Magic still manifest

THE SAME SPIRIT Sucharita Gupta in performance

THE SAME SPIRIT Sucharita Gupta in performance  

The magic of Siddheshwari Devi is still flowering in the galis and mohallas of Banaras. Her daughter Savita Devi lives in Delhi, but her direct disciple Sucharita Gupta is constantly making the garden of thumri in tune with the traditional classical music listeners of Varanasi.

Gopal Mandir is an old place here where light classical stalwarts used to perform in the time of Bharatendu Harishchandra and Jaishankar Prasad. This tradition was carried on by Rasoolan Bai, Badi Moti, Kashi Bai and Siddheshwari Devi.

Sucharita sang here recently in a voice of rare euphony and charm. The pleasant voice of thumri pattern seemed to become one with the harmonium and forge a relationship with lingering swaras, such as Shadja in both octaves, Gandhar and both Nishads in her Malhar thumri.

Pandit Kishan Maharaj was there to listen with the rest of the audience. Though endowed with a prolific imagination, she never allowed it to get the better of her sense of a compact design and a cohesive, unified slow exposition. Not one musical idea or ornament or minor grace through another swara seemed inapt, out of place with the aesthetic intention. This speaks for Sucharita's comprehensive training, intelligent and continued practice from which aesthetic taste and propriety have not been banished.

In fact so engrossing was the singing that even the choice of the commonplace raga Malhar ("Sawan aye Shyam nahi aye likhu likh patiyan un sang lagi nahi aye Ghanashyam) in Jata tala did not rankle. Solid musical substance went hand to hand with the lyrical and emotive content of the recital. Such a synthesis of from, content and aesthetics was, one thought, a glorious tribute to the late Siddheshwari Devi. Sucharita seems to combine aptitude and flair in equal measure. Grace and beauty are in direct proportion to the celerity and slickness of her rapid utterances.

The quick and easy grace with which she accessed her first Pancham through Re Ga Ma Pa and then let it fall back on an inviting Rishabh or Nishad, a movement establishing the identity of Malhar at one stroke, was enough to convince one that the vocalist had as much gift as she had zealously worked on it, even in thumri. After this thumri, she presented the famous, much heard Dadra of Siddheshwari Devi in raga Gara, "Kaun aibeli ki naar jhamajham pani." A likeable feature of Sucharita's technique was that she evinced the least tension of the body or vocal chords to scale the high-tension notes in the upper octave. In this process how beautifully transfixed her Tar Nishad looked!

The rhythm of the vigorous closing laggi after Dadra tala, with the tabla player Kishor Kumar Misra coming into his own, brought it to an engaging denouement, when she summed up with a kajri, "Tarasat jiyara hamaar naihar mein" and a jhoola, "Jhoola jhule banvari arey sanwaria. The volley of taans and murkis was once again impressive. A magical rendering.


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