Smt. Uma Kumar, Smt. Girija Ravishankar, Smt. Dharitree Joshi, Sri. Shreyas Joglekar and Sri. Amit Sharma accompanied by the percussion kings of the north and south Sri. Shrirang Mirajkar and Sri. Chidamabaram Narayanan, respectively, graced the stage at the SDH Concert in Zurich.
“Loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu I”, is a prayer and a blessing that means: “May all live in harmony and experience happiness and bliss”. This was something I felt while I was at the 2022 SDH concert.”
Smt. Uma Kumar, Smt. Girija Ravishankar, Smt. Dharitree Joshi, Sri. Shreyas Joglekar and Sri. Amit Sharma accompanied by the percussion kings of the north and south Sri. Shrirang Mirajkar and Sri. Chidamabaram Narayanan, respectively, graced the stage. The concert was split into two. Carnatic classical music was performed in the first half, followed by Hindustani in the second.
On stage, Uma Kumar sang the beautiful Kriti Haridasulu Vedale and a Kriti in Ragamalika, followed by a performance in the practice format (i.e. singing without any accompaniments and just the Shruthi) by the Carnatic couple Girija Ravishankar and Srinidhi Koushik. The second half consisted of Hindustani music by Shreyas Joglekar who sang Kanada Rasa Pandarija and Amit Sharma who first gave a brief introduction on the Dhrupad singing style and sang a piece which described the event of Lord Krishna holding the Govardhan mountain on his little finger.
Uma Kumar opened the concert with an uplifting Varnam in Raga Amruthavarshini composed by Veenai Varathaiyar set in Adi Taalam. The raga is such that it is supposed to bring rain to the earth when it is sung. The artist explained that the Raga is a very rare one and could not be found easily, neither on the internet nor in Carnatic books. Next followed two Kritis. The first one was Himadrisute in Raga Kalyani and Bho Shambho in Raga Revathi. Himadrisute is a Kriti in praise of Lord Krishna and Bho Shambho in praise of Lord Shiva. Usually, a typical traditional Carnatic concert starts with a Varnam, then a Kriti and ends on a high note with Tanams and a Thillana. The intention was to translate this traditional format into a mini version which was extremely well executed.
Up next on stage were Girija Ravishankar and Dharitree Joshi, accompanied by the two percussion experts, Srirang Mirajkar and Chidambaram Narayanan. Both vocalists opened their performance with a Thanam, thus traversing through and merging the two contrasting genres of North and South Indian classical music. The quartet continued to perform Krishna Nee Begane Baro in Raga Yamuna Kalyani in both the Hindustani and Carnatic styles. The Kriti is more popularly known and performed in a very deep and soulful Raga called Thodi. The version in