FRIDAY REVIEW

Opening up spiritual paths

Rare feastMagnum opus of the evening was the legendary Girija Devi; (left) the inimitable Venkatesh KumarPhotoS: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Rare feastMagnum opus of the evening was the legendary Girija Devi; (left) the inimitable Venkatesh KumarPhotoS: V. Sreenivasa Murthy  

It is not often that I’ve found myself at a loss for words. And yet, today, there seem to be no word that can come close to expressing the bliss that was raft in the air of Chowdaiah Memorial Hall. Bangalore had the distinct honor of hosting two of the living legends of Hindustani classical music – Girija Devi and Pandit Venkatesh Kumar. SurSaagar, committed to promoting music, served one of the finest performances of this year.

The décor on the stage set the right mood for the evening as it embellished a harmonious blend of creativity and tradition. Symbolizing the five primordial elements, and heralding the festival of lights, the setting provided the perfect ambience for a spiritual elation that was to be the hallmark of the evening.

Beginning the concert with a rendition in Raag Yaman, Pandit Venkatesh Kumar demonstrated his versatility in a fluid rendition of “ Path tore ” in vilambit ektaal wherein he wove the fabric of the raga, thread by thread through his brilliant alaps as he tossed them, and stretched them before bringing them back to the equilibrium to only let them flow out as in the deft hands of a master weaver.

This was followed seamlessly with a Bandish “ Avagunan kijiye guni san ka ” in madhyalay teentaal. The accompaniment of Pandit Ravindra Yavagal on tabla and Vyasamurthy Katti on the harmonium needs a special recognition. The ensemble was poetry in motion. Following this up with a rendition in raga Ramdasi Malhar – ‘Prabhu maan le’ and ‘Baadarwa Gahar aaye’ in drut taal, Panditji’s voice resounded through the hall like the thunderous clouds!

The forte of Pandit Venkatesh Kumar, a disciple of Pandit Puttaraja Gawai, honed in the schools of Kirana and Gwalior, shone forth splendidly when he sang the bhajan ‘Naam japan kyon Chor diya’ and the vachana ‘Ole hatti uridare’. The vachana sung with a melancholy of helplessness of a devotee wondering who to approach if the Lord has himself decreed him to be born in the materialistic world, brought tears to the eyes.

The magnum opus of the evening was Girija Devi, the 83-year-old Queen of Thumri, from the Banaras Gharana. The atmosphere was surcharged with deep veneration and admiration as she came to the dais.

The doyen began her recital with a Khyal ‘Kal na pare’ followed by ‘Ajahu na aaye Kanha More’ in Mishra Des. The brilliance of this recital was undoubtedly the intricate taans that magically emanated from her being.

Girija Devi began her training in classical music at the tender age of five. The pristine and lucid voice that colored the hall was thus testimony for the seven decades of her austere penance in the field of music. The Thumri in Desh ‘Mora saiyyan bulaye aadhi raat’ showed why she has reigned as the undisputed queen of Thumri! A diva on stage, interspersing the recital with explanations and light humor, she veiled the flow of time. The audience requests gave forth to Maand – ‘Jao re Jao mo se na bolo’ and a combination of Kajri and Jhoola in ‘Siyaa sang jhoole’. It was a spiritual experience to visualise Lord Rama and Sita adorned on the swing while being attended by Lakshman.

A befitting end to the concert was brought by the famous ‘Baabul mora naihar chootohi jaaye’ in Raga Bhairavi. Needless to say, there was an agonizing feeling as the concert concluded, for such a rare feast should have no limits of time.

PRAVEEN S. SHIVASHANKAR

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