At ease with Benaras and Gwalior styles

Mrs. YGP and Vyjayanthimala Bali... honoured by the Amir Khusro Academy.

Mrs. YGP and Vyjayanthimala Bali... honoured by the Amir Khusro Academy.  

AMIR KHUSRO Sangeet Academy, a non-profit organisation committed to promoting Hindustani Classical in Madras, presented Rita Dev on December 1. Recipient of the Onkarnath Thakur Award, Rita had her initial training in Gwalior style. She then proceeded to earn a doctorate from the Benaras Hindu University, thus imbibing the intricacies of Benaras style.

A Gharana invariably grows around the genius of a creative master and Rita adhered to the musical principles laid by her gurus in her gayaki. She began the recital in evening raga Pooriya Kalyan - a sampooran with sparing use of komal `re'. The traditional Benaras Senia Bandish, "Balam Moraman Tohe Chinte Hovan Lage," set to vilambit ektaal, was rendered in Gwalior style in 24 beats almost corresponding to the madhya laya and was etched with brilliant alankars, bol alaaps sargams and taans in Benaras style. The quality of Rita's voice, well honed over years of practice in Benaras and Gwalior styles, was at its best in her appropriate use of Khatkha and Murki.

Srichand Misra's famous composition, "Karo na man mani ham sang" reflected the swar Therao and Behlao. Rita used Bol Baants and critical sargams to embellish the underlying structure with scintillating patterns of rhythm and melody. The Zhatka, the throw of the voice culminating in dhrut, ati dhrut, palte ki taan was a feat accomplished leading to a build up of climax - ne rene re ga ge re re ga re ga ma pa mapa magg ne re s, the Gamak in Taan patterns. The special guttural vibration is hard to capture in words but it enthralled the audience followed by the Chhoot taans like ggg ninini, in Madhya saptak ggg re sa of taar saptak and followed by s ni dha pa ma ga ne re sa s. Her short, beautiful, high-speed sapaat taans were also appreciated by the audience. The madhya laya piece in Hamsadhwani was set in zhaptal.

The bandish badat was done in bahlava, which is typical of Benaras senia gharana. Rita dwelt on the words endearingly and coaxingly "suniye undho binti hamari" - a thumri in misr Des. This piece belongs to the Poorv ang of eastern Uttar Pradesh and was replete with the shingar ang. The step-by-step development in Addha Taal "dha dhi ik dha dha dhi ik dha" was in line with the progression in Khayal, typical of Benaras.

Rita Dev performing at the Amir Khusro Sangeet Academy. — Pics. by T.A. Hafeez.

Rita Dev performing at the Amir Khusro Sangeet Academy. — Pics. by T.A. Hafeez.  

The chaumukhi gayaki of Benaras, that is, the all-round renditions like thumri, tappa, chaiti and kajri require the use of laggee by the tablist, which enhances the beauty of the composition. However, this was sadly lacking in Rajesh. The dadra sung in Kaushaki dhwani was full of Bol Banav but Rajesh could not play rela and tukra; so the full range of emotional experience was not achieved.

Janaki Rajgopalan on the harmonium was commendable. "Kajri", sung in the monsoons, was suggestive and Rita's rendition reflected the "chaya" of her guru - the spirited Girijadevi.

Amir Khusro Sangeet Academy honoured vocalist D. K. Pattammal with the lifetime achievement award for her outstanding contribution to the world of music, and Dr. T. J. Cherian, consulting physician, Chennai Kalliappa Hospital, for setting high standards of ethics, and Mrs. YGP for instilling in the young a love for their heritage, and Vyjayanthimala Bali for her contribution to the arts.


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