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Contemplation at Sawai Gandharva Festival: The Dangerous Trend in Indian Classical Music

Going with the trends is not always the best thing to do. Be aware of the trend; whether to walk with it or not, should be a decision and not a habit.

Not all trends are worth following. These days, not all trends are trends, most of them are just rumors which people believe to be a trend.

This came out through a contemplation of few moments, while listening to a flutist performing at the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival.  The flutist, was of course highly skilled, and played Raga Maru Bihag. The excellent Riyaz allowed him to explore Raga skilfully across the octaves. Almost all of the audience appreciated his music. He got claps at every ten minutes. I personally thought, he was following the trend which is common in young as well as a few elder artists- play for the claps; play to delight the audience, play to impress them and win their hearts.

sawai gandharva

In the same festival, a Sitar player also performed. The first Raga was played well- because it was played not as per the trend of getting more claps. The second composition- was absolutely as per the trend- fast, loud and with little music value. It got a lot of claps.

The more I listen to the classical music these days, the more I realize how everyone is trying to sell his music and attract more fans. The melody is and musical value is compromised for the claps and praises. It works, because it is a trend. Everyone does it, so why not me?

Indian classical music is a perfect balance of skills and aesthetics. The notes are approached in a graceful way and not to amuse or thrill the audience. When I go back and listen to the records of Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Pt. Nityanand Haldipur and other artists, who chose not to follow the trend, I realize their love for music and Swaras.

It is quite easy to play fast and loud and kill the aesthetics. Murdering a Raga does not take a lot of time; one arrogant note kills the Raga in the fraction of a second. I listen to the artists mentioned above and the tremendous efforts they take to not to heart and kill the Raga they are playing. I salute them for their love towards the music and the difficult choice which they made /make while performing in each of their concerts.

There is one more trend in the musicians around today which upsets me- they try to play same patterns in different Ragas; sometimes it sounds good, sometimes, it damages the Raga and its flavor. But, many artists can be observed doing this. Again, this must be a trend.

I think, classical music is going through a delicate period where the artists who are in charge, in a position of getting heard and are looked upon as role models, are walking as per the trend. I am not against artists trying out new things, creative outbursts in the Ragas. Creativity is always welcome, even along with the mistakes. I have listened to great maestros committing mistakes while trying to come up with something new and creative, which I do not find something to worry about at all. The problem which I see is, artists are following trend. They settle for what earns them praises and claps and just keep on repeating that. I would be much happier, if artists, for some time, close their ears to what audience is demanding and try to bring on surface the music which is yearning to come out from their hearts.

Indian classical music is able to transform souls simply because the fact that it is not played to please the listeners but because the artist looks at music as way of self-transformation. If classical music loses this touch, it will lose its magic.

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Famous Musicians of India

Concert Review-Dr. N. Rajam Live in Pune

Violin is an instrument which is quite difficult to try one’s hands on. When played with utter mastery, violin can paint varied moods of different Ragas. N. Rajam is a name synonymous with violin. She and her next two generations skillfully play this instrument and have created a distinct place in the world of Indian Classical Music.

Two days ago, I attended a concert by Shrimati N.Rajam. It was not the first concert by her which I attended. Two years back she had given a wonderful performance along with her daughter Sangeeta Shankar and two grand daughters. N. Rajam had played Raga Jog there. The performance was a unique example of coordination between four classical performers without damaging the melody. These four artists together had sculpted out the beautiful persona of Raga Jog.

The concert which I attended two days ago, was a free concert organized at Garware College. It was a two days music concert featuring four artists. I could attend one artist each day- N. Rajam on first day and Sarod maestro Vishwajeet Roy Chowdhury on the second.

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Audience listening to the performance of Dr. N. Rajam

I was quite curious about which Raga N. Rajam would choose to open the concert with. She announced that she would be starting with Raga Miyan Ki Malhar. I have listened to different renderings of Miyan Ki Malhar by different artists on different instruments. This was the first time I was about to listen to it being played on violin.

N Rajam is quite famous for playing violin as per the Gayaki Ang (similar to the way vocalists sing.). She started with a composition in Vilambit Ektala (slow12 beats cycle). It was one of the finest vilambits I ever heard in Miyan Malhar with all the nuances of the Raga captured very well. It was very delicate and at the same time roaring as the clouds are.

The vilambit composition was followed by a drut composition. Though played with equal mastery, it could not do justice to the flavor of the Raga as much as the slow composition did. Respecting the request made by audience, she played a dhun and then finally concluded the concert with Bhairavi.

Mr. Pathak accompanied Dr. N. Rajam on tabla. Mr. Pathak is a disciple of the great Pt. Kishan Maharaj. Though he thrilled the audience with his art, I was expecting much more. Mr. Pathak has good Riyaz and command over the instrument but I could not find the gentleness and patience in his playing which one finds in Kishan Maharaja’s style of playing.

