Monday, November 20, 2006

Absolutely Magical

I would use the above two words to describe the last three evenings that I spent at the Choudiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore.

It was truly a long weekend for all the classical music lovers of Bangalore (or at least, for those who attended it!).

The annual "Flights Of Fantasy" festival of music started off with vibrant Marwa by Pt. Rajan and Pt. Sajan Mishra. The time of the evening and also the mood set up a perfect setting for a memorable performance. The duo proceeded with a small composition in Jhinjhoti; and concluded with Kirwani, with a rather well known "jagat mein jhoothi dekhi preet." By the time the performance was over, the watch showed ten O'clock in the night! Surprised at how fast the time passed by, the audience was already wondering what was in store for the next day!

The next day, or evening to be more correct, started off with Ust. Shahid Parvez's sweetest of Sitar. I could not quite identify the raga, but after a small discussion with a friend, we decided that it was a kind of vakra raaga most probably from the bihag thaat. Sitar is an enchanting instrument. The aalaps on one string were simply unbelievable. The gayaki style of the sitar (I am guessing) made us believe that the sitar was actually singing to the tune of the ustaad.

Then followed Begum Parveen Sultana's aggressive rendering of Maru Bihag. Use of both 'ma's is a characteristic of this raga, or for that matter, this thaat. The time was perfect for the teevra 'ma' and the begum's voice, ranging almost three complete octaves had the audience applauding. The image of modern pop stars (!) asking the audience to jump and clap came to me. This particular performance was in a total contrast. The distinguished audience honoured the performer aptly, on their own.

Much to the delight of the South Indian audience, Begum saahiba concluded with a taraana in Hamsadhwani. With five shudha swaraas, this raagaa can be as simple or as complex as the performer wants it to be. Humming the tarana and defying the unseasonal drizzle, I returned home, only to go back next evening.

The evening started off with Yaman. The artist: Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar. I had heard Panditji before in Yaman utsav, quite some time back. This was a nice reminder of the same. As the sun goes down, the teevra 'ma' in Yaman, becomes stronger, and so did the audience in size! The auditorium was full in its capacity, and so was the air in it with dominating swaras by Panditji. The tarana in Yaman was a special one, with fast and fluent taanaas. One characteristic of artists from Agra gharaana (I think, of course) is that they do not go into saragam, but move on to a fast paced bandish straightaway.

It was half past seven when Pandiji concluded, setting the stage for another Pandit. This one, from Kashmir. It was the first time I listened to Santoor: i.e. live. Panditji took his time to fine tune the instrument, before beginning the melodious Jog. I wondered if the raga was more melodious or the instrument. Finally, no rocket science, I concluded- the raagaa would be as melodious as is the performance, not better! For almost two hours, the audience was treated to most elegant artistry by the Panditji. I thought it was no wonder that the music which comes from arguably the most beautiful state in the country should be as beautiful. "Aren't you tired yet?" was what Panditji asked of the audience, when it demanded for a signature raagaa pahaadi. Panditji had to agree, and for next half hour or so, he would demand even more applause from all of us. Finally, at ten O'clock, he stopped to standing ovation, and smiling, quickly kept the instrument aside!

It was truly an amazing performance. A performance to remember for a long time. A long time, before we listen to Panditji again. In all respects, it was a fitting conclusion to a three day long procession, that we all were part of.

"Awessssome!" I heard a eight-year old kid exclaim when Pt. Rajan and Pt. Sajan Mishra concluded their Marwa. Most of the senior audience must have resented at such an unfitting praise for the great duo. To me, it was a grand sight! Who said that the classical music is dying? Far from it, the flame was just lighted in the mind of that eight year old. Words may have changed, but not the spirit. The spirit of Hindustani classical music. The awesome one!

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