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A flood of classical strains

Meena Banerjee | New Delhi |

No one could have imagined that Swarganga will have to carry on without Vidushi Purnima Chaudhuri, its beacon, who left for her heavenly abode prematurely in 2013 — even before her organiSation, meant to pay tributes to her Guru Pandit Mahadev Mishra, could celebrate its 10th birthday. Now the same platform, under the stewardship of a few of her dedicated devotees, is being utilised to pay tributes to Purnima ji — a wonderful performer, teacher and human being, who left indelible footprints for her followers.

The 14th annual session organised by Swarganga at Uttam Manch attracted aficionados by featuring two top ranking musicians, Vidushi Padma Talwalkar (vocal) and Pandit Samar Saha (tabla solo) as their invited artistes.

Padma ji, a disciple of the legendary Moghubai Kurdikar (Jaipur) and Gajananbuwa Joshi (Gwalior), blends both the styles of khayal singing laced with her own imagination. Her introductory aochar of raga Yaman eschewed the open aakar of both the styles; instead, she opted for syllables like ra-ri-na to etch the raga at its traditional best even before beginning the slow ektal composition, Kaho sakhi kais eke kariye replete with bol-vistar, behlaawa, gamak taans (with a hint of using jabda or jaws) et al.

She kept the lighter nuances at bay till the arrival of the chhota khayal, Mori gagar na bharan det set to medium-paced teental. In this part she unleashed fine grained harkat, murki and fast taans. The latter covered seven to eight cycles at one go; unlike the gharanas’ unwritten law of maintaining one cycle based innovations and returning to sam each time. But her barabar-ki-taans were crisply designed to fit in one cycle and the emotive use of the lyrics (Haar gayi) expressed heartrending exasperation. Superbly followed by her disciple’s vocal support and accompanied by SanjayAdhikary (tabla) and Hiranmay Mitra (harmonium), she picked up Chayanat.

The very first phrase revealed the features of the raga and they shone brilliantly in the light of Eri malaniya goondh lawo’s crystal clear enunciation and aesthetically planned melodic elaboration. Encores led her to sing a Saint Tukaram Marathi bhajan. That was followed by the solo tabla recital by Samar Saha. A favourite of almost all top ranking musicians, Saha is better known as an accompanist but his rare appearances as a soloist are no less captivating. Supported by Hiranmay Mitra’s steady and melodious lahara, he chose to play teental. The first open chaant was enough to reveal the Benares gharana flavour.

Moreover he began with the traditional Benares’ utthaan before venturing out to present a bouquet of compositions. Blessed with a keen ear for melody, he allowed the harmonium to freak out during the solo rounds — imaginatively inserted by Saha between the presentations of different aspects of tabla-playing. For the first time in the history of Swarganga’s presentations both the NRI sons of Purnima Chaudhuri came up on the stage to pay homage to their departed parents. They shared many unknown facts regarding their mother, who was a “Change Agent”. She studied kathak dance and vocal music in Kolkata; was married off in her teens and had to live in obscurity in Chhattisgarh. When the family shifted to Benares, she again started from the scratch and rose like a meteor. With a strong rhythm base, she developed a different style that was rhythmic and fast as opposed to the slowness of classical music.

Her success took her places and, therefore, the family shifted base to Kolkata, where she also began teaching with exceptional sincerity and soon became a sought after, successful Guru. Earlier the event began with a brief thumri recital by Paromita Bhattacharya, disciple of Purnima Chaudhuri.

Singing flute Bharatiya Samskriti Samsad organised a melodious classical baithak in its compact auditorium. This historical venue had seen legends like Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and several other stalwarts’ mesmerising recitals. The evening promised a vocal and a flute recital. The latter, influenced by tantrakari anga of the Maihar Gharana, has shifted from its olden vocalism-based melodic expression these days. Every other flautist, in this post-Pannalal Ghosh era, chooses the gatkari anga of playing. Thanks to the influence of several Bengal-based gurus like Gour Goswami and Debaprasad Banerjee, who followed the footprints of the legend, there are a few who still adhere to the gayaki anga of playing. One such flautist is Sudip Chattopadhyay, a worthy disciple of Banerjee.

In the latter part of the evening he chose to play Rageshree, a beautiful evening melody that was a favourite of Ustad Amir Khan. The khayal-like emotive elaboration on the flute was very pleasing. He followed it up with Yaad piya ki aaye — a lilting dadra immortalised by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. The seasoned tabla of Sujit Saha added an extra zing to this enjoyable session. Earlier the evening began with the vocal recital of Sanjukta Das, a disciple of Pandit Samaresh Chowdhury. Raga Basant was her choice. Ably assisted by young tabla virtuoso Asif Khan and harmonium expert Debashis Adhikary, she elaborated the raga in slow ektal (E Prabhu tum ho Kartaar) and in teental’s oft heard Phagwa brij dekhan. Her next choice was a drut teental composition Bolat koyaliya daar-daar in Uday Ravichandrika, a raga invented by her Guru and also the bandish composed by him. She followed it up with a Khamaj thumri (Najuk baiyan kyun marori) and concluded with a Raidas bhajan.