Delhi’s Habitat Centre recently held an unusual classical music festival — each artiste who performed represented a gharana. It was not only curated well, the accompanying brochure had interesting articles on the gharana, or its founder, or it’s other leading practitioners.
Accompanying artiste’s gharanas were also written about; thus one read about the Farrukhabad gharana of tabla by the very knowledgeable Pt Nayan Ghosh, who is an encyclopedia on music and musicians, on Pt Kumar Gandharva by Smt Shubha Mudgal, Moradabad sarangi gharana by Vidushi Rita Ganguly, Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan by disciple Dr Bindu Prasad, amongst others.
Before each concert, a short recording of a live concert of the artiste’s Guru or Guru’s Guru was also shown, thus bringing into context the concert one was to hear. This was especially relevant for the younger listeners who may not have heard legends like Pt Chinmoy Lahiri and Ustad Sharafat Hussain Khan whose disciples performed.
There was a dress code based on colour linked to the festival as well, which of course was not really adhered to. It is a trifle difficult for audience, organizers and participating artistes to wear only yellow, the colour we were told byVidushi Rita Ganguly (those dream child this was), represents surrender to the Guru. Before each concert, a large yellow pillar candle was lit by the performer; a symbolic lighting of the “chiragh” (flame) of the gharana by the “chiragh” (main spark) himself.
Interesting initiatives no doubt, but all this ate into the actual time available to the artistes to perform. Thus no artiste was given more than 45 minutes, a ridiculous allotment given the fact that all the concerts were serious classical music renditions.
Given the gravity of the theme, the organisers should have given a minimum time of an hour and a half to each artiste. Hearing the extremely well executed concerts of Anand Gandharv Bhate and Raghunandan Pansikar in particular, the lack of time being allotted was particularly frustrating. Maybe six gharanas instead of nine could have been showcased.
The festival opened with Shri Anand Gandharv Bhate, disciple of Pt Bhimsen Joshi. He last sang in Delhi at least 15 years ago, he said after his concert. The Raga, Aiman (yaman) Kalyan was a favourite of his Guru’s, both the compositions he chose were favourites of his Guru as well. He has a very tuneful voice, with good well executed taans, and the recital was enjoyable with excellent accompaniment by Bharat Kamat on the tabla. Bharat later revealed that he had been a regular accompanyist of Pt Bhimsen Joshi’s in his later years, for 19 years!
The next artistes were again male vocalists, which is not usual; this could have been avoided by having the sitar recital of Gaurav Mazumdar next. Having clearly and visibly younger artistes after a senior is unfair as rarely can an audience tune in to the recital without a degree of comparison.
Young Anirban Das and Diptam Sinha Biswas representing the nearly defunct Lucknow gharana sang Raga Maru Bihag briefly, but interestingly, with 3 compositions in different taals before, with a certain degree of relief, one suspects, singing a thumri in Tilang. The evening concluded with a short but polished recital by Gaurav Mazumdar’s, one of Pt Ravi Shankar’s later disciples who lived with him in the old Guru shishya parampara tradition, while learning from him.
He chose Raga Hemant, a Raga created by Ustad Allaudin Khan, with a very distinct “shakal” (form) and also very lyrical. Given the paucity of time, Gaurav played a short alaap, and jor, before moving onto two gats in teen taal, but it was a complete, satisfying recital though so succinct.
The next evening featured Shri Bhola Nath Mishra representing Banaras gayaki, Smt Meeta Pandit representing the Gwalior gharana, and Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan representing Agra gharana.
The concluding evening opened with Shri Raghunandan Pansikar representing the Jaipur Attrauli gharana, and his Guru Gaansaraswati Kishori Amonkar; his recital was indeed magnificent. Raga Shudha Nat which he chose is a Jaipur speciality, combining a hint of Shudha Kalyan with Nat. It is a small Raga, which can tend to sound like Chayanat if not handled well, Raghunandan sang it admirably.
The second drut composition in ektaal was composed by the great Mogubai Kurdikar, who used the pen name of “Ahmed piya” also used by her Guru Ustad Alladiya Khan, as a tribute to his father. Such is the reverence for the Guru – the son, and subsequently, his disciple, even though not of the family, gave the respect they could to the Guru, acknowledging that their creativity came only from the Guru. On the tabla, very appropriately, was Bharat Kamat, who had been Kishori Amonkar’s regular accompanyist in her last years.
The next artiste, astonishingly, again a younger male vocalist, was Bhuvanesh Komkali, representing his grandfather Pt Kumar Gandharva, referred to as founding the “Dewas” gharana. He surprisingly chose to sing Raga Malkaus, which is a late night Raga, and not a respectful choice for the concluding artiste. The recital was not perhaps his best, as he was hurried; but definitely a seasoned singer like Bhuvanesh can never be uninteresting.
Amaan Ali Khan, representing the Senia Bangash gharana, confessed he had planned to play Malkaus but had to change, out of respect to Bhuvanesh as it’s not considered polite to repeat a Raga already performed. The Bihag he chose, again due to time limitations was brief, an auchar then three gats, in jhaptaal, the iconic Senia gat his ancestors learnt from a rabbabiya descendent of Mian Tansen’s son Mian Bilas Khan, then a drut gat composed by his father.
The second piece was in Raga Shahana, and on being asked to conclude with Bhairavi, he initially played Bhatiali instead, later played a wonderful drut composition of his forbears.