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Pleasing the senses

KULDEEP KUMAR

While Ranajit Sengupta won the listeners' heart with his sarod recital, sitarist Siddharth Shankar Shukla impressed with his technical virtuosity.



String stars Siddharth Shankar Shukla (below) and Ranajit Sengupta impressed the listeners with their performances.

India International Centre organised a two-day music festival ‘Summer Interludes' in New Delhi recently focusing on the famed Maihar gharana of the legendary Alauddin Khan. The gharana has been best represented by two great musicians – Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar – who were groomed by the same guru, Alauddin Khan, but had very different artistic temperaments. Summer Interludes featured two young instrumentalists who have received training by the sons of Ali Akbar Khan and disciples of Ravi Shankar.

The festival opened with a sitar recital by Siddharth Shankar Shukla, from Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. Belonging to a family of musicians, he learnt the art of sitar playing from Sanjay Guha, a student of the late Deepak Choudhary who was a senior disciple of Ravi Shankar. He began his recital with the evening raga Puriya Kalyan and played alap, jod and jhala. His alap was a serious affair although he did not seem inclined to delve deeper into the mysteries of this beautiful raga. He offered gats in vilambit, madhyalaya, drut and ati drut tempi and impressed with his technical virtuosity and command over his instrument, employing pleasing taans even in his super fast jhala. To conclude his recital, he played a brief auchaar before presenting a thumri-ang gat in raga Kirwani, a Carnatic raga that has found favour with Hindustani musicians. He gave a good account of his solid training but it is time that he started looking inward and began a search for his creative self.

Ranajit Sengupta, a young sarod player from Kolkata, won the listeners' heart on the concluding day of the festival. He was initially trained by Ali Akbar Khan's son Dhyanesh Khan who died at a relatively young age. After Dhyanesh Khan's demise, his elder brother Ashis Khan took the responsibility of training Ranajit upon himself. No wonder that his style of sarod playing resembles that of Ali Akbar Khan and reminds of the lyricism so much associated with the late Ustad, once described by Yehudi Menuhin as the greatest instrumentalist of all times.

Introspective approach

Ranajit Sengupta opened his recital with raga Hemant, a creation of Alauddin Khan and a sort of emblem of the Maihar gharana, and presented alap, jod and jhala. He adopted an introspective approach in his tuneful alap which had plenty of impressive meends and explored the inner recesses of the raga with the seriousness it deserved. His 10-minute alap was soul-nourishing despite its short duration. While switching to the jod section, Ranajit entered into a somewhat playful mood and went on to play jhala with verve. His right hand java stokes were bold and powerful and he made a judicious use of the tihais. He also displayed an attractive style of arriving at the sam. Towards the end of the jhala, he played certain phrases with a rabab-like sound, perhaps with the intention of hinting at the ancestry of sarod. He offered a slow and a fast gat in teentaal in the same raga, the latter having been inspired by the first HMV long-playing record of Ravi Shankar.


Hemant is a madhyam-pradhan raga and a moorchhna on madhyam gives an appearance (aavirbhav) of Maru Bihag. When Ali Akbar Khan played Hemant, the appearance of Maru Bihag was never more than a fleeting one. And so was the case with Ravi Shankar. Nikhil Banerjee and Sharan Rani used to accord it a slightly darker shade. However, in Ranajit Sengupta's offering of Hemant, Maru Bihag raised its head a little too boldly. He concluded his recital with a Mishra Pilu followed by ragamala created by Ali Akbar Khan. The tone of his sarod was most pleasing. Kaushik Datta of Kolkata accompanied him admirably on tabla.

Somen Sarkar from Kolkata provided good tabla accompaniment to Siddharth and both enjoyed their forays into laya kari.

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