On the 13th of November 2021, Samvidha Srinath had the pleasure of attending an Indian classical concert consisting of two genres: The first part was dedicated to Carnatic music and the second part to Hindustani music. She tells our readers more about the concert.
The audience was warmly welcomed by the sounds of the artists doing their sound checks and the ‘tanpuras’ as well as the laughter and chatter of other people who were already present. The concert’s host, Sowgandhika Krishnan briefly introduced us to the artists and the genres we would be listening to, followed by a short speech from Dr Prof Satish Joshi.
The first half of the concert was performed by Srimati Uma Kumar, Srimati Girija Ravishankar and Sri Srinidhi Koushik. All three artists presented a splendid performance which included improvisation of the lyrics as well as the ragas
Srimati Uma Kumar started the concert with a shloka about Ganesha in the raga Hamsadhwani, followed by a Guru shloka in the raga Revathi. As per tradition, a Carnatic concert commences with a song in reverence to Lord Ganesha, the elephant god, and destroyer of all obstacles. She then sang an Abhang called “Bhaktajanavatsale” in Bhrindavani, a devotional raga. Her voice projected the divinity of the song beautifully which was especially visible when she added a lyrical improvisation towards the end of the song.
The next ‘kriti’ (a song with a refrain, and two stanzas) was “Haridasulu Vedale”, composed by Sri Tyagaraja and set in the raga Yamunakalyani. This composer, Srimati Uma Kumar describes, mainly composes songs dedicated to Lord Ram, whereas here the song is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Another specialty of this song is that its raga, in which it was composed is originally a Hindustani raga. The second to last song was set in a Ragamalika, meaning a garland of ragas. These ragas were as follows: Ranjani, Sriranjani, Megharanjani and Janaranjani. Srimati Uma Kumar closed her performance with another song dedicated to Lord Krishna in the raga Janasamodhini. All of the artists’ renditions were a delight to hear, especially the spontaneous improvisations that were done to adorn the song.
Up next on stage were the couple Srimati Girija Ravishankar and Sri Srinidhi Koushik. The duo sang in a rather unusual format what I like to refer to as the “practice format”. In other words, they did not have any instrumentation during their performance. The pair sang two compositions but their voices were so much in harmony that left the audience wanting for more, which was especially visible in the song “Tulasamma” set in the raga Devagandhari.
After a brief pause of half an hour, which passed by slowly, the Hindustani part of the concert commenced.
Sri Shreyas Joglekar presented his performance in the Khayal style. He explained: “Khayal expresses a feeling or a thought. The expression of the raga and its exploration play a huge role whereas the lyrics are of secondary importance.”
The artist presented the raag ‘Malkauns‘ and four compositions from the Gwalior Gharana (house) with his honey-like voice, accompanied by Sri Shrirang Mirajkar – aptly known as ‘Zurich’s Tabla King’.
And last but not the least, closing the concert was Sri Amit Sharma, who presented a composition in the raag Megh (meaning clouds) in the Dhrupad style. The artist also shared some characteristics of this particular singing style. Firstly, there are different ways of breathing and vocalization that give out very different effects. Secondly, which is more unfortunate, even though Dhrupad is a style that is sung in all its grandeur, it is the most difficult style in Hindustani music which is why only a handful of Dhrupad artists remain and hence is less popular. After explaining, the artist began exploring the raga in many different ways that were beyond explanation.
The ‘bandish’ itself was composed by Tansen, one of the nine gems in Akbhar’s court. It narrated the story of Lord Krishna and how he lifted the Govardhan mountain using only his little finger and bringing Lord Indra to shame. As Sri Amit Sharma continued to render the composition, one could feel dark clouds gathering and rain pouring heavily in Vrindhavan. The whole performance was a treat for the ears and I could actually visualize the scene during the rendition which made my experience of it more fascinating.
As the concert came to a close, the audience came back to reality, still spellbound by the performances. As a Carnatic vocalist myself, I thoroughly enjoyed all the performances, especially the Hindustani ones, as it was a new genre for me. I hope to come back for another enthralling performance next year during Diwali.
Photo credits – Sandeep Rajan and Dr. Venkatesh Sivasubramaniam
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