Rhythm on air


Ragas on broadcast this past week were nostalgic but some didn’t match the magic of the masters.

Just the other day, one listened to khayals by Samresh Choudhury on All India Radio. Set to the morning’s raga Gurjari Todi (Hey Karataar), the khayals were rendered in a reposeful manner and tunefulness besides the neatly enunciated lyrical contents. His exposition of the raga’s format without the note ‘Pancham’ (P) was done without letting in the shades of other forms of ‘todi’ ragas creeping into it.

The tags of complex taans-sargams towards the end of the programme were executed with good lung power and melodic appeal. Samresh was earlier a disciple of Deepali Nag but later on came under the tutelage of the sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Besides, it was indeed a delight to listen to an old recording of the once well known sarod maestro Pandit Nand Lal Ghosh who resigned from a coveted post in the Akashvani and went to the Mother’s Ashram at Pondicherry to seek peace of mind and solace. There seem to be some indications of this search in his rendering of the mid-day raga ‘Brindavani Sarang’ particularly in his handling of the alap-jod and the slow tempo composition with the charmingly performed tabla accompaniment by the late maestro, Pandit Prem Vallabh.

Then there was also a programme by Kushal Das, a young and upcoming sitar player trained by some of his elders in the family including his uncle Sailen Das, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. Kushal impressed with his well developed technique in handling of the sitar. He, however, needs to understand the basic moods of the ragas which are much more than mere scales with Aarohi and Avarohi (ascending and descending).

Rising from the dead

His handling of the raga Bilaskhani Todi created by the legendary Mian Tansen’s eldest son Bilas Khan was developed without any insight into the feelings and the frame of mind which Bilas Khan was going through while singing at the funeral of his father who had ordained that only the one who could shake his dead body by his singing would become his successor. While his younger sons failed in their attempts it was Bilas Khan who sang ‘Bilaskhani Todi’ created by him at the funeral site in Gwalior, close to the dargah of his spiritual peer Hazrat Mohammed Ghaus. Bilas Khan’s rendering of the song ‘kaun bhram bhule’ is learnt to have shaken the dead body of Mian Tansen.

However, thereafter, Bilas Khan did not go to the emperor’s court to take his father’s post and no one could say anything about his whereabouts.

In another broadcast, Rita Chatterji rendered tuneful bhajans of Guru Nanakdev and Mirabai with good devotional fervour. Vidushi Savita Devi’s singing of thumri-dadra-chaiti at the Hyderabad session of Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan impressed for her well cultivated voice and her subtle variations that were reminiscent of her illustrious mother the late Siddheswari Devi of Benaras.

Pundit Ajoy Chakraborty too enthralled the large audience at the Delhi session of Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan with his robust renderings of khayals in the ragas Kedar and Hamir. His meanderings in both the ragas were with his rich toned voice and good artistic insight. One, however, wished he had avoided the raga Hamir and the raga Kedar which belong to the Kalyan Thaat (mode) and are quite close to each other. The concluding song in raga Pahadi (Hari Om Tatsat), a well known piece of music by the late Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, failed to impress since it was devoid of the late Ustad’s unique mannerism.

In yet another music programme, Sarathi Chatterji delighted with his rendering of khayals in the morning melody of the raga Vasant Mukhari.

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