Revered rituals carry on…

Finally, the duet between Hindustani and Carnatic music (a popular trend here now) brought Santoor virtuoso Tarun Bhattacharya and celebrated violinist Mysore Manjunath together on stage.

Revered rituals carry on…

Vivekananda Music Festival, dedicated to Swamiji on his birthday (12 January), has been one of the most prestigious events in the cultural calendar of Kolkata for decades now. The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture celebrated the 161st birth anniversary of Swamiji with reverence at the Vivekananda Hall, but with a modern twist.

Instead of dhrupad, or traditional Indian instrumental music, the day-long event opened with raga Nat Bhairav by well-known harmonium player Ravindra Katoti. He gave his best to create the effect of glides, an essential element of Indian music. Equally important is rhythm. The Rhythm Harmony, as designed by the deep, rich tone of the pakhawaj of Pandit Ravishankar Upadhyay, the sweet and refined medium pitch of Pandit Anindo Chatterjee’s tabla, and Shrikhol wizard Gopal Burman’s high-pitched, finely nuanced dancing cadence, apparently covered the long journey of Indian music down the ages. The famed trio began with a twelve-beat tala, followed by a seven-matra stint, and finally landed on a sixteen-beat tala. A khandajati composition on pakhawaj inspired the tabla to play the same, including different hues of bols replicating temple bells and cascading rains. The Shrikhol followed suit with greater ecstasy. Their last piece together proved to be a delightful melodic harmony of three octaves.

Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar scripted the touching finale of the morning session with Ragas Vrindavani Sarang and Lalit Pancham. If the former stood out in its pristine form, glittering due to the masterly treatment, the latter created a sweet agony whenever the Master included Pancham within the emotional persona of Lalit. Pandit Suresh Talwalkar anticipated and understood every move of the erudite vocalist. Together, they presented another emotive bandish in Raga Patdeep.


Manipuri dance Guru, Thinghaijam Chourjeet Singh, and Troupe presented brilliant items, starting with Guru-vandana, followed by a sequence from Jaideva’s Geetagovinda wherein Krishna is upset upon learning that Radha is angry because her friend Chandravali had spent intimate time with Krishna. On a different note, Tanam, a pure dance sequence composed by Guru Babu Singh, stood out for the commendable, neatly aligned body movements and coordination of the dancers (Prabin Singh, Ranjan Singh, Thoiba Singh, and Sudip Ghosh). Their last item was Dashavatar. The modernised music compositions were much easier at the cost of their original character. Also, the translated Sanskrit verses lost their grandeur.

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, the living legend, offered his unbroken annual melodic obeisance to Swamiji through a mystified raga Madhuvanti that exposed its real self in the gat-bandishes. His taans were steeped in layakari. Each taan was an example of a different cadence. Young tabla wonder Yashwant Vaishnav handled the complex patterns with élan and offered suitable replies too. On request, the veteran flautist played Kirtan-based dhun. It was very effective due to its devotional appeal. So much so that an ochre-clad music lover joined him by playing cymbals. The charmed listeners hankered for more and were rewarded with a beautiful dhun.

Sarod maestro Basant Kabra greeted the evening with Shree, a raga of long meends. While inventing the alap segment, his simple meends etched the beauty of the raga, but the complex ones went out of shape. The mukam-based phrases were the main attraction of the jod segment. One long phrase at high speed completed his jhala. With Yashvant on the tabla, his slow jhaptal gatkari had almost all the phrases ending with asymmetric tihais. Bold, bol-based taans dominated the fast teental gatkari. Tabla and Sarod exchanged ideas before heading for a very high-speed jhala. After this full course, he served dessert in the form of a Mishra Kafi dhun, set to rupak, but again reverted to a drut teental gat to display layakari and sawal jawab at the inevitable, metallic breakneck speed.

