Friday Review

When masters create magic...

Nishat Khan in performance

Nishat Khan in performance  

With veterans like Pandit Jasraj and Gaansaraswati Kishori Amonkar in full flow, the soul of music was captured eloquently at the Surshree Kesarbai Kerkar Festival held at Goa recently.

Set in the heart of Panaji town, by the side of the Mandovi river, with beautiful grounds, a 900 plus seater auditorium, the Kala Academy Goa has indeed an enviable property. It is heartening that the Goa State government started this grand annual memorial to, arguably the greatest voice the State produced, Surshree Kesar Bai.

Started in 1980, just three years after her death, the Surshree Kesarbai Kerkar Festival is today in its 36th year, and is regarded as one of the best classical music festivals in the country. The festival has hosted most of the great vocalists of the music world in the last 40 years, including Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Vidushi Gangubai Hangal, Vidushi Kishori Amonkar, Pandit Jasraj as well as senior instrumentalists like Ustad Bismillah Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Ustad Asad Ali Khan.

The impressive grounds of the Academy were well lit all over. The hall is charming, with faux “boxes” built onto the side walls, in the manner of halls of yesteryear, in which the great cartoonist Mario Miranda has drawn black and white caricatures of listeners, in cutout form, that look as if they are glued to the activities on stage.

This year’s edition started with the grand old man of vocal music Pandit Jasraj. Age has not marred his powerful voice or the vigour of his singing style with forceful gamaks and vocal forays into the upper saptak. His Puriya was majestic and poignant, both moods of the raga that he skilfully portrayed. His concluding Haveli sangeet “vraje vasantam” incorporated shades of raga Pilu which was most pleasing. A showman par excellence, Panditji delighted the huge audience by speaking in Marathi!

The evening ended with a percussion duet of Shridhar Parthasarathy on mridangam and Naveen Sharma on tabla.

Festivals like this always invite scholar musicians who may not be popular stars, but are repositories of music, like Pandit Dinkar Pansikar, veteran Jaipur Atrauli/Kirana exponent. He sang rare ragas – Shivmat bhairav, which uses both the “ga’s” and “nikhad”, then Bahaduri Todi, Sukhiya Bilawal (a combination of Bilawal and Bihagda that he said Kesarbai used to sing) and ended with a magnificent ada chautaal composition in Alaiya bilawal that he said he had adapted from an older dhrupad composition. It is indeed a pleasure to hear a master, who brings a wealth of knowledge and experienced gayeki to the concert platform. In addition, belonging to Goa his inclusion as an artist was particularly apt – his first at this festival.

Manjusha Patil, again representing Jaipur/Atrauli and Gwalior gayeki, managed to hold her own wonderfully, singing as she was directly after a veteran performer. She astounded with her Jaunpuri, a very rounded performance bringing in all aspects of ragadari as well as vocal virtuosity. The 2nd raga Deskar was a special tribute to Kesarbai as she sang it a lot. Her concluding piece was a maand “mhare ghar aaoji” and displayed the ease with which she can handle different genres of music.

The evening session started with Delhi-based Pandit Madhup Mudgal who sings an interesting and rare blend of gayeki, predominantly overshadowed by the style of legendary Pandit Kumar Gandharva. The highlight of his concert was the very well crafted “jor” raga, Shri Kalyan composed by his Guru which he sang with great elan.

Dr. Prabha Atre, doyen of the Kirana gharana, sang a beautiful Sham Kalyan, followed by Madhurkaus, a raga she has created herself, being Malkaus with the addition of shudha “ga”, and the use of komal “ga”only in the avroha. After an interesting small piece, she concluded with a Devi stuti which had a strong Carnatic flavour – what was an incredible testimony to her immense creativity was the fact that all the many compositions she sang were all her own!! With ease, a lovely musical ambience was created.

Ustad Nishat Khan, scion of the Imdadkhani gharana concluded the evening. He was indeed in his element; as he said “performing in memory of the great Kesarbaiji who I admire so greatly, and that too in Goa, with such a wonderful discerning audience is a huge delight”. The Ustad started with Kedar, in fact chandani Kedar, as Kesarbaiji used to frequently sing this raga. In addition, it’s a raga that his family has played extensively and explored in depth, and in this concert, the full flavour of this beautiful raga was amply brought out. After aalap jor jhala and a teen taal gat, in which his presentation was dependent heavily on gayeki aspects- rounded meends, loving strokes bringing out the true flavor of the raga, he shifted to Nand in which he essayed a foray of stunningly swift and clear taans, and displayed his usual expertise in “tantra”(instrumental) craft. He concluded the recital with hameer, in which he brought back poignant memories of his legendary uncle Ustad Vilayat Khan, whose composition “achaanak more piya ghar aaye” he also sang. The finale with its almost impossibly long drawn jhala, played at tremendous speed with totally clarity was breathtaking. Expectedly there was a spontaneous standing ovation.

The concluding day featured a Carnatic violin and sitar jugalbandi by Hariharan Sivan and Goa’s Yograj Naik playing raga Charukeshi.

Vidushi Shruti Sadolikar, again from the Jaipur Attrauli tradition (her father learnt from Ustad Bhurji Khan, she herself additionally learnt from his son Ustad Azizzudin Khan) entranced the audience with Desi Todi, which is comparatively rarely heard these days. The famous “mharo ghar aavo”, immortalised by Ustad Faiyaz Khan was originally a Mewar folk song, whose lyrics were later modified to suit the sensibilities of a more prudish classical listening audience! Her second piece “jaare kanha ja” was also in teen taal. Her molten weighty voice, singing with great “chayn” with the typical Jaipur Attrauli laya work was indeed immensely satisfying.

The 2nd raga Yamini Bilawal was again masterful, with two compositions – jhaptaal “prem galien mein kar aayee” and “ab lo bhayee” in teen taal. The concluding Punjabi thumri in Bhairavi “mere bichre yaar mile” was a rare composition that she had learnt from her thumri Guru, Pt Gullubhai Jasdanwalla. Truly, a very musically replete recital.

The concluding evening session started with Patiala gharana exponent Anjana Nath. She sang Bhimpalasi, Shri and then a soulful khamach thumri “paniya bharan kaise jaaoon”. Santoor exponent Rahul Sharma played Aiman, and a brief Pahari. It is indeed creditable that given the limitations of the instrument, with none of the traditional tantra features like meend, “dir dir” stroke and gamak, the santoor has managed to remain part of a classical music stage. Of course, its recital relies heavily on silsilas and layakari – the former was perhaps not executed as much as one would have wanted in the concert, but the layakari was catchy.

The grand finale of the festival by living legend Gaansaraswati Kishori Amonkar was expectedly truly magical. In her home crowd, which was across the board reverential, the doyen was at her meditative, graceful best, with several varied permutations and combinations that brought out all aspects of the ragas she chose – Shudha kalyan, and after a brief interval, Sampurna Malkaus. She got a spontaneous standing ovation on walking onto the stage as well as on her departure. The ambience created by her and her supporting vocalists, Nandini Bedekar and grand daughter Tejashree, singing in unison, indeed creates an almost spiritual atmosphere in which analysis of the music she creates is impossible; one just imbibes.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 9:12:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/When-masters-create-magic.../article16667511.ece

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