Philosophic plane

We often hear that the source of all Indian performing arts is introspection-oriented knowledge that leads to the path of salvation through self-transformation. This essence of our art-tradition is grossly misunderstood in the present state of metropolitan confinement. Several important aspects of this tradition are now being determined and standardised by half-baked city-bred intelligentsia, essentially influenced by Western culture, that acknowledges the “sin” of Adam and Eve and, therefore, fails to understand the actual meaning of “So-Aham” (I am He) or the connotation of “Amritasya Putraah” (children of eternal bliss). Most of us forget that our ultimate goal is moksha (self-realisation, salvation) through our karma (good deeds).

Under the circumstances, “Sankalpa”, the second annual dance-celebration by Nrittyoday Creators of Creativity, under the supervision of Bidhan Roy Choudhury and Pradyumna Mukherjee, came up with an eye-opener in the shape of “Kalan: journey to Samvid” at Gyan Manch (5 August). Scripted by Sayak Mitra, a young but devoted student of Natyashastra under Guru Kalamandalam Piyal, the title itself speaks of a time-bound journey from the earthy to ethereal level, from the grossly mundane to a highly spiritual plane, attainable through samvid (true wisdom); the wisdom which sees through the veil of maya (illusion) and recognises the atma (soul) as the inseparable part of Brahma (Supreme being).

This unique, sheer spiritual theme of the dance drama was based on a usually misjudged strong philosophical undertone of Tagorean oeuvres like “Basanti he”, “Timiro abagunthane”, “Kar milana chao”, “Amar mon jakhon jagli na re”, etc, recorded by well-known Rabindrasangeet exponents Shrikanta Acharya, Lopamudra, Sraboni Sen, Jayati Chakraborty and Sounak Chattopadhyay and blended with the music of Bickram Ghosh, Shivamani and Sayak Mitra. Having such melodic literature as the backbone, the lead characters Maya (Sreeparna Chatterjee) and Manav (Bidhan), along with six seasons, friends and relatives as different manifestations of Maya (personified by Arpita, Shreetama, Parichita, Deborima, Sayantani, Saikat, Arghya, Tathagata and Pradyumna) did wonders with their graceful movements and emotive expressions. The culmination point came as “Gatistwam-eka Bhawani” (O Mother, none of my relatives are real; you are my only saviour).

Under the overall support of Pradyumna and concept, choreography and direction of Bidhan, who is a worthy disciple of Mamata Shankar, Anita Mallick and Kalamandalam Piyal, this annual event showcased several items by the senior and junior students of their school, which started its journey in 2013. Except for the opening Mallari (Bharatanatyam), all other items were based on several popular Bengali songs like “Aloker ei jharna dharay” (Swagatalaxmi), “Pahar-mati stoop” (Rupankar), “Aay re aay” (Manomay). Some of these budding dancers displayed great promise. The evening also saw respectful felicitations of eminent dancers Aloka Kanungo, Anita Mallick, Jhanra Dutta, Jaya Seal Ghosh (president of the organisation), vocalists Shrikanta and Jayati along with veteran dance critic Nita Vidyarthi.    

Vocal-veena

Saraswati veena exponent RK Padmanabha played this rare instrument to the accompaniment of S Venkat Raman on the mridangam under the aegis of Guruguha Sangeeth Sammelan at Shankara Hall Kolkata recently. “Rare” because the Saraswati veena is now exclusively a Carnatic instrument and the Hindustani music circle is deprived of this grand Vedic instrument. In the hands of a maestro, the veena is capable of replicating the human voice replete with “dasavidha gamakas” (10 types of note-oscillations). In the arena of instrumentalism, there are three recognised banis (schools) in veena playing: Thanjavur, Travancore and Mysore.

Padmanabha hails from the Mysore school. He trained with his father, R Kesavamurthy, a direct disciple of Veena Visarada Subbanna, one of the greatest exponents in the Mysore royal court. The Mysore technique largely rests on the “split finger” (piriththu vaasiththal) technique and resultant phenomenal speed. This helps in packing several notes within a small time-frame; thus facilitating the “briga” factor and balancing it with pulling of the strings for the “jharu”. This facilitates the desired divine experience of listening to an inanimate instrument coming to life.

Padmanabha began his concert with the Nattakurinji varnam “Chalamela” and took upon Muthuswamy Dikshitar&’s Gajananayutam in raga Vegavahini (close to Ahir bhairav).  Raga Khamas, oozing youthfulness, followed next. After a brief alapana he chose to play Mysore Vasudevachar&’s “Brochevarevarura”.  It was best suited to the artist&’s style of playing. With his splayed fingers, he played quite a few chords. However, the piece de resistance was raga Hindolam (Malkauns). He brought out the best of the raga nuances by employing various techniques, including single-hand plucking and playing outside the fret for the higher octaves. His “tanam” style was exclusive but it could have been more effective with aesthetic pauses. The Thyagarja kriti “samajavaragamana” was pleasing. He concluded with a Sindhu Bhairavi bhajan which he sang prior to playing.

