Devotional Fervor at Play
26 October 2012
Meena Banerjee presents her weekly review of classical music programmes
All classical arts, undoubtedly, are rooted in age old traditions of India’s culture that is steeped in highest possible value system. Despite having been hugely eroded by changing times, the lingering aroma of those rich values still makes its presence felt in classical events like the one presented by Philharmony on 2 October at Triguna Sen Auditorium (Jadavpur University). Young and upcoming harmonium exponent Gourab Chatterjee, the spirit behind the organization, displayed his unflinching faith in olden tradition by gratefully felicitating his mentors and elders who guided him in his musical journey so far.
The day-long event saw veteran tabla maestro Laxminarayan Mishra inaugurate the morning session. A wonderful teacher of vocal music, especially thumri, in his hay-days Mishraji, magnanimously, guided numerous ITC SRA scholars, some of whom are reining the classical music’s arena now. Apart from offering a special tribute to Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty on his 60th birth anniversary (accepted by Kaushiki Desikan), Gourab, after presenting his own recital as a melodic tribute, felicitated Ustad Jainul Abedin and Mishraji who had trained him as a young student of vocal music at SRA. Students of Philharmony, obviously trained by Gourab now, sang a variety of songs that climaxed with Tagore’s ‘Labonye poorna praano’.
Pandit Arun Bhaduri, who inaugurated the evening session, was not only felicitated by usual gift items associated with such rituals, but also greeted by some of his own beautiful compositions, presented by Philharmony students. The evening’s main attraction was the recital of Omkar Dadarkar, one of the most successful vocalists of his generation. He sang raga Bihag. I have heard him sing this raga many times but this time he took it to a different height by weaving the tapestry of the raga with beautiful meend-laden threads of melodic phrases that were dipped in varied colours of different moods. The clarity of taans in different speeds added the sparks at desired places.
This balance of emotion and skill was even more effective in his ‘Radhe bina lage na mora jiya’ – a beautiful kajri, penned and composed by Dr Girija Devi that, for a change, depicts the pangs of separation suffered by a man. Omkar’s rendition made it soul-stirring. Apparently the team of young musicians, with Omkar in the centre, flanked by Sanjay Adhikary on the tabla and Gourab himself on his chosen musical instrument harmonium, was in its elements as numerous celebrated musicians, led by Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, the guru of Omkar, graced the audiences’ seats. The evening came to an end with a Namdev bhajan in raga Bhairavi.
Pandit Falguni Mitra, perhaps the sole representative of all the four Banis of dhrupad by virtue of his Bettiah Gharana, presented a few gems from his vast collection that were composed by such legends like Swami Haridas, Baiju Pandit, Tansen, his son Suratsen and the like. There was a time when ustads would not sing any of their precious compositions lest they get lifted by other erudite musician; but not anymore. The paradox lies here: neither the singers nor their listeners, now, are aware of the depth of these traditional bandishes that, actually, not only act as the keys to their respective ragas, but also open the windows to their times.
The government’s apathy towards preservation and popularization of Sanskrit and vernacular languages has led Indians to a point where they read their own mother tongue in Roman script and remain ignorant of the rich literature reflecting social, philosophical or spiritual values of yore! Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad, dedicated to popularize vernacular literature of India saw a point in bridging the gap with the treasure trove available in classical music’s literature; and dhrupad-literature found the top rank in this – with compositions dating back to 13th century.
Kathak dancer Alokeparna Guha added another dimension to this in-depth literary analysis of bandishes by the writer of this weekly column at Parishad Hall on October 5. The pain of a desolate nayika pining for Lord Krishna, the divine beauty of Mother Goddess Durga, and Her supreme power – all were portrayed by her neat, delicate, powerful movements and some inspiring footwork. Celebrated pakhawaj exponent Apurvalal Manna and tabla player Siddhartha Bhattacharya offered their unstinted support during this spontaneous and un-choreographed interpretation of literary verses – not an easy feat by any means! Pradip Palit (harmonium) was his usual self.
The annual birth anniversary celebration of Swami Abhedananda at the Baranagar Kaanch Mandir premises always offers a day-long multi-dimensional cultural event. There is a reason to it. The way Tagore overshadowed all his contemporaries, Swami Vivekananda’s powerful persona completely eclipsed his guru-bhai. Like Swami Vivekananda this favourite disciple of Ramakrishna Paramhansa too was erudite writer and brilliant orator with great command over English as well, and was a musician par excellence. He shouldered most of Swamiji’s work-load in England and USA, but despite all remains an unsung hero. His disciple Sree Thakur Satyananda highlighted his works by penning books, songs and celebrating certain days with seminars, discourses and, of course, divine music.
The day-long celebration on October 9 saw, among others, Swami Jitatmananda giving a heartwarming talk and upcoming vocalist Shanta Kundu offering devotional bhajans. After some songs hailing Abhed-Swami, the evening turned to Agamani songs to invoke the spirit of Durga puja.
While Debadrita Mukherjee, Poulomi Dey, Mamata Pal and Sanhita Basu, the young and brilliant disciples of Ustad Jainul Abedin (Agra gharana) excelled in their presentation of beautiful songs penned and composed by Archanapuri Maa, the frequent change in scale and lack of coordination marred the presentation of Sree Satyananda Sangeetpeeth. Jainul Abedin, who is a favourite vocalist of Maa, is sold out on her compositions steeped in literary and melodic beauty.
He feels that such songs will inspire the youngsters to love their language and culture; and inspired the disciples to sing on MahaShashthi at Satyananda Devayatan’s Sarada-Durga Puja as well.
The annual soiree organized by Rhythm came with a two-day spread this year that was dedicated to Swami Vivekananda. The opening day at Birla academy on 12 October began with a brilliant tabla-solo by Pandit Sujit Saha. He played teental and dhamar with amazing precision and clarity. In between the two tala-segments a CD containing these talas along with nasruk (nine beats) was formally released by Swami Somatmananda (Bhaskar Maharaj), vice president of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. Later flautist Sudip Chattopadhyay played a short and sweet version of raga Rageshri with short alap, medium-paced ektal gatkari followed by drut teental gat and jhala. Accompanied by young and upcoming tabla player Surajit Saha, worthy son of Sujit Saha, Chattopadhyay concluded his recital with a Majh Khamaj dhun set to addha.
These brilliant presentations were marred by a hugely disappointing recital of a vocalist with a corporate background and incapable of straddling music with his job. One expected a careful selection and planning by Sujit Saha since he is a Top-graded artiste himself and is the spirit behind the organization celebrating its 31st anniversary! This blunted patch forced to show my dissent by not attending the second day.