Music transcends all languages and barriers and is the most beautiful communicative skill one can have. This is an art of the heard and also unheard, simply because Indian music has a deep rooted tradition of contemplation, where the tuning of tanpura, the alignment of voice or instrument to the chosen pitch, also denotes an inner beautification.
The character of raga, the tone, and the rhythm too, pulsate within the musician, and the whole concert presentation is aimed at achieving an oneness of internal and external cognizance. This then acquires the power to transform the listeners. These thoughts crossed one’s mind while listening to the first part of a 27- hour long interview-based lecture demonstration of the legendary Vilayat Khan, unveiled by Zakir Hussain at NCPA, Mumbai recently in the presence of eminent musicians like Shivkumar Sharma, Shujaat Khan and a host of others. The interview was conducted by Khansaheb’s senior-most disciple Arvind Parikh and recorded at NCPA over a period of four years (between 1976 and 1979) when Khansaheb was at the zenith of his musical journey. Preserved as an archival treasure so far, this was made available for public listening with a special mission to let more and more people know about the unparalleled musical philosophy of Vilayat Khansaheb which take him to godliness.
The candid conversation achieved much more than that. While defining Khansaheb’s place in the history of Hindustani classical music, it actually addressed posterity, especially where he explained the difference between a lesson, a riyazand a concert; and cautioned against the blind imitation of the masters’ poetic liberty. All this is very relevant today when performers coerce a raga into mere scale only to showcase their technical brilliance. “I am happy that, for the benefit of music lovers of Mumbai, NCPA has come forward to play the entire recording spread over 10 sessions. We are planning to reach this to Kolkata and Delhi as well,” said Arvind Parikh contentedly.
The sublime vocalism of slide-guitar maestro Debashish Bhattacharya was the crescendo of Malhar festival, held at Kolkata’s venerated Vivekananda Hall recently. This celebration of monsoon through seasonal ragas was organised by the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture as part of their annual ritual essentially because, “just as rains cleanse and rejuvenate nature on the gross level, they also help human psyche to mellow down on spiritual plane,” according to Swami Supurnananda.
Bhattacharya echoed the same sentiments and literally painted imageries on the canvas of thin air with the brush of uniquely designed soundscapes dipped in the mood of Miyan Malhar. To invoke the blessings of this brooding raga, he tuned his instrument four scales lower than the usual D. This sensitive step instilled a rainsoaked mellowness in the otherwise perky and taut tonality of his self-designed, fourcoloured chaturanguiwhich sang in the deep tones of veena, one of its most important oriental colours apart from its intrinsic western hues.
The longish alap beautifully delineated longing and romanticism that incorporated universal soundscape but within the realm of Indianraga with amazing artistry. It had steady bends of elongated meends, swaying notes, finegrained sharp moving taans, octave jumping phrases and filigree of lighter nuances along with west-leaning staccato note-clusters, chords and harmonised phrases. All these etched the monsoon sky with different dynamics of key-phrases and occasional flashes of very fast harkat exuding freewheeling youthful exuberance.
The briefjod was succinctly designed with heavy rhythmic gamaks which paved way for a dhrupad composition of Tansen. Sensitive accompanist Ujjwal Bharati’s broad-faced tabla offered saathsangat to bol-based elaborations in chautal. For the slowteental gatkari, the same tabla came up with a brilliant utthanhaving ek-hatthi (single handed) beginning, gradually joined by gamak of the base-drum and finally showering bols.
Both musicians enjoyed the ensuing layakari. A powerful tabla repartee received a dramatic reply in the form of a taanwhich began very softly but gradually acquired commanding tone, challenging tabla to engage in a dialogue, and closed with a tihai. The fast teental, supported by a high pitched tabla, had a taan encrusted mukhdathat inspired sprinting passages leading to jhala.
Persistent encores led Bhattacharya to play Desh Malhar. As perceived in Maihar gharana, his version of Desh incorporated Komal Gandhar in very specifically designed fleeting touch, like a beauty spot.
The sitarkhani gatdrew inspirations from folk and contemporary but without disturbing the main theme. The melody within jhala, despite the extrafast pace, looked inwards; as if in a trance, and closed with a long tihai.
Earlier, eminent vocalist Kaivalya Kumar Gurav sang raga Gaud Malhar in his high pitched, mellifluous voice. Ably supported by Subhen Chatterjee (tabla) and Debaprasad Dey (harmonium), the elaboration based on a traditional composition treaded a few unfamiliar vistas. A bouquet of fast teental compositions with an array of taans displayed every conceivable vowel.
However, his next choice, raga Megh retained its regal character despite some taans swooping down with gurgling sound. Frankly, he could do without many such unconventional dynamics. His traditional grooming kept him grounded albeit sans accepted norms and facial expressions. Once again his recital proved why he is widely accepted as a maverick.
Sangeet Piyasi, under the direction of tabla maestro Samar Saha, will be organising another unique concept of offering homage to Guru Krishna Chandra Ganguly (Natubabu) on 16 and17 August at Uttam Mancha. While the first day will feature a few highly promising aspiring artistes who won the Sangeet Piyasi Scholarship, the final night-long session will present an “All Women classical music concert” featuring brilliant women pakhawaj and tabla soloists, vocalists, instrumentalists and dancers along with their equally competent accompanists. This, like the10 day-long tabla conference conducted by the same organisation a few years back, is going to create history!