Finally, the duet between Hindustani and Carnatic music (a popular trend here now) brought Santoor virtuoso Tarun Bhattacharya and celebrated violinist Mysore Manjunath together on stage. They selected Bageshri, an adopted raga by Carnatic, but ironically, the alap violin suited the raga’s slow gaìt and temperament. The Jod segment was better for Santoor, although gamaks eluded it. In jhala Santoor was in elements, took it to a very fast pace but climbed down to close softly sans tihai and invited tabla maestro Abhijit Banerjee to join in a medium-paced teental gatkari. Violin, supported by mridangam vidwan Anantha R. Krishnan, elaborated the raga very sensitively. Santoor picked up another beautiful bandish (Dekho thumak chale chaal) set to sitarkhani, which has no equivalent tala in Carnatic. Yet an inspired violin, joined by Santoor, created a ruckus at high speed, replete with sawal-jawab. The following taniavartanam, by Tabla and Mridangam, was very enjoyable.

Veteran anchor Biplab Ganguly’s spontaneous introductions exuded warmth. Korak Basu, the co-anchor, had an attractive voice.

Glorious forty decades

The 42nd Dakshini Sangeet Sammilani succeeded in bringing the cream of the second or third generation of independent India, who are musicians of repute. Pandit Vijay Kichlu was the visionary who nurtured the first generation and supported the musicians to climb the ladder of glory. The Sammilani dedicated its first evening to the fond memory of Pandit Kichlu, the second to Ustad Rashid Khan, and the third evening to Vidushi Prabha Atre.

Pandit Kichlu’s grand disciples Sanjukta Biswas and Sabina Islam could commence the evening rather late and offered their melodic tributes to all the greats through their jugalbandi steeped in the devotional strains of raga. Pooravi, superbly supported by veteran tabla maestro Sujit Saha, sang slow and fast khayals, replete with all eight segments of khayal singing. Their well-groomed voices, the rich, overt Agra Gayaki’s purity, and its well-nuanced emotional appeal cast their spell within minutes. Also well-versed in thumri, they sang a soulful khamaj thumri before closing with a delighting dadra. Their confident grip on the tala and its different cadence helped them play with layakari, a rare prowess among vocalists of their generation.

This is not so with instrumentalists. Brilliant young sarod virtuoso Debosmita Bhattacharya is one such musician, now settled in the UK with her husband, Gurdain Singh Rayatt (a tabla exponent). The couple participated in this conference as co-artistes. Her sarod literally sang Jhijhoti, a pathos-laden, sweet evening raga. The soulful alap very lovingly created numerous phrases that etched the raga’s portrait very brilliantly. Jod was attracted by its soft and bold bolkaris and jhala, which reminded him of arati jhala, popularised by sitar maestro Kushal Das. Accompanied by Gurdain Singh’s unobtrusive tabla, her gatkaris glittered due to her brilliant playing technique.

Day three commenced with steadily rising sitarist Sahana Banerjee’s delightful recital. The alap in Puriadhanashri was submerged in Raga’s colour. It was very tuneful, especially in kharaj, wherein the raga became introverted and meditative. This part had velvety strokes and Veena’s aural effect. An assertive jod had well-measured gamak-tthonk-bols and closed with mohra. After a brief jhala, Shubhojyoti Guha entered the scene with a beautiful uthan on his tabla before slow and fast teental gatkaris adorned with rhythm-play of amazing clarity and taans covering three octaves. The latter were too many for comfort. The jhala, encompassing the alap within it, brought back the much-needed peace, and a long tihai closed the raga. The sweetness of her gently and imaginatively handled Mishra Kirwani dhun completed the picture.

Blessed with a robust, deep voice, Soumi Majumdar, flanked by Bivash Sanghai and Hiranmay Mitra, presented her version of Raga Jog. After a brief and neat auchar, she chose to sing a slow ektal khayal. During bol-vistar, she took the total canvas of Raga and jumped from one point to another. This confusion lacked both silliness and content. She could do much better by learning more. There were many other renowned and brilliant participants. Due to compelling reasons, this reporter could not attend their concerts.

The writer is a senior music critic.