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Savouring soulful strains

Meena Banerjee |

Indian classical music is essentially chamber music but we live in an era when musical baithaks have become a rarity due to social changes. Thanks to a few enthusiasts of classical music these intimate sit-ins do happen once in a while and when they happen, they leave a deep impression. One such rare occasion was gifted to genuine music lovers and musicians by renowned connoisseur couple, Rajeev and Prerna Goenka at their plush Ashoka Road apartment recently, featuring Vidushi Arati Ankalikar Tikekar.  

The celebrity vocalist began her concert with raga Bhimpalasi, replete with vilambit and drut khayals duly treated with decorative mukhda, rhythm encrusted arrival on sam, delightfully cajoling behlawa, cascading taans of umpteen varieties and a thrilling tarana. Since she has great command on rhythm, she experimented with numerous rhythmic permutations with effortless ease. Inspired by that, her accompanists Sanjay Adhikary (tabla) and Gourab Chatterjee (harmonium) too came up with delightful replies and saath sangat. During raga elaboration in the mid-part of middle octave, she infused a surprise element by a sudden plunge in the middle of the lower octave with great precision. But at times, due to extra force, her voice sounded rather harsh from upper tonic onwards.

While listening to her recital one could relish a blend of several gharanas. Trained by legends like Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar, Pandit Dinkar Kaikini (Agra) and Pandit Vasantrao Kulkarni (Gwalior-Agra) she is well equipped to do so and maybe that is why she tries to explore her chosen ragas from a different angle. For example, her method of incorporating the nishad of Bhimpalasi as the nyas swara of the upper half of the octave during antara elaboration was out of the usual rung. And when she came back to an emphatic madhyam, it was a great relief for the raga-fanatics.

Apparently a prolific composer, she chose a self-composed tarana in Basant set to medium ektal. The rhythmic variety of the phrases, with due emphasis on every beat, were its mainstay while the fast teental-based Piya Sang khelo ri eschewed the bars of the tala cycle and merrily floated from sam to sam. Her next was Madho Mukund Murari, a Kafi tappa set to Pashto (seven beats) but in Hindi, written and tuned by Dinkar Kaikini only because musicians do not try to understand the Punjabi lyrics of traditional compositions. Arati’s treatment included both the staccato-loops of Punjab and the softer gamak-based tappa-taans as perceived by Rabindranath Tagore. She followed it up with a Hori and an unseasonal Jhoola in Majh Khamaj with shades of Malhar and Jaijaiwanti but without the traditional composition or traditional style of singing this form of Purab Anga Gayaki. It was more like a modern song with some thumri elements.
A lively person, she honoured encores that led her to sing raga Nand next but since she had ventured out of the serious to lighter mood, she aptly chose to present a tarana set to adachautal with an unusual utthaan — both rhythmic and melodic. Unusual was her Bhairavi composition too which, according to her, was a trial before initiated listeners! Composed by Chaitanya Kunthe of Pune, it (Kahe rokat Shyam dagariya) was set to a mind-boggling nine and a half beats’ tala cycle. After only the composition, she moved on to a fast teental tarana and juxtaposed it with a ghanakshari bandish with one syllable per beat. Both, composed by Dinkar Kaikini, were sung by her with superb facility.          

For a Cause

“Let Them Touch the Sky”, with this as the main objective Bandish Music Foundation continues to try and organise programmes for children with special needs. Youngsters who are specially-abled but have a penchant for music and dance are provided a platform to showcase their talent but with a difference. They perform and share the stage with eminent artistes under Bandish Music Foundation’s banner.

This commendable concept was implemented by them in two cities this year, Siliguri and, two days later, Kolkata. While professional artistes like sarod virtuoso Abhishek Lahiri, renowned vocalist Arshad Ali Khan, tabla exponent Subrata Bhattacharya and harmonium exponent Debasish Adhikary came forward to offer their support to the cause at both places, the event organised at Dinabandhu Mancha, Siliguri saw the inaugural song based on the theme of the event, “Let Them Touch The Sky” performed by 35 students of Jermel’s Academy. That was followed by an item by specially-abled students of a special school called Prerona in Siliguri. The Kolkata event, held at Dr Triguna Sen Auditorium was inaugurated by Pandit Arun Bhaduri and a guru vandana by the young students. Specially-abled students of Manovikas Kendra presented a sterling performance.   

