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Tuned to excellence


True to its reputation, the annualVishnu Digambar Jayanti featured lesserknown and established musicians with anunerring eye for quality.

The guru's guru

Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, born on August 18, 1872, placed Hindustani music on course for public appreciation and brought it within reach of the non-elite. Paluskar was born in Kurundwad, in the Bombay Presidency, present-day Maharashtra. He lost his eyesight due to an accident but his musical talent was nurtured thanks to the local king, who ensured he was trained by the stalwart Balkrishnbua Ichalkaranjikar. Later he learnt Dhrupad under Pandit Chandan Chaube. He is the first reported musician to have given a public concert, charging a nominal fee. This was a significant change from the usual practice of giving performances either in palaces or temples. He pioneered institutionalised music teaching by establishing the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Lahore in 1901 and later a branch in Bombay. He also pioneered a system of notation for Hindustani music. His holistic approach ensured his students were aware of the Carnatic system of Indian classical music, on which he published a book back in 1901. His students including Omkarnath Thakur, Vinayak Rao Patwardhan, Narayan Rao Vyas and his own son D.V. Paluskar became celebrated teachers and vocalists. Some of India's favourite songs associated with the nationalist movement are set to music by this doyen. These songs include his own composition of Vande Mataram in raga Kafi, the bhajan "Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram" and his own version of "Saare Jahan Se Achcha". He died on August 21, 1931.

The venerated Vishnu Digambar Jayanti Sangeet Samaroh-2008, presented in four sessions of Hindustani and Carnatic classical music for three consecutive days at Kamani auditorium this past week, marked the 136th birth anniversary of the great savant of music and philanthropist who devoted his entire life with missionary zeal in service of music. Jointly organised by Gandharva Mahavidyalaya and Saraswati Samaj this annual event is eagerly looked forward to by music lovers, because along with the established stalwarts it also showcases young talents turn out to be the stars of tomorrow.

Opening with the invocatory "Jaya Jagdish Hare" composed by Pandit Paluskar and presented melodiously by the students of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, the festival took a flying start with the scintillating sitar-sarod duet by the gifted young Kedia Brothers from Jharkhand. Currently under the tutelage of Pandit Sunil Mukharjee, they are trained in the Senia Maihar tradition by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi. Their impressive presentation of raga Jhinjhoti this evening was marked by strict classicism, fidelity to pitch, rhythm and ornamentations of their own gharana. They played a detailed alap- jodjhala with remarkable execution in the bass octave, followed by stylish compositions in slow and fast Teen tala. Their mutual compatibility also bears a perfect blend of emotive appeal and technical virtuosity. Rashid Mustafa on the tabla with his crystal clear `Na Dhin Dhin Na' during the jhala sequence gave them superb support. Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, the senior artiste of the inaugural evening, opened his vibrant vocal recital with raga Jayant Malhar, a lovely combination of ragas Jaijaivanti and Malhar. The bada khayal "Barakha ritu aayi", set to slow Ek tala saw the gradual delineation of the monsoon raga with the judicious blend of its dual components. The chhota khayal in drut Ek tala depicted the thundering clouds and torrential rains with an impressive variety of taan patterns. The khayalnuman and tarana in raga Malkauns next came as a comely contrast, before he concluded with Bhairavi. The authentic and aesthetic blend of the Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur gayaki (styles of singing) were the most captivating quality of his vocal recital that had the enhancing accompaniment of Arvind Thatte on the harmonium and Vinod Lele on the tabla.

Myriad strengths Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar (above) and Manjusha Patil

Melodious surprise

Manjusha Patil from Pune was a melodious surprise Delhi's music lovers, many of whom heard her for the first time.

Born in Sangli, Maharashtra, Manjusha was initially trained under Chintubua Mhasikar and later by Kanebua at Ichalkaranji, hence she totally adheres to her authentic taleem (training). Her Multani was pathos incarnate in the slow emotive badhat of the bada khayal "Rabba mere" set to Vilambit Ek tala. The long perch on the Tar Shadja, and the variety of sargam and aakar taans that followed even during the chhota khayal, were impressive. She signed off with an equally delightful Bihari Nat, a popular raga of the Agra gharana, hence her treatment of the medium tempo composition "Javoji tum jaavo" had enticing glimpses of the rhythmic play typical of the school. Prasoon Chatterjee on the tabla gave her inspiring support while Vinay Mishra provided harmonium accompaniment. Pandit Shivkumar Sharma played raga Jhinjhoti on the santoor at length. Tabla maestro Anindo Chatterjee gave him appropriate accompaniment. The Sunday morning session saw Anindo playing a brilliant tabla duet with his gifted son and disciple Anuvrat, accompanied on the sarangi by Murad Ali. The Teen tala presentation opened with an alap-like gait and went on showcasing complex rhythmic permutations and chakkardaar tihayis culminating in the crescendo of drut laya (fast tempo) with the choicest of compositions from their rich repertoire. Pandit Debu Chaudhury offered his own creation Kalyani Bilawal and a bhajan as a tribute to Paluskar. He was accompanied by the ace tabla player Akram Khan.

Grand finale

The electrifying vim and vigour of the Carnatic flute by young Shashank Subramanyam was followed by the mellowed aesthetics reflecting the lifelong tapas of the formidable Pandit Jasraj. He explored the microtonal regions of Miyan Malhar to bring out the soul of the raga. The ponderous deliberation of the oscillated (andolit) Komal Gandhar and the twin Nishads were fundamental to the sculpting of the profound raga in his memorable concert that came as a befitting finale to the festival.

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