Many shades of Malhar

Close proximity to Nature empowered our ancient seers to realise that life is not born out of sin; in fact we all are ‘Amritasya putraah’ because a couple’s union replicates the union of heaven and earth, as we experience during Monsoons. The cleansing power of the raining bliss removes all the impurities of mind and body before implanting the seeds of a healthy life/crop. The word Malhar embodies this philosophy. Since Indian music is a unique blend of science, philosophy and myth, Malhar has become synonymous to a set of approximately 18 ragas that celebrate the spirit of surging love, devotion-charged surrender, gestation and fruition. A variety of such ragas inundated a parched Kolkata recently during two noticeable among several Malhar Fests.

Sublime vocalism

The sublime vocalism of slide-guitar maestro Debashish Bhattacharya was the crescendo of the evening organised by Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture at Vivekananda Hall. Bhattacharya chose Miyan Malhar. To suit the brooding mood of the raga, he tuned his instrument four scales lower than the usual D. This sensitive step instilled a rain-soaked mellowness in the otherwise perky and taut tonality of his self-designed ‘four-coloured’ chaturangui. It now sang in the deep tones of a veena!

The alaap had steady bends of elongated meends, swaying notes, fine-grained sharp moving taans, octave jumping phrases and filigree of lighter nuances along with West-leaning staccato note-clusters, chords and harmonised phrases. All these etched the Monsoon sky with different dynamics of key-phrases and occasional flashes of very crisp taans. The brief jod was succinctly designed with heavy rhythmic gamaks which paved way for a composition of Tansen supported by Ujjwal Bharati’s broad-faced tabla playing chautal a la pakhawaj.

For the slow Teental gatkari, the same tabla came up with a brilliant utthan. Both musicians enjoyed the ensuing layakari with a repartee receiving dramatic reply in the form of a taan which began very softly but gradually acquired commanding tone, challenging tabla to engage in a dialogue, and closed with a tihai. The fast teental, supported by a high pitched tabla, had a taan encrusted mukhda that inspired sprinting passages leading to jhala. Bhattacharya closed with an equally enchanting Desh Malhar.

Aesthetic exploration

The melodious finale of another two-day fest, presented by ITC SRA at Birla Sabhagar, was pitched by dhrupad maestros (Umakant and Ramakant) Gundecha Brothers. Embellished by reverberating mandra and ati-mandra swaras, harmonised notes and, more importantly, the aesthetic exploration within each sets of notes, their exposition of ragas Jayant Malhar (sampoorna alap, chautal dhrupad) and Megh (aochar, jhaptal composition) sparkled radiantly. Pakhawaj wizard Akhilesh Gundecha’s tani-like longish solo round towards the end of the chautal dhrupad was equally captivating.

Khayal exponent Omkar Dadarkar, a Guru with SRA now, etched the features of Surdasi Malhar with sur-dipped elongated notes in the longish aochar very leisurely. His literary bent of mind helped relish the lyrics of ‘Ma chamake bijuri barase meha’ (slow teental) in a way that painted lightning-laced formation of heavy clouds with the help of mellow meends and sharp taans; and the exciting grip on tala empowered him to design excellent bol-patterns within the tala-bars - to build a breathtaking climax till the last beat of a cycle and to strike the sam with a massive relief of arrival.

Superbly chiselled, lyrics-based heavy gamak taans and fine-grained fast aakar taans replicating ‘Nanhi-nanhi boondan’ of the fast teental bandish ‘Badarwa barasan ko aaye’ further enriched the pictorial beauty. The empathetic support from Bivash Sanghai (tabla), Sarwar Hussain (sarangi) and Gourab Chatterjee (harmonium) played indispensable roles in this gripping act of music-making.

The most encouraging aspect of this fest was that, guided by Guru Ajoy Chakrabarty, the youngsters tried out less explored Malhars. Sitar virtuoso Ayan Sengupta caringly handled Gaud Malhar along with its vocalised nuances at full display; brilliant vocalist Meher Paralikar delineated a complex Meerabai ki Malhar with impressive confidence of a veteran; promising Sohini Koley sang Ramdasi Malhar.

