Music

Soaked in rain songs

Meeta Pandit.

Meeta Pandit.  

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Though the ICCR fest, an annual affair in New Delhi, dished out impressive concerts, it failed to offer the audience a large variety of renditions based on the raga

Indian classical music — and particularly its Hindustani or northern variant — is perhaps the only musical system in the world that has an extremely close relationship with nature, environment and rhythm of the human body. Ragas have to be sung or played at a specified time of the day and certain ragas like Hemant are considered best suited for the winters. However, of all the seasons, the rainy season happens to be the only one for which an entire group of ragas known as Malhars has been devoted. These ragas can be performed at any time of the day or night during the rainy season and a consummate artiste, like a ventriloquist, can make the listeners feel as if it is pouring. This is the reason why such legends grew that it rained whenever Tansen sang Malhar.

Over the years, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has emerged as an institution that pays as much, if not more, attention to organising cultural events in India as it pays to projecting India’s soft power abroad and promoting its cultural relations with other countries. For many years, it has been organising a Malhar Utsav in the Capital to celebrate the rains, featuring may top grade vocalists and instrumentalists. However, this year in its wisdom, it chose to turn it into an all-Delhi, all-woman and all-vocalist affair and included dance too in its fare. Consequently, the three-day festival at the Kamani Auditorium proved to be a lacklustre affair in comparison with the previous years insofar as its musical offerings were concerned.

Two decades ago, while still in her teens, Meeta Pandit had burst onto the music scene as a formidable young talent showing great promise. Being the grand daughter of the legendary Krishnarao Shankar Pandit and daughter of his worthy son L. K. Pandit, she was privileged to inherit the famed treasure trove of Gwalior gharana. She began her recital with a vilambit khayal in raga Surdasi Malhar and sang the famous Sadarang composition “Badarwa garjat aaye”, following it up with a drut khayal “Badarwa barsan laage”. As always, she impressed with her musical acumen and brisk, sprightly taans.

However, as Gwalior gharana is known for employing full-throated, natural voice, one was not too sure about her effort to modulate her voice that sounded quite different in her taans. Also, there were unmistakable traces of the kirana influence that reminded one of the late Bhimsen Joshi.

Instead of singing another Malhar, Meeta Pandit concluded her recital with a kajri, the folk song of the eastern Uttar Pradesh sung in the rainy season. She was accompanied by Gyan Singh on tabla, Jitendra Swain on pakhawaj, Vinay Mishra on harmonium, and Priyanka Agarwal and Sahana Arun Kumar on tanpura. The accompanists were competent but one was left wondering about the necessity of using both tabla and pakhawaj as the rhythmic component of the recital was not all that significant.

Uma Garg and Mahumita Ray were the other two vocalists featured in the festival and both sang raga Miyan Ki Malhar, a creation of Tansen, who had also created Darbari. Like Darbari, Miyan Ki Malhar too employs andolit (quivering) gandhar that imparts a special flavour to it. Over the centuries, Miyan Ki Malhar has come to be regarded the representative raga of the Malhar constellation.

Uma Garg, a disciple of Mani Prasad, is a Kirana gharana exponent and she offered ample evidence of it. She sang the traditional vilambit composition “Karim Nam Tero” following it up with a drut “Garjat aaye badarwa”. She concluded her recital with a Tilak Kamod thumri, “Abke sawan ghar aa ja”. She was accompanied by Akhtar Hasan on tabla, Bharat Bhushan Goswami on sarangi, Paromita Mukherjee on harmonium, Shailendra Kumar on swarmandal, and Urbee Sharma and Suman on tanpura.

Madhumita Ray, a disciple of Vasant Thakar and Asad Ali Khan, too sang the same Miyan Ki Malhar bandish, “Karim Nam Tero”, and concluded her recital with a chaiti and a jhoola. It was rather disappointing that a three-day Malhar festival was able to offer only two Malhars while more than three dozen Malhars exist and at least a dozen are regularly sung and played.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 2:33:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/soaked-in-rain-songs/article3657647.ece

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