Young musicians and exponents lit the stage at ITC Sangeet Sammelan

The young brigade of performers at ITC Sangeet Sammelan raised our hopes about the future of classical music

January 06, 2023 06:01 pm | Updated January 07, 2023 12:51 pm IST

Ajoy Chakrabarty receiving the ITC Sangeet Samman

Ajoy Chakrabarty receiving the ITC Sangeet Samman | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

After three years, the ITC Sangeet Research Academy opened its doors to music lovers to enjoy the ITC Sangeet Sammelan, in early December, and also witness the ITC Samman being bestowed on Pt Ajoy Chakraborty, the sole saviour and lifeline of the Sangeet Research Academy at present. With few exceptions, almost every member of SRA family is mentored by him in some way or other.

The event began with a Sanskrit stotra-based invocation, soulfully rendered by Pt. Ajoy’s disciple and the academy’s newly appointed junior guru, Brajeshwar Mukherjee.

Each day’s session featured promising young performers like Shadaj Iyer (vocal). Initiated by Ustad Shauqat Hussain Khan into Agra gharana’s gayaki very early in life, Shadaj won several prestigious contests and titles including ‘Classical Voice of India’. As an SRA scholar, this hugely talented youngest participant of the Sammelan is now further polishing his art under Agra-style’s highly regarded guru Subhra Guha.      

Well-versed with musical etiquette, Shadaj paid obeisance to both his mentors before rendering traditional nom-tom alap in Nand (Anandi Kalyan) with decisive key-phrases, that gently applied the touch-notes before approaching the next phrase laced with numerous varieties of characteristic Agra-nuances. He sang khayals set to slow and fast ektaal relishing the finery of lyrics, melody and rhythm – all at once. Ashoke Mukherjee on the tabla and ace harmonium artiste Rupashree Bhattacharya indulgently encouraged him and expertly added charm to this presentation.

Confluence of styles

he same kind of uninhibited display of emotion-charged skill marked Ishaan Ghosh and Yashwant Vaishnav’s tabla-playing. Still in their early twenties, both are well-known as soloists and accompanists. Ishaan, son and worthy disciple of Pt Nayan Ghosh, belongs to the Farukhabad-Lucknow gharana while Yashwant, albeit trained by several gurus before his tutelage under Pt Yogesh Samsi of Punjab gharana, represents the latter. Aided by Hiranmay Mitra’s seasoned harmonium, their aesthetic alap-like bol-elaboration in slow teentaal with two distinct aural effects, trailed by attractive kaydas, flowed seamlessly. The duo’s interpretation of compositions by legends and the confluence of styles, triggered euphoria.

The rest of this brilliant young brigade was led by Kaushiki Chakrabarty, the star vocalist of her generation. On her alma mater’s stage, she offered raga Bageshri and a thumri with Yogesh Samsi on the tabla, Sabir Khan on the sarangi and Ajay Joglekar on the harmonium.

Kaushiki Chakrabarty

Kaushiki Chakrabarty | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The stylistic distinction of Arshad Ali Khan’s Kirana-oriented Puria Kalyan and Sameehan Kashalkar’s Gwalior-Agra rooted Puria Dhanashri stood out for their uniqueness. Arshad experimented with a few of Ajoy Chakrabarty’s pet phrases while Sameehan’s low-pitched soothing voice-throw and leisurely approach to raga spoke high of his prowess. His father-guru Ulhas Kashalkar’s influence was strongly visible in Kamod, as rendered by Alick Sengupta. Sameehan and Alick were competently accompanied by Sanjay Adhikari (tabla) and Gourab Chatterjee (harmonium). Songborti Das (Hameer, Pilu thumri) and Carnatic vocalist Calcutta K Srividya could do better by following their mentor Ajoy Chakrabarty’s panache for accuracy of notes. Songborti was superbly supported and guided by Bivash Sanghai (tabla) and Rupashree (harmonium) while Srividya was in the safe hands of VV Ravi (violin), J. Vaidyanathan (mridangam) and S. Venkataramanan (kanjira).

