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Strings that stir the soul

The evening’s most awaited performance, which was kept as a main event for the end of the show on day five of the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, was the sarod performance of one of India’s priced possessions, Padma Vibhushan Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.

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Omkar Rege

Updated: Dec 16, 2012, 07:42 PM IST

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The evening’s most awaited performance, which was kept as a main event for the end of the show on day five of the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, was the sarod performance of one of India’s priced possessions, Padma Vibhushan Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Undoubtedly one of the most illustrious and stylish instrumentalists of international fame, Ustadji is responsible, not only for the popularity of his music, but also for the recognition he has brought to the instrument he plays.

Dressed in a plain and elegant bright purple kurta and a red heavy-work stole, a trademark, Ustad Amjad Ali is the son of Haafiz Ali Khan and is the sixth generation of inheritance in the legendary lineage of the Senia-Bangash school of music.

Taking a departure from the regular alaap-jod-jhala routine, Ustadji plunged directly into a Dhun in Raga Zila Kafi. Ustadji’s mantra for the day seemed to be ‘keep it short and sweet’ as he went on to present gat after gat, each lasting for about 15 minutes in Raga Charukeshi (an import from the Carnatic system), Raga Durga (which the audience loved) and finally a dhun based on Rabindranath Tagore’s Ekla Chalo Re, all in a span of just 75 minutes. His performance seemed to be more suited for the western audience, who are used to shorter pieces and performances. But the distinctive sound of the sarod resonating through his strings stirred the soul of the listeners and captivated them.

The musical fest on Saturday witnessed yet another instrumental performance, a tabla solo by Pt. Swapan Chaudhuri, his first solo in Pune. A disciple of Pt. Santoshkrishna Biswas, and an artiste of international fame, Swapanji has had a long association with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. One of the few musical tabla players, he chose to play Taal Teental, presenting Peshkar, Kayda, Rava, Rela, Paran and Tukade in the pure and unadulterated Lucknow style. His playing was characterised by an excellent balance between daayaa-baayaa, command over each syllable, excellent volume control and a composed non-gimmicky approach and received an excellent lehera support on the harmonium from Tanmay Deochake.

The programme opened with the vocal recital of Samrat Pandit, son of Pt. Jagdish Prasad of the Patiyala Gharana. Trained under the strict discipline and vigil of his father, Samrat is blessed with a soft and mellifluous voice spread over a good range. Samrat, who was accompanied by Prashant Pandav on tabla and Avinash Dighe on harmonium, began with an ill-timed Raga Kalyan, presenting a khayal set in Ektaal and a jod bandish set in Teentaal. His systematic improvisation of the raga, using bol-banav, sargams and sprightly taans in the Patiyala format was well rendered. He concluded his recital with the popular Thumri-Yad piya ki aaye, taking the listeners on a nostalgic trip reminding them of its rendition by the legendary Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan Saheb.

Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar and Shrinivas Joshi were the two other vocal artistes who added more value to the stage on the penultimate day of this year’s festival. Arati, a disciple of Pt. Vasantrao Kulkarni and Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar, dressed in a jet black sari, chose Raga Bhimpalas and presented a khayal set Ektaal followed by a traditional bandish and a tarana set in Teentaal and Ektaal respectively. With a distinctive loud and sharp voice projected powerfully, she elaborated the raga with imaginative phrasing, laykari which had a unique blend of her training in the Jaipur-Agra-Gwalior styles and dexterous taan patterns. She then went on to present a bandish in Raga Kalashree, a creation of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi which is essentially a jod raga made from a combination of two ragas, namely Kalawati and Rageshree. She followed it with a lesser known tarana composed by Prabha Atre in Raga Kalawati. Presenting a dadra later, Ankalikar enthralled the audience with a concluding piece - one of Bhimsenji’s immortal abhangs- ‘Bolava Vitthala, pahava vitthala’, slightly exceeding her stipulated duration.

Shrinivas Joshi, son and disciple of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, was the next to pay his offerings in the form of his recital. He chose Raga Mia-Malhar, a pet melody of the Kirana Gharana and presented the traditional khayal - Karim Naam Tero set in Ektaal. His exposition of the raga in the kirana format with tuneful alaaps, choice phrases and scintillating fast taans were masterly. Following the khayal, he presented two jod bandish-s set in Teentaal and Ektaal respectively. He then presented a thumri in Raga Mishra Kafi and one of his father’s popular Marathi abhangs- Teerth Vitthal Kshetra Vitthal, on being urged by the audience.

Shattering the popular belief that classical music interests only the oldies, hundreds of enthusiastic youngsters could be seen thronging the Sawai venue on all the days right from the beginning. The sheer drive was to enjoy unadulterated music and re-connect with one’s roots and culture. As the festival prepares for the final countdown, a long day of nine performances is lined up today in order to bid farewell to the city that loves its music, understands it and knows how to appreciate it.

- As told to Omkar Rege

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