Tabla solo recitals by Subrata Bhattacharya, supported by Debasish Adhikary’s harmonium, commenced the classical music segment of both events. Abhishek Lahiri with Pandit Arup Chatterjee on the tabla, played Shyam Kalyan (vilambit and drut teental gatkaris) in Siliguri and in Kolkata he chose to play raga Chhayanat (medium jhaptal and fast teental) and a Mishra Khamaj dhun set to deepchandi. Subrata Bhattacharya (tabla) was his ally in the city while at Siliguri he accompanied Arshad Ali Khan who sang raga Bageshree (slow and fast ektal). He concluded his recital with a tarana. Back home, the young Ustad teamed with Parimal Chakraborty (tabla) and sang raga Shudh Kalyan. Debasish Adhikary’s harmonium remained his companion at both places.

Udat Abeer Ghulal  

Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad hosted a musical programme called Udat Abeer Ghulal as a welcome signal to the festival of Holi featuring instrumentalists and vocal artists from Mumbai representing both Hindustani and Carnatic styles with as much as four percussion instruments thrown in.

Santoor exponent Snehal Muzoomdar and veena maestro Narayan Mani, disciple of maestro K S Narayanswami, lead the instrumental classical fusion with Shraddha Shridharani and Nupur Joshi providing the vocal inputs in Hindustani and Carnatic styles respectively. The quartet was complimented on the percussion instruments by Abhisek Chatterjee (tabla), P Aravindan (mridangam), Mithun Chakraborty (pakhawaj) and Somnath Roy (ghatam).

The ragas chosen were Pantuvarali for Carnatic and Basant for Hindustani and the talas for the Hindustani bandish had matta- tala with nine matras whereas for Carnatic it was Roopakam having six matras. Later a composition of Thyagaraja, Shiva Shiva Shiva enaradha was played on the veena by Mani and Nupur Joshi sang the kriti. Shridharani took up a couplet from Kalidasa and weaved raga Basant with it. Later the tala changed to jhaptal of 10 beats. Nupur did not stick wholly to the Carnatic idiom and shades of Puriya Dhanasri peeped in but Shridharani gave the correct Basant punch with properly placed teevra madhyam and with the typical phrase having the shuddh madhyam. While Mani’s veena was evocative, Muzoomdar’s santoor could do better with careful tuning. Possibly he was time constrained to fine-tune the instrument with a hundred strings as the programme started half an hour late.

The percussionists played with good understanding with no one overshadowing the other. Both Abhishek Chatterjee and Mithun Chakraborty are sought after artistes in their respective fields and it was good to see the son of the soil Somnath Roy taking up the Carnatic Ghatam and P Aravindan, denizen of Kolkata, playing the mridangam in a matured way.  

Against oppression   

This year Bharat Rang Mahotsav saw its 19th spring in Delhi. Organised by the National School of Drama, this eagerly awaited festival included Little Thespian as the representative theatre group from Kolkata to present its unconventional but acclaimed play Gainda at Sri Ram Centre auditorium, Delhi. Also selected for Bharat Rang Mahotsav’s Parallel Theatre Festival, it was staged at Nazrul Prekshagrah auditorium, Agartala.  Gainda is an adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros and its translation, design and direction was by SM Azhar Alam. The play demonstrates the playwright’s anxiety about the widespread inhuman totalitarian tendencies in society. This play depicts the struggle of one man to maintain his identity and integrity, alone, in a world where all others have succumbed to the “beauty” of brute force and violence. It depicts an imaginary epidemic disease called “rhinocerite” in a city, which scared all its inhabitants. Slowly turned into rhinoceros they resort to innate brutality.

Apart from being a professor of Urdu in Moulana Azad College, the play-director SM Azhar Alam is a famed theatre veteran who has been working in this field in different capacities for more than three decades. Paschim Bang Natya Academy, department of culture, Govternment of West Bengal awarded him the Best Playwright for Namak Ki Guddia (Urdu) in 2001 and Best Director Award for Question Mark in 2007. The music of this play was provided by Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Murari Ray Choudhary.