Artistes in sync

Young and well-known sarod artistes Abir Hossain and Pratik Srivastava were featured on different evenings but, apparently influenced by Ajoy Chakrabarty, displayed similar thought process. The emotive alap lovingly etched their chosen ragas’ introspective mood sans jod-jhala; and the gatkaris tiptoed in so quietly that Abir’s tabla partner Sandip Ghosh and Pratik’s tabla accompanist Debjit Patitundi had to refrain from preludes. Abir played raga Shree (slow and fast teental gats) and Khamaj dhun; Pratik delicately evoked Marwa (slow jhaptaal) and an elated Hemant (medium ektaal, two drut teentaal gats, jhala) as his recital’s climax. Harmonium virtuoso Aditya Oke went solo (rare raga Marwa with shuddh Madhyam, Marathi Natya Sangeet, Hamsadhwani, ektaal, Kirwani, ektal) with Prasad Padhye (tabla). Shadaj, son-disciple of eminent flautist Praveen Godkhindi, shadowed his father very prudently during his portrayal of ragas Darbari and Hemavati.  Like Praveen, senior musicians added immense aesthetic value to the sammelan.

Yogesh Samsi

Yogesh Samsi | Photo Credit: K. V. SRINIVASAN

Eminent dhrupad singer Uday Bhawalkar, the sole representative of this ancient musical form at the sammelan, blended rich poetry (pada)-based raga delineation and pure notes. While portraying Nayaki Kanada through elaborate alap, he was on a quest to find right balance, angle and the inner core of notes. Pratap Awad’s pakhawaj warmly responded to his swaying rhythm-play in ‘Lal ladali khele neek se hori’ a dhamar handed down to him by Ustad Mohiuddin Dagar. With a self-composed ‘Hari ko naam sumir’ (fast shooltaal) he closed around wee hours of the morning.

At an unhurried pace

Next vocalist, vidushi Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, ably aided by Bharat Kamath (tabla) and Rupashree Bhattacharya (harmonium) invoked raga Vibhas (slow Rupak, fast teentaal ) in her placid style; enough to cast a serene spell. The erudite Jaipur Atrauli exponent rounded up with a bhajan. The daybreak was welcomed with another very daintily beautiful raga Ahir Bhairav, etched by sitar maestro Shahid Parvez with warmth and delicacy. He closed the whole night session of the second day with Bhairavi.

Ashwini Bhide Deshpande

Ashwini Bhide Deshpande | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The soiree had a fair share of thrilling moments too. Hidden behind the meend-laden elephantine gait of raga Kedar, Pt Ulhas Kashalkar provided euphoric moments with beautiful phrases, power-packed saath-sangat, taans and arriving at the sam with precision. Using the same tools, he negotiated Pancham Malkauns, a very rare raga handed down to him by his guru, Ram Marathe. He bid emotive adieu to the first evening in Bhairavi. He was accompanied by Sarwar Hussain (sarangi), Gourab Chatterjee (harmonium); and competently aided by Pt Suresh Talwalkar (tabla). The ‘Taalyogi’ graced the stage along with his entourage including daughter Sawani (tabla), Vinay Ramadasan (vocal), Rohit (pakhawaj), Abhishek (harmonium), Ishan (cajon) and Ruturaj (kalabansh). While relishing a soulful bhajan set to slow jhaptaal and another Sohini bandish in fast ada-chautaal, he ecstatically expressed the connotation of lyrics through the language of tabla.

Finally, Ajoy Chakrabarty, accompanied by Yogesh Samsi, Ajay Joglekar and disciples, took Khamaj (usually dismissed as a raag used in thumris) to the dizzying heights of janak (parent) of several versatile raags such as Desh, Tilang, TilakKamod, Jhinjhoti, Jaijaiwanti etc. His presentation glittered with the momentary appearance of all these, compelling listeners to remain alert to catch a glimpse of their beauty. After Bhairavi, Ajoy Chakrabarty concluded with the Shanti-Stotra, seeking peace for all. 

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