New generation musicians

Manjari Sinha

Many shades of Malhar

Showcasing her potential: Jui Dhaygude Deshpande

The rainy season brings a mumber of Malhar festivals with it. The Pracheen Kala Kendra (PKK) presented their variant, ‘a celebration of monsoon melodies’, at New Delhi’s Triveni Sabhagar featuring Aditya Sharma from the U.S. and Jui Dhaygude Deshpande from Mumbai, two young voices with ample potential.

Initiated into classical music by his parents, Aditya has done M.A. in Music and Ph.D on Voice Culture from Panjab University, Chandigarh. His talent was recognised when he came first in the All India Radio (AIR) competition and became a graded vocalist of the AIR. He was further groomed at the ITC-SRA Gurukul, Kolkata under the tutelage of Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar and is presently teaching at the Gandharva Academy in California. This evening he seemed to be a meticulous craftsman of music like his guru, when Aditya opened the Festival with Miyan Malhar, one of the major varieties of Malhar. This was partly due to his nature and partly due to his mentor.

Deft handling

Many shades of Malhar

Accompanied by Khadga Singh on tabla and Chetan Nigam on harmonium, he leisurely handled the raga. The very opening statement of auchar (the introductory alaap) etched the profile and Vakra Chalan of the Kafi Thaat raga, when he stood on shadja, underlined both the (komal and shuddha) nishads in the mandra saptak (the lower octave) and reached for the oscillation on komal gandhar, the focal points of this austere raga.

Elaborating further with the systematic badhat of the bada khayal at a slow pace in the 16-beat time cycle of Tilwada, he impressed with his scholastic exposition of the raga with scores of melodic sequences.

Here is a humble suggestion for the harmonium player. Aditya was about to reach the Taar Sa, creating the musical aura of the raga around the intended swara when Chetan jumped to Taar Rishabh. There is an unsaid rule and etiquette which the supporting harmonium or sarangi players conventionally follow, ‘be within the boundary of swaras the main artist has reached’!

Aditya treated the raga with riveting focus and penetration. And the exquisite intonation of Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar came forth through his voice. The vilambit and madhya laya (medium tempo), both Khayals rendered with technically elaborate passages of the raga, were sung as though they were one piece carefully locked with phrase after alternate phrase, subtly sculpted and adorned with a variety of taans. The mukhada (opening phrase) of the chhota khayal “Gheri aayo re badarwa….” set to Teentala, for instance, was a visual depiction of the lyrics with its built in taans like the random showers of Badarwa, the clouds in the sky. The Tarana in drut Teentala led the raga to a natural climax with lively phrasings and short and rapid spurts of taans.

Right grooming

The other vocalist was Jui Dhaygude Pande, a new generation vocalist of Jaipur Atrauli Gharana, endowed with a well-trained powerful voice. Born in a musical family, Jui started her fundamental music lessons with Prema Sabne.

She was further trained under Pandita Sheela Joshi, Late Veena Sahatsrabuddhe and Vidushi Kishori Amonkar. No wonder she exhibits systematic exposition of the raga structure, brilliant phrasings, variety of taan patterns and a graceful reach in higher as well as lower octaves.

Jui opened her performance with ‘Meera Bai Ki Malhar, one of the most uncommon varieties of Malhar indeed. Jaipur Atrauli Gharana is known for its Jod-Ragas and this was a melodious combination of Miyan Malhar and Sur-Malhar. Defining the significant features of the raga, Jui presented the composition, “Tum ghana se Ghan-Shyam…..” set to Rupak Tala.

The beauty of her flawless rendering of this Jod-Raga was her seamless meandering between the two component ragas having apparently different shades of emotion.

The authentic way of Sthayee bharna, the bol-badhat with rhythmic play and the well conceived taans especially the double swara taans so specific to this gharana, were dealt with utmost clarity. The popular sur malhar bandish “Badarwa barsan ko aaye….” was rendered in addha theka of Teen-tala.

This was followed with a lovely bandish “Megh-Shyam Ghana-Shyam…” in Megh, set to drut Ek-Tala. The poetic lyrical content of her chosen compositions, a fine sense of texture of swaras and finely executed aakar and bol-taans were the chief elements of Jui’s impressive performance.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 6:37:53 AM |

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