Colourful rangolis and earthen lanterns illuminated the vast India International Centre (IIC) in Delhi during the week-long ‘The IIC Experience’ festival, which returned after a year. Besides music, dance and theatre, there were film screenings, exhibitions and gourmet spreads put together by master chefs. It was both a ruhaani and jismaani ghiza (feast for the soul and palate). The festive ambience uplifted the spirits of artistes and audiences alike.
The evening concerts proved that even the best of virtual performances can’t match the energy of live concerts. The instant appreciation from the audience brings out the best in an artiste. The rapport between the two enhances the joy of music. It was exciting to experience this once again at Shalmali Joshi’s concert.
Training and practice
Trained in Gwalior, Kirana and Jaipur-Atrauli gharanas, Shalmali was initiated into music by her mother Madhuri Kulkarni and was further groomed by Chintu Bua Mhaiskar and Pt. Ratnakar Pai in the intricacies of Jaipur Atrauli gayaki, known for its jod-raag (combination of two or more raags) and the ‘anvat’ (rare) raags too. No wonder she chose Khem-Kalyan, a rare variety of Kalyan thaat, to open her concert and rendered it with appeal and grace.
The melody sounded quite close to the popular evening raag Yaman but with a different flavour, created in the way the sequence of swaras ‘dha ni sa ga re’ were dealt with. And this intriguing characteristic was maintained throughout her unhurried and restrained delineation of the raag that comprised the introductory alap, the traditional bada khayal set to vilambit (slow) Teentaal, and chhota khayal set to Addha Theka of madhya (medium tempo) and drut (fast tempo) of Teentaal.
Shaalmali’s fine timbre and throw of voice proved invaluable to express the inherent mood of the raag. ‘Piharwa...’, the vilambit Teentaal bandish, rendered with great feeling and beauty was the pièce de résistance . Her tonal elegance steeped in shruti-shuddhata brought alive not just the melodious raag but also the lyrics. Conceived with clarity, the systematic treatment of the raag with the gradual ( sur-dar-sur ) badhat vouched for her authentic taleem (training) while her effortless rendering of complicated taans spoke highly of her rigorous riyaaz (practice). Vinay Mishra’s evocative harmonium followed each of Shalmali’s notes and nuances like a shadow, while Tejovrush Joshi (her talented son) provided a gentle sangat on the tabla through the bada khayal. The repeated progression of the tempo during the chhota khayal, though, could have been avoided.
Raag Jhinjhoti came next with a madhya-vilambit khayal, ‘Eri aali bhaag jaage, Mohan more ghar aaye’, set to Rupak taal of seven beats and a tarana, composed by her husband, Sunil Joshi, in Drut Ada Chautaal, a challenging cycle of 14 beats. Here, again, her voice had lucidity and focus. She also paid attention to the raag’s texture and bhaav. Due to paucity of time, Shalmali had to conclude the concert without singing a thumri, bhajan or natya sangeet.
Facets of Shiva
The inaugural evening also featured ‘Shiva... Facets of Him’, by Mumbai-based Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Vaibhav Arekar, along with the dancers of his Sankhya Dance Company.
He brought alive the iconic representation of Shiva as a metaphor for the cosmos. Vaibhav’s production sailed through alarippu, varnam and swarajati interpreting Shiva as nirgun-niraakar (the formless) and saguna-saakar (one with a form), as ardhanarishwara (Shiva-Parvati) and Hari-Hara (Shiva-Vishnu), to depict the concept of merging identity into the principle of non-duality. He concluded with the depiction of Shiva as Nataraj, who represents the movement of life, creation, sustenance and dissolution.
Opening with the strains of raag Kedar interpreting Shiva’s attributes and adjectives as Shankar, Gangadhar, Neelkant, Chandramowli, etc., with the dancers creating geometric patterns covering the entire stage at the open-air Fountain lawns, the programme was thoughtfully conceived and choreographed by Vaibhav Arekar with compositions by Adi Shankara, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Vaidyanath Bhagavatar, and Swati Tirunal. The music for the production was by Sudha Raghuram, Ambika Vishwanath, Satish Krishnamurthy, and Himanshu Shrivastava. The music at times didn’t match the movements, although the renditions by Sudha Raghuraman and Arun Gopinath were pleasing.
The Delhi-based reviewer writes on classical arts.