Hindustani classical music is unique in the way it accords great importance to nature and makes a kind of catalyst for the aesthetic experience of both the performer as well as listener. All the traditional ragas are supposed to be performed at a particular time, thus making the relationship between the raga and the biological clock quite explicit. Moreover, ragas have been composed to celebrate the two seasons of spring and rains that bring relief to those who live in hot climate. As the rainy season is upon us, it’s time to listen to Malhars.
At a concert organised recently at India Habitat Centre by Nadd Foundation as part of a two-day music festival billed as “Dhanak—Concert for Harmony and Peace”, sarod maestro Narendra Nath Dhar played such a beautiful Miyan ki Malhar that one felt drenched in sublime music. When he became a disciple of sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan in the early 1980s, he had already mastered the art of sarod playing under the tutelage of a great exponent of the instrument Radhika Mohan Maitra who represented the traditional baaj associated with sarod players of Shahjahanpur.
As is well known, Amjad Ali Khan fashioned a new style of sarod playing that incorporated various elements of khayal singing. This style placed greater emphasis on lyricism and was temperamentally quite different from the traditional bol-based style. Narendra Nath Dhar has skilfully blended the traditional baaj with the lyrical and fluid style of Amjad Ali Khan. Consequently, he has been able to find his own idiom.
Dhar’s rigorous taleem and evolved musical thinking was evident in the way he played a leisurely and elegant alap in the chosen raga that has all the gravitas associated with Tansen. He explored the depths of the raga and brought out its uniqueness in the way both the nishads are used. After entered the jod section, he went on to play an Ek Taal slow composition followed by a Teen Taal fast one. His recital offered the perfect blending of the traditional baaj as he learnt it from Radhika Mohan Maitra and the lyrical grace imbibed from Amjad Ali Khan. He displayed excellent control over laya and taal and did not indulge in the fireworks of superfast jhala in view of the serious nature of the raga. The fireworks were witnessed in the gatmala in raga Kafi wherein he went for variations in the laya from medium to fast and superfast. It was a remarkable feat he remained tuneful all through the recital. Sudhir Pande, an accomplished tabla player, supported him by his intelligent and restrained accompaniment.
The evening began a short performance by a young Romanian vocalist Carmen Silvia Dumitrescu who has been learning from Mahua Mukherjee, a disciple of Ajoy Chakrabarty. She sang just the way any college student would but it was a commendable effort.
Her performance was followed by a vocal recital by Shounak Abhisheki who learnt music from his father, the late Jitendra Abhisheki. He chose Maru Bihag to render a traditional bada khayal composition in vilambit Jhoomra Taal. His father and guru Jitendra Abhisheki had incorporated elements of different gharanas like Agra and Jaipur-Atrauli and Shounak’s singing carries an imprint of that. He sang with a full-throated voice and was impressive in places but not on the whole. At times, he displayed a tendency to become too loud. The second drut teentaal composition was a creation of Jagannath Bua Purohit who used the non de plume of Gunidas. Like his most other compositons, this one too was dedicated to his ustad, the famed Vilayat Husain Khan of Agra gharana. Shounak concluded his recital with a Kirwani thumri that failed to cut much ice despite volleys of sargams. Vinod Lele and Paromita Mukherjee provided good accompaniment on tabla and harmonium respectively.