tend to do nowadays.

Another addition to the festival was the inaugural dhrupad concert by the Darbhanga gharana brothers, Prashant and Nishant Mallik. Bhuvanesh Komkali, a regular at the festival, seems to be getting better every year. Manjiri Asnare Kelkar, with her impeccable Jaipur Attrauli training, rendered a superb Basanti Kedar, a signature raga of the gharana.

The festival concluded with a superb recital by Ustad Rashid Khan. He sang raga Shudha Sarang, then moved on to raga Madhmad Sarang, singing a composition of Ustad Inayat Khan. Singing with passion and involvement, the concert was a fitting finale to one of the Delhi’s favourite classical music festivals.

Under the shadow of coronavirus

It was a strange feeling as one entered the Bharatiya Kala Kendra grounds. The music connoisseurs' temperature was being checked at the gate. One was instructed to use the hand sanitiser before moving inside. Once inside, one discovered that the chairs were placed at a distance of a foot from each other. There was a prominently placed portable hand wash basin near the chairs. It looked out of place, but safety was the priority.

There was no 'baithak' seating at all, as the organisers explained it was impossible to ensure adequate space between people. Several people in the audience wore face masks, and there was a visible vivadi sur when anyone sneezed!

Shankarlal Music Festival was the only classical music event in Delhi that was not cancelled because of Covid-19 scare. Those postponed included Dhrupad Festival, Bhilwara Festival and Habitat Morning Ragas concert which.

The ever humorous Rakesh Chaurasia thanked the organisers for inviting him to perform as “it gave him an excuse to leave the house”. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan dedicated his concert to all the people who had lost their lives to the virus. Ustad Rashid Khan kept asking the well-being of the audience during his concert and asked them to tell him when to stop.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:55:44 PM |

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