Friday Review

The same old gayaki, the same old charm

Tejendra Narayan Majumdar.

Tejendra Narayan Majumdar.   | Photo Credit: 30dfrkuldeep

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Violin maestro N. Rajam continues to keep listeners in rapt attention as she proved at a recent concert where she played along with her daughter and granddaughter.

It speaks volumes about the artistic calibre of violin maestro N. Rajam that even after attending dozens of her concerts one has never felt disappointed although the degree of aesthetic pleasure and enjoyment may have varied from one performance to the other. Now in her late 70s, she shows no signs of aging and is as capable of holding the audience’s attention throughout the concert as she was in the prime of her youth.

A devoted disciple of the late Pandit Omkarnath Thakur – one of the great Gwalior gharana vocalists of the last century – Rajam faithfully reproduces the gayaki of her illustrious guru and has trained her daughter Sangeeta Shankar and granddaughter Ragini Shankar very well. Well-known for her bowing and fingering techniques, she beautifully executes long meends and melodious gamaks on her violin and presents the gayaki of her mentor in its full grandeur. Her serious attitude, calm and dignified demeanour and an aversion to gimmickry leave an indelible mark on a listener.

One had the chance to listen to Rajam, who was accompanied by Sangeeta and Ragini on the violin and by Ajrada gharana’s youthful maestro Mohammad Akram Khan on the tabla, at the VSK Baithak recently. She chose Shyam Kalyan which is a difficult variety of Kalyan and made a masterly exposition. In presenting this audav-sampoorna raga that omits gandhar and dhaivat in its ascending section, Rajam made immaculate use of nishad as well as gandhar-laden clusters of Kamod to stave off the intrusion of Shuddh Sarang. The rishabh-pancham sangati and the use of both the madhyams brought out the special character of Shyam Kalyan.

She opened her recital with a vilambit ek taal gat and explored the hidden recesses of Shyam Kalyan with the patience of an erudite scholar. The perfect pitch and melodious tonal quality of her violin created a reposeful atmosphere and the delicately executed tihais pleasantly fell on one’s ears. She went on to play two more gats and, by speeding up the tempo, offered a scintillating jhala.

Her next choice was a gat in Jaijaiwanti that she played after a short alap. As Jaijaiwanti is a Khamaj thaat raga, she played a Khamaj thumri in the typical Banaras style in which bol banao (rendering of crucial words in newer and emotion-filled ways) is of utmost importance. She ended her concert with the mandatory Bhairavi.

While her daughter Sangeeta did not play much, granddaughter Ragini was in full flow and impressed with her skills and temperament. However, the tone of her violin did not match with Rajam’s and one felt it more when they played in unison. Akram Khan was as usual very good.

Tejendra Narayan Majumdar is one of the finest sarod players in the country. At a programme of morning ragas at India Habitat Centre, he regaled the audiences with Ahir Bhairav, Basant Mukhari, Devagiri Bilawal, Bhairavi Bhatiyar and a ragamala. He was groomed by Ustad Bahadur Khan, nephew of the legendary Ustad Alauddin Khan, and later by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Thus he received such great taleem that would be the envy of most musicians.

Being a creative and sensitive artiste, he eventually evolved into a mature, serious and wonderful sarod player who shuns gimmicks and offers the essence of a raga. His elaborate alap, jod and jhala in Ahir Bhairav was a real treat. This most popular variant of Bhairav has elements of Kafi in its uttaranga, thus lending it a special flavour of its own that is further accentuated by powerfully employing the madhyam.

The choice of Basant Mukhari as the second raga was very apt as it too has elements of Bhairav and Bhairavi. Tejendra played a vilambit teen taal gat and followed it up with a drut jhap taal gat, displaying dazzling layakari as well as chaste classicism. He took the concert further by playing Devagiri Bilawal, a raga that is not attempted these days even by vocalists, and transported the audience to an elevated aesthetic experience as his madhyalaya and drut teen taal gats ended with a beautifully crafted jhala. The Bhairavi Bhatiyar in roopak taal as well as a string of various ragas like Bairagi, Hindol, Bilaskhani Todi and Shuddh Sarang provided a befitting finale. Anubrat Chatterjee provided adequate tabla as accompanist.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 8:45:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/the-same-old-gayaki-the-same-old-charm/article7819179.ece

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