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In celebration of rhythm


Pandit Jasraj. Vidushi Girija Devi. Pandit Rajan-Sajan Mishra. Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. They all gathered at the 64th Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival in New Delhi.

Stalwarts at play (From left) Pandit Rajan Mishra and Pandit Sajan Mishra, Vidushi Girija Devi, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pandit Jasraj.

The 64th Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival concluded this past Sunday with a soul-nourishing flute recital by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia who began by offering a detailed exposition of the evening raga Jhinjhoti. He delineated the contours of the raga in the alap-jod sequence and brought its melancholy-filled sweetness into sharp relief. Jhinjhoti is often considered more suited for thumri and other lighter forms. The late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, to whose memory this year's festival was dedicated, had fled from home at the age of 11 after listening to a 78 rpm record of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan's Jhinjhoti thumri. However, Chaurasia accorded it the respect it deserved and treated it as a major raga.

As Jhinjhoti belonging to the Khamaj thaat is a raga of mandra and madhya saptak (lower and middle octave), his recital had a rare meditative quality and he seemed in a reflective mood. His unhurried and tuneful playing took the listeners along on a musical journey to explore the uncharted routes to the core of the raga. The maestro followed it up with a delectable Kirwani and a charming Durga. His Bhairavi was a befitting finale to the three-day festival. Rashid Mustafa provided competent tabla accompaniment.

While the event featured several stalwarts like Pandit Jasraj, Vidushi Girija Devi and Pandit Rajan Mishra-Pandit Sajan Mishra, it was the young Kaushiki (Chakrabarty) Desikan who stole the show. Daughter and disciple of her famous vocalist father, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, she also learnt from her father's guru Pandit Jnanprakash Gosh who was a most knowledgeable musician with a mastery over tabla, harmonium and vocal music. However, her recital proved that now she is a maestro in her own right. She began with a bada khayal in Bihag, the pathos-laden raga of virah (separation of two lovers). She went on to sing a chhota khayal with some tarana bols thrown into it. Her sargams, sargam taans, chhoot taans and bol taans were breathtaking in their speed, clarity and luminosity. After Bihag, she sang a composition of Jnanprakash Ghosh in raga Hindol Bahar with great aplomb. On demand, she presented a bandish ki thumri in raga Pilu and followed it up with two Pahadi dhuns. She sang with a sense of freedom that is available to only those who have acquired complete mastery over their art form.

Pandit Jasraj's surprise

Pandit Jasraj was another star performer. The doyen of the Mewati gharana shocked the discerning listeners by choosing the late night raga Darbari, a creation of the legendary Tansen, at a time when the evening was rather young. However, he more than compensated for this unusual practice by his amazing tunefulness, feel for the words of the compositions, and virtuoso performance that mesmerised the audience. His meends and gamaks impressed and he did justice to the raga by displaying the deft use of the andolit komal gandhar. He sang a tarana and followed it up with an attractive composition in raga Shahana Saanvare Salone Kanha. He wanted to wrap up his performance with a Basant cheez but had to sing an elaborate Sanskrit pada too on persistent demand from the audience. He was ably accompanied by Ramkumar Mishra on tabla and Mahmood Dhaulpuri on harmonium.

At 82, Vidushi Girija Devi is as fit as a fiddle in her singing. Though mainly known for her thumri, dadra, chaiti and kajri singing, she began with a bada khayal and then a chhota khayal in raga Jog, following it up with a thumri in Mishra Des. Then she moved over to a dadra and sang a tappa of khayal ang in raga Bahar. Before rounding off her recital with a Meera bhajan in Bhairavi, she had to sing a Hori as the audience was not in mood to let her go.

The duo of Mishra Brothers — Pandit Rajan Mishra and Pandit Sajan Mishra — were as usual impressive as they chose appropriate morning raga Jaunpuri to begin their recital and went on to sing Brindabani Sarang before concluding their recital with the poignant Bhairavi composition Babul Mora Naihar Chhooto Hi Jaye .

Of the two young instrumentalists featured in the festival, santoor player Rahul Sharma impressed although his instrument is not best suited for the meend and gamak work so essential to Indian classical music. However, sitar player Poorbayan Chattterjee disappointed with his rock star-like mannerisms and an unwelcome propensity to display artistry rather than art.

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