Rain of applause with Malhars – The Statesman
It was Archanapuri Maa’s first birthday without her divine physical presence at Satyananda Devatan, the haven of education, literature, arts and traditional Indian culture. The week-long celebrations re-established the fact that Maa was, and still is, the inspiration for all Ashram activities; and under the guidance of her stubbornly devoted followers, these remained focused on the conscious personality of Maa’s culture, imbued with eternal truth and spirituality. The celebrations included puja rituals, speeches, Kavi Sammelan, Shruti Natak, music, dance and dance theater. Four days were exclusively reserved for the latter four. The highlight of the session peppered with songs composed by Archana Maa was the soulful duet performances of Anirban Das and Diptam Sinha Biswas, worthy disciples of Vidushi Mandira Lahiri. Their driven, supple vocals and emotive presentation worked wonders. Just like Sagnik Sen and Priyasmita Ghosh, two extremely gifted and neat disciples of Nabhodeep Chakraborty (Kasur Patiala Gharana). Apparently, he made sure his shishyas select devotional infused compositions from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan while singing khayals. Sagnik Sen’s rendition of the Hamir raga proved to be an ideal example of his Patiala grooming, filled with a demanding combination of open and powerful aakar, a direct approach to the raga and ornate style. The revealing opening phrase of the raga, sung by Sagnik, recalled Bade Khan’s well-meaning jibe “Hum (slow) maalgadi nahi chalate; hamara gaana toh hai express train!” The slow- to medium-paced jhaptal khayal further established the gharana’s preference for ragas with inherently faster movements. Sagnik did Hamir full justice while flaunting his impressive display of bowl vistar, behlawa, taans in various grains and patterns even at the fast pace of adolescence. He surprised one with Bhupali as second choice after Hamir, but this difficult feat seemed like a walk in the park when he showered his listeners with the divinely powerful beauty of ‘Devadidev Mahadev’. Masterfully assisted by Supriyo Roy (tabla) and Ashok Roy (harmonium), he concluded with an evocative Shyamasangeet on Mishra Bhimpalasi. The magic of Patiala continued when Priyasmita Ghosh, gurubahen of Sagnik, arrived with the richness of her melodious and aesthetic presentation of the Megh and Malkauns ragas, a Shyamasangeet and a gem of the countless devotional compositions of Archanapuri Maa. Gautam Guha (tabla) and Ashok Roy (harmonium) provided the desired support. Raga Bhupali reappeared the next evening, but in a different outfit, wearing the ashtaang gayaki of Gwalior Gharana. His talented representative Arjun Roy, flanked by his sensitive co-artists Surojit Saha (tabla) and Sayan Chatterjee (harmonium), delighted with his renditions of khayal and two devotional-charged bhajans. Flautist Shakti Nag, surrounded by his flautist disciples, presented the grandeur of the raga Megh followed by a singing dhun. Pandit Sujit Saha’s loud tabla infused the thrill. Following enlightening talks by Swami Mrigananda and Priyanath Chattopadhyay on the joint educational enterprise of Sree Satyananda Mahapeeth and Omkarnath Mission Global University, the final evening was dazzled by the pristine beauty of Nrityanjali by Indrani Chattopadhyay and Omkarnath Mission members Yuva Kendra. Indrani’s take on the dhrupad-anga kathak was as neat and graceful as the Shiv Vandana (group), Bhajan (Archana Maa’s composition) and Kalawati tarana presented by the group under Indrani’s direction. The celebration ended with ‘Nava-Rasa-Dharay Hara-Gauri’, a dance drama written and tuned by Maa. Its script, depicting how Uma’s penance earns Shiva’s respect and he accepts her as his bride, was re-choreographed by Sudipa Sain Seal and directed by the Nrityashaily Cultural Academy. Guru Vandana Riwaz Kendra recently presented his 27th annual classical music event as “Guru Vandana” at Panihati Lok Sanskriti Bhawan (main) and paid a glowing tribute to Pandit Arun Bhaduri. Most of the attendees, including Ashok Kumar Ghosh, the lifeline of the