In the second part of the evening, P Aravindan, a senior student of Sri Guruguha Gana Vidyalaya, gave a scintillating vocal recital. Opening with “He Kali”, a rarely heard varnam in Karaharapriya composed by the founder of the Vidyalaya, A Ananthakrishna Iyer, he essayed the vivadi raga Chandrajyoti as a prelude to a Thyagaraja gem, “Bhagayaneyya”. During his emotive Nilambari-based “Mani noopura dhari”, one could hear the tinkle of little Krishna&’s anklets. He then settled down to present an elaborate Charukesi. With the choicest of phrases for its delineation, he sang Swati Tirunal&’s “Krupaya palaya soure” soaked in “karuna rasa”. His neraval and kalpana swara passages were outstanding. “Gopi Gopala lala” was Aravindan&’s concluding bhajan in Gamanasrama. Violinist S Rangananthan faithfully shadowed the singer throughout, but when his turn came he showed his mettle. Mridangam exponent S Venkat Raman played an intelligent tani.

Malhar fest

The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture organised its annual Malhar Music Festival on 8 August at Vivekananda Hall. Veteran vocalist Samaresh Choudhury commenced the evening with the powerful seasonal raga Miyan Malhar in his rich, robust, pliable voice and ornate style. After the introductory phrase, he chose the traditional “Karim naam tero” as slow bada khayal for raga elaboration that remained close to taan-phrases even in the sthayi and poured down after a long and effective perch on the upper tonic.

Young Rishabh Choudhury, who offered vocal support to his father-guru, was a pleasant discovery. Blessed with similar mijaz (melodic temperament), the same timber and pliant voice that traversed the lower and upper reaches with delighting ease, he too offered power-packed cascading taans that continued through the teental composition “Bijuri chamake barase” and fast ektal tarana, composed by his mentor. Tabla virtuoso Samar Saha always enjoys such skill-show and never fails to compliment with vociferous accompaniment. Even Jait Malhar, a rarely heard complex raga, received the same treatment by this trio after the initial careful etching of the raagroop. With a teental khayal and a self-composed tarana, set to ada-chautal, Choudhury brought his recital to a thrilling end.

For a change, the fest also included Carnatic music and Saraswati veena virtuoso Padmanabha captivated the audience with his skillful renderings of ragas Malayamarutham and the nectarine Amritavarshini as his contribution to Malhar-mood, beginning with “Vatapi Ganapatim” in Hansadhwani and closing with a tillana in raga Bihag followed by a bhajan in Sindhu Bhairavi. Mridangam vidwan Shekhar gave him support replete with superb replies and brilliant tani. The final artiste was santoor exponent Satish Vyas. He could do better by not repeating Miyan Malhar (an unwritten code of conduct observed by maestros) and by avoiding repetitive phrases.  

Srijan

On the eve of Independence Day, Srijan organised a delightful classical music sit-in featuring the celebrated harmonium veteran Jyoti Goho as a soloist. For decades, Goho has been highly respected for his sensitive art of accompaniment that draws its sap from impeccable raagdari which he acquired at the feet of his legendary gurus and, as one of the faculty members of ITC Sangeet Research Academy, transmitted this knowledge to the young vocalist through his support, steeped in vocalised harmonium playing.

Even for his solo rendition, he did not deviate from this aspect of presentation. He began with a pensive raga Jog and followed it up with Maru Bihag and Hansadhwani. All of these showcased gayaki-based raga elaboration, bandish-bharna and taans infused with different rhythm-play. His harmonium literally sang “Yaad piya ki aaye” immortalised by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. As the final piece, he offered tributes to his Guru Pandit A Kanan by playing his favourite Pilu-based “Nadiya kinare mora gaon”. Young Sourabh Goho provided respectful support to his father as a sensitive tabla accompanist. He followed it up with a short but inspired and skillful presentation as a soloist. For this he chose the timeless teental. Finally, young vocalist Saniya Patankar, a disciple of Vidushi Ashwini Bhide, gave an enjoyable recital. She began with raga Shree replete with khayals in vilambit jhumra and drut teental, followed by an interesting sargam geet. Ably supported by tabla virtuoso Hanumant Phadtare, a disciple of Pandit Suresh Talwalkar, she displayed good command over all the tempos and her rhythm-play was steeped in the style of the Jaipur Atrauli School. Next was a thrilling tappa, set to Pashto and finally a Bhairavi bhajan. Pradip Palit&’s harmonium followed her faithfully.   

Coming up

30 Aug: To celebrate Ustad Vilayat Khan&’s 88th birth anniversary, Arundhati and Jayanta Chatterjee present sitar wizard Ustad Shujaat Khan; Sunny Towers; 10 am.

30 Aug: Classical music evening to celebrate the birth centenary of sitar legend Lakshman Bhattacharya features sitarist Ashim Chowdhury with Shubhajyoti Guha (tabla) and vocalist Aditi Chakraborty with Surojato Roy (tabla) and Pradip Palit (harmonium); Ballygunge Institute Hall; 5.30 pm.

6 Sept: Kalashree Music Circle presents Haimanti Shukla (vocal) with Samar Saha (tabla) and Rupak Dey (guitar); Soumalya Chakraborty (sitar) with Indranil Mallick (tabla); Unmesh Banerjee (tabla solo) with Gourab Chatterjee (harmonium); Ankur; 5 pm.