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Famous Musicians of India Kishori Amonkar Uncategorized

Kishori Amonkar concert at Gateway of India : Review

When you are into world of music, attending concerts makes a big portion of your life. It is the time when you can see the maestros performing. As elders say, you should never miss an concert irrespective of the artist who will be performing. But, some artists rarely perform. In case of such artists, the listeners strive for every single concert. Whenever they hear even a slight discussion that there is some concert by such an artist, they try their best to be there,to experience the magic of divine notes.WP_20140105_001

also, if a concert is written on your fate, you will never miss it. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar is one such artist who performs rarely compared to other artists.  During my first four years in Pune, I attended concerts by all the famous musicians including Pt. Mukul Shivputra, who is considered to be most infrequently performing artist in the world of Indian Classical Music. But somehow, a concert by Kishori Amonkar was something which I had not experienced. Then I got an opportunity to listen her live for couple of times.

This particular concert on 5th Jan 2014 was quite special because it was arranged in Mumbai. This was my first experience with Mumbai audience. The venue and time were both spiritual. It was an early morning concert scheduled at 6.30 in morning in front of gateway of India, facing the endless sea. Kishori Amonkar, though I had listened to two of her concerts before,was quite an unfamiliar artist for me. I was sincerely looking for more of her concerts so that I could understand her music better. Existence created the opportunity. And yes,I did not miss it!

The audience of more than 2000 stood up to salute Kishori Amonkar
The audience of more than 2000 stood up to salute Kishori Amonkar

the performance started at 7 O Clock.Without wasting much time, the organizers  requested her to start the performance.  Kishori Amonkar started with Raga Bhairav,a morning raga. The composition was spiritual. The skies were spiritual and so was the artist. The tall and robust structure of Taj at back, pigeons flying in their internal rhythm were adding to the already spiritual atmosphere.

It took some time for her voice to open up. When it opened up, she was beyond all the limits. What strikes me most about performance of Kishori Amonkar is her devotion and her level of involvement in the music. Her voice carries a deep resonance. Another thing worth noting is the patience in her performance. Kishori Amonkar is never in hurry. She is always giving full attention to each and every note and nuances of the raga which she is playing. While listening to her rendition of Raga Bhairav, I met many phrases in Raga Bhairav which I had never realized while practising. It was as if you are meeting completely unexplored side of a person whom you know for years. The second Raga chosen for the concert was Lalat Pancham. Her voice was moving steadily and gracefully in all the three octaves.

Kishori Amonkar carries a vision behind her every performance. One can find her constantly trying to materialize this vision through her performance. This striving, this struggle is so beautiful, so valuable! Her performance has nothing to show. It does not tell you how great the performer is. There is no effort done to show the greatness of the performance. It is like a waterfall, which flows for no reason. Perhaps this is what makes Kishori Amonkar one of the greatest artists ever….

View All Concert Reviews

Related articles- 

Swararthramani- Autobiography of Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar concert in Pune: Review

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Famous Musicians of India

Shujaat Hussain Khan and Pt. Niladri Kumar in Pune

In the time span of two weeks I had opportunities to listen to two famous musicians of India. Both of them play Sitar, one of the most delicate instruments in Indian Classical Music. I had listened to Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan Live twice in Pune. Niladri Kumar was quite new to me. Pt. Niladri Kumar was going to be accompanied by Ustaad Zakir Hussain, the great Tabla player today. I was quite curious about performance of Pt. Niladri Kumar.

Shujaat Hussain Khan in Pune

The good part was, 2 weeks ago, Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan started his concert with Raga Shuddha Kalyan and Pt. Niladri Kumar too, (un)fortunately chosen same Raga shuddha kalyan to open up his performance. I generally do not like to do comparison; especially, I never compare artists because everyone has something special, something unique. I am not writing this article to criticize Pt. Niladri Kumar, but to feel the greatness of Shujaat Hussain Khan.

In case of Shujaat Hussain Khan, his first stroke steals away your heart. His strokes are so perfect, so natural, that you just cannot sustain it. I can remember the impact of his first stroke even now; it was so vibrant. I did not find this get up in the performance of Pt. Niladri Kumar. Raga Shuddha Kalyan has a very attractive personality. When played by a maestro, this Raga can make someone go mad with the ecstasy. Shuddha kalyan played by Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan had this ecstasy from start to the end. I could not find it in the entire performance of Pt. Niladri Kumar.

One thing which I would like to clarify is, this has nothing to with the skills of the artist. Pt. Niladri Kumar is famous for his fast and skilled performance. Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan, is equally skilled, but his performance has a fragrance which I consider more important than skill. Artist should have something, some experience to express through his performance. Performance of Shujaat Hussain Khan is full of this expression.

Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan is very humble person. At the end, when people were still clapping, Shujaat Ji said in a shaky voice that he does not deserve this respect that he cannot play even a fraction of what his Guru and father Ustaad Vilayat Khan used to play.

Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan will be performing in Pune in Swarjhankar Music Festival in January 2013. Waiting to see him, feel his Sitar and getting carried away in his divine notes…..