Spic Macay ended 2017 concerts in Delhi with a bang with a superb evening of concerts by Pts Rajan-Sajan Mishra of the Banaras gharana, and the incomparable Ustad Amjad Ali Khan as part of their “Music in the Park” series. Over the years these have come to have a unique place in Delhi’s music calendar, attracting the largest crowds who brave the elements to hear the best musical talent the country has.

Last Sunday was no different; despite the mercury dipping to around 14 degrees Celsius in the open, the crowds sat enjoying the music till the end. The Mishra brothers started with Raga Marwa, in which they sang two compositions, in vilambit ek taal and then a drut khayal in teen taal. Impressively they started ‘barhat’ in the lower octave, a feat indeed given the cold weather, when their voices had not warmed up, adding some lovely ‘khand meru’ note combinations.

They were in great form, maintaining their Banaras gharana tradition of giving full weightage to a bandish, singing it with deliberation, and bringing out the essence of the lyrics. Old bandishes are constructed with great care and usually open out the raga in its complete form; if they are rendered with exactitude and giving correct emphasis, they are immensely satisfying.

The second Raga Sohni note-wise is quite similar to Marwa, and as such a difficult choice for a vocalist. From an aesthetic listening point of view, there was a certain sameness listening to Sohni after Marwa which a Raga with a different set of notes could have avoided.

However, the Sohni the duo sang was beautiful, even though the lyrics of the first composition dealt with the season of Spring. The second khayal was the ever popular “Kahe ab tum aye”, the piteous lament of a wife berating her husband for coming home with his second wife. The lyrics were ideally suited for the Raga, which has a poignancy fully highlighted by the artists.

The last composition “Jaavo choro ji baiyan” is again very engaging. On the tabla was the talented Shubh Maharaj, and on harmonium was Sumit Mishra.

The virile clean-cut crystal-clear Sarod baaj of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is always a delight to his fans; he is keeping alive the tradition of the Sarod, which is said to have been adapted from the Rabab of Afghanistan centuries ago by his ancestor. His playing follows its own chart; it is at times reflective, or thrilling ~ but  is always extremely melodious, and  executed with breathtaking mastery of his instrument. His very stroke of his “jawa” has a wazan (weight) that is only his own, and is unmistakeable.

This concert was vintage Amjad Ali Khan ~ he was in a great mood, reflective, at ease with his music, going where the mood took him. His opening Raga Durga was played more in the Pahari ang with great lyricism, an aucharthen a wonderful traditional jor, ending in a quick jhala, before he played his own composition in teen taal.

The flair with which he executed the dir dir bol in the composition was uniquely his own. On the tabla was Pt Kumar Bose, in a subdued but very appealing avatar. He never intruded on the Ustad’s reflective mood.

The second drut gat ended in a fast speed which is nowadays expected. The next Raga was Rageshwari, in which the Ustad concentrated more on laya work, in both the compositions, but in a very subtle, understated way. The first gat, again his own, had an interesting uthan, the second was in ara chautaal.

The concluding Raga was announced as Pilu, but the Ustad touched upon Malhar as well very briefly, before reverting again to Pilu. Both gats were traditional Senia gats, very appealing indeed, as played in a masterly way. The concert ended with “Ekla Chalo”, a Bihu, traces of Bhatiali ~ music played by a maestro, who followed his musical imagination without reining it in.

Indeed one of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s finest concerts recently, reminding his audience, if they needed reminding, of why he is who he is, the Sarod Samrat, a title given to him when he was a mere 15 year old.

A sour point in proceedings was the completely uncalled for interjection by a minor official from one of the sponsors, the Airports Authority of India, who asked Mrs Amjad Ali Khan and her musician son Amaan Ali Khan to vacate seats for their senior.

As Mrs Sukanya Shankar, also present on the occasion said, concerts are free for anyone, to ask a seated person to get up in the middle of a concert, is completely against all norms of civilized behaviour, and if the persons involved are artists, it’s even worse.