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Power and panache

For tabla exponent Anuradha Pal, March will be an extra-busy month. This evening, her band Stree Shakti will perform at NCPA’s Experimental Theatre. Tomorrow morning, she will play at the Taj Mahal Tea House in Bandra, and in the evening at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Fort, with a smaller line-up. A solo performance in New Delhi on March 8 will be followed by a Stree Shakti tour covering Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, the UK and Ireland.

Melody, poetry, rhythm

Formed by Pal in 1996, Stree Shakti uses repertoires from Hindustani and Carnatic music and a combination of melody, poetry and rhythm that fuses the traditional with the contemporary: all backed by power-packed world percussion.

Stree Shakti comprises Pal on tabla and world percussion, Charulatha Ramanujan on Carnatic violin, Sharvari Nagvekar on vocals, Deepika Sreenivasan on mridangam and, R Krishnapriya on kanjira. Pal says, “We are completing 20 years of Stree Shakti. Our first show was held at the NCPA on March 8, 1996. To mark the occasion, I have created a special anthem ‘ Khud Ko Tu Pehchan De ’ to inspire women to empower themselves through education and fight against discrimination. It is about equality. Our face to the world should not be Nirbhaya. It should be Kalpana Chawla or Mother Teresa.”

Pal says that though the line-up has changed over the years, the basic concept of blending Hindustani and Carnatic music remains the same. She says, “Initially, it was mainly a percussion ensemble with violin accompaniment. Slowly I added the sitar, flute and veena. The musicians changed because some got married or had children.”

Western elements

According to Pal, the emphasis of Stree Shakti has always been on Indian classical music. “In my other fusion concerts and in albums Get Recharged and Recharge Plus , I have used western elements too. Stree Shakti will have world percussion instruments such as the bongo and darbuka too, but the focus will be on Indian music, and the blending of Hindustani and Carnatic styles. There is a piece called ‘Celebration’, which is about the coming together of the two styles, the five elements of taal , raag and rhythm play will come together.”

A student of Ustad Alla Rakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pal says she is a product of intense classical training. “But the student in me has helped me follow other musical cultures too. I try to create a balance of the traditional and the contemporary, and for that, one needs to be open.”

With this in mind, she has initiated the concept of having a tabla jugalbandi with herself. “I shall be doing that at my Delhi show, which is essentially part of a book launch. Here I will play contrasting styles as if two people will be playing. It will be more like a dialogue. I will make it more contemporary without compromising on the classical style.”

Many challenges

Admitting that there are very few female percussionists, Pal says there are many challenges in terms of balancing domestic life. “There has to be complete focus and commitment. Luckily, I have managed to devote all my time to the cause of music.”

On her approach to composing music, Pal says her training in vocal music as a child helped her. “I have taken the trouble of understanding both Hindustani and Carnatic music in detail. I have been able to produce themes that are very Indian. In our Punjab gharana , calculation is in our DNA.”

Stree Shakti will perform this evening at 6.30 pm at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA. Tickets are available at

On Saturday March 5, there will be two shows. At 10am at the Taj Mahal Tea House, Bandra West, and at the National Gallery of Modern Art at 6.30 pm.

The author is a freelance writer

March 8 will mark

the 20th anniversary of Stree Shakti. Its

first show was held

at the NCPA in 1996

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 1:27:19 PM |

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