organization, and Pandit Tushar Dutta, the main attraction of the event, were cured by Bhaduri, the legendary but almost unrecognized guru. Few remember that one of the exceptionally dedicated early scholars of the SRA, the young Arun Bhaduri was rising rapidly as a prolific singer and composer of widely accepted bandish raga, bhajans and Bangla gaan. Very soon, he was elevated to guru status with SRA at a time when Pandit A Kanan, Bhaduri’s dadaguru, was at his peak. Like his mentor, Bhaduri also proved to be an excellent trainer who could even allow pedestrians to sing along with a pleasant, melodious voice. But unfortunately, he was a rarity with high moral values of yesteryear. He lacked aggressive showmanship and a ruthless competitive spirit. He calmly accepts that his deserving students are “given” or “adopted” by some of his ambitious contemporaries. Still, he chiseled countless voices that are now very successful musicians. Tushar Dutta staged a grand finale while representing his revered Guruji’s clan with infectious passion. His sparkling presentation of raga Bhupali was suitably assisted by Subrata Gupta (tabla) and Hiranmay Mitra (harmonium). Earlier, young santoor maestro Dishari Chakraborty’s delineation of rare raga Gunwanti praised his mastery of rich content and powerful playing technique. Another rising singer, Utso Ghosh, started the session with PuriaDhanashri, a sweet early evening melody, also sung beautifully. The two performers were accompanied by Bivash Sanghai’s sensitive and suitably reciprocal tabla. Previously, guided by Ashok Kumar Ghosh, young Kendra students presented classic bandishes with confidence. Malhar Festival “Listening to music is an act of introspection,” reiterated Swami Supurnananda, secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, before settling down to savor the melodic Malhars performed by two popular classical musicians at Vivekananda Hall recently. Singer Brajeshwar Mukherjee chose an evergreen raga, Miyan Malhar. The smooth application of the two nishads nicely engraved the identifying feature of the raga. The first pancham touch was very soft before descending into the swinging komal Gandhar’s knees. The rhythm of the slow elaboration of the ektal khayal and the raga up to Nishad remained as introspective as that of the Kirana gharana. His easy access to the lower octave, voice modulation, long meends, swinging gani and various velocity-focused phrases helped paint the monsoon picture. To woo his superior, he created a very interesting network of notes. Then came the turn of the skilful behlawa. A phrase based on the bowl led to sargams. The Boltaans were well designed; the same was true for the barabar ki sargam taans. Gamak’s taans with solfeggio and fast vowel taans showed great strength before his ecstatic “Barasan laagi re badariya” in drut teental, interlaced with short, very fast taans. Skillfully aided by Gaurishankar Karmakar (tabla) and Gourab Chatterjee (harmonium), he sang a tarana composition by Baba Alauddin Khan and concluded with a Desh thumri tuned to addha. His exquisite bowl-banav could do better with a well-executed laggi. The following session featured maestros Parthosarothy (sarod) and Abhijit Banerjee (tabla) with raga Megh as muse. Alap’s opening phrase said it all and expanded the raga in the lower octave. The dark mood of the season unfolded with the help of powerful and oscillating notes. By holding the arm of faster phrases, the heaviness eased into the middle octave. The jod invited heavy gamaks, hemmed with smooth fast taans. Interesting, varied and beautiful rhythmic patterns and softly sliding key phrases between loud bolkari were aesthetically pleasing. When the wide-faced tabla joined the sarod for saath-sangat, the soft sound of the tabla added to the resonant beauty of the sarod. The seasoned musicians complimented each other happily. Taans warmed up their musical conversation. Jhala was no exception. For gatkari, Parthosarothy chose Jaijaiwanti along with Bageshri Anga although his school Maihar prefers Desh Anga. His sarod sang the elder with asits teental timekeeper. It was happiness.