The master on song

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia performing at Poornojwalam Monsoon Festival at Layam Koothambalam, Tripunithura.  

When Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia begins to the play the bansuri, the notes are not heard, it is felt. He does not blow loudly, his fingers caress the stops, his eyes shut in meditation, the music takes you along to a world of tranquillity. That connect seemed to be missing in the first half of his concert at Tripunithura.

The decibel levels of the tabla reached a peak and turned into noise. And then there was blaring horns, screeching brakes and constant noise of traffic on the three roads around the venue, Layam Koothambalam, literally drowning the soft notes of the bansuri. The challenge was to shut oneself out from all this and listen to Chaurasia as he explored the colours and mood of Saraswati Malhar.

Chaurasia’s rendition of the raga, which has flavours of the Carnatic Kalyani and Saraswati, perhaps one reason why Chaurasia dubbed this elaborate version of Malhar as Saraswati Malhar, was punctuated by a short alaap that revealed the essence of the raga. The jor or jod that brought in the laya into the alaap, gave it a lift and a language, infusing a feel into the delineation of the raga. The engaging dialogue with Vijay Ghate’s tabla was interesting. Joining the master on the bansuri was his disciple Rajesh Sharma.

In Behag, the raga that the maestro chose next, the bansuri opened up creating images of dark, clouded skies, evening blurring into the darkness of the night and birds flying off in anticipation of the first showers. Behag is generally considered romantic and celebratory and usually rendered on wedding occasions. But that evening, the bansuri seemed to create an aura of stillness that is usually felt moments before a downpour. Ghate met the challenge with deftness and drummed in cohesion.

By now the traffic had eased out and there was a semblance of silence around. The microphones were readjusted, the tabla decibels were reduced and that of the flute enhanced. The concert from then on was more balanced.

A magical rendering of Bhupali, similar to Mohanam in Carnatic music, followed. All the characteristics of the raga - serenity and quietude - again typical of late evening, unfolded. There were the typical Chaurasia moments like the tapering note abruptly taken to a finale and the short syllabic notes to beat. Chaurasia’s staying power at this age was simply amazing. The notes seemed to linger long after the bansuri stopped singing.

Chaurasia moved on to Pahadi, a raga that originated from the folk tunes of Kashmir. The music of the mountains, its mystery, its charm, the changing moods of the valleys, came alive. The bansuri perhaps brings out the best of the raga; it skipped and danced in tune with the ups and downs of the mountains.

The concert closed with a soul-stirring rendition the iconic ‘Sare jahan se acha’.

Chaurasia’s concert headlined the annual Poornojwalam Monsoon Fest, a four-day event organised by Veda Dhwani Cultural Trust.

Double thayambaka by Thrithala Kesavadas and Thrithala Sankarakrishnan, Carnatic vocal concert by Aishwarya Vidya Raghunath and Mohiniyattam by Jayaprabha Menon were the other events held as part of the festival.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 11:15:29 AM |

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