Shubha Mudgal explored women’s emotions through poetry and music at her NCPA concert

Shubha Mudgal with Anees Pradhan (Tabla), and Sudhir Nayak (Harmonium) for her concert, ‘Mukta : The Voices of Women Today’, at Tata Theatre, NCPA.

Shubha Mudgal with Anees Pradhan (Tabla), and Sudhir Nayak (Harmonium) for her concert, ‘Mukta : The Voices of Women Today’, at Tata Theatre, NCPA. | Photo Credit: NARENDRA DANGIYA

An hour into her concert, Shubha Mudgal presented an Avadhi folk song, ‘Saansu mori kaheli bajheniya, nanad Brijbasin ho; Rama jinke main baari re byahi, ooyi ghar se nikaaren ho’, about the social stigma associated with infertility. It described the plight of a girl whose mother-in-law calls her childless, her sister-in-law says she has no passion, and her husband asks her to leave home.

Shubha recently performed at a concert titled ‘Women, Sensuality, and Song’ at the Tata Theatre in Mumbai. She opened the three-day festival, ‘Mukta: The Voices Of Today’, organised by the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) as part of its celebrations of 75 years of Indian independence.

In the other shows, veena exponent Jayanti Kumaresh presented ‘Shiva Shakti’, while Hindustani vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty put together ‘Tiranga’ on the concluding evening.

Shubha Mudgal came up with a repertoire that had compositions on different themes sourced from Hindi literature and folk writings.

After beginning with ‘Ae vinayaki gajamukhi’, dedicated to the elephant-headed female deity Vinayaki, she sang songs about romanticism, eroticism, social issues and challenges faced by women. Shubha was accompanied by Aneesh Pradhan on the tabla and Sudhir Nayak on the harmonium.

Wide repertoire

Most of the songs she sang were written between the 17th and early 19th centuries by male poets, who spoke in the female voice. “A large number of khayal and thumri compositions portray women as goddesses or nayikas. I came across a lot of such songs during my research over the years, and it was difficult to decide what to select and what to leave out for this concert,” she said.

Over 90 minutes, Shubha explained each composition and sometimes recited the poetry before singing. There was a sizeable number of reetikaalen poetry, which was high on shringar rasa, and there was one composition in rekhti, a form of Urdu feminist poetry. She also sang Goswami Hari Rai’s ‘Laal sang ras rain jaagi’ in raag Shuddh Kalyan.

She presented these verses in different musical styles including devotional, thumri, ghazal and folk. In her Khamaj thumri, Shubha sang Mahakavi Dev’s verses, which explored eroticism. Insha Allah Khan Insha’s rekhti, ‘Chhoti pe teri saanp ki hai lehar do-gaana, khaati hoon tere vaaste main zehar do-gaana’, talked of same-sex relationships in women.

The audience enjoyed the Brajbhasha folk song , ‘Raja dakhin jaiyo ji ke layiyo hamein Dhanushpuri’, where a woman asks her husband to get her a Dhanushpuri sari when he visits the south. Laced with humour, the song not only featured a conversation between husband and wife, it also spoke of how the various family members would react when they would see her in that sari.

Though a majority of poetry was written with young and beautiful women in mind, Shubha Mudgal sang a composition about an ageing woman. She also chose two pieces written by Ratnavali, wife of Tulsidas, and the androgynously-named Shaikh, whose main profession was textile dyeing.

The unique thing about the concert was that the audience got to listen to rare compositions. Though Shubha’s explanations weren’t very long, they conveyed the essence of the songs, arousing interest with their subject and poetic form. She also displayed her command over classical nuances, with good accompaniment by Aneesh and Sudhir. However, it was a bit disheartening to see many empty seats in the side wings.

Shubha Mudgal has always focused on balancing her musical abilities with literary content, and ‘Women, Sexuality, and Song’ provided her just the right platform.

The Mumbai-based writer reviews classical concerts.

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Printable version | Aug 18, 2022 6:10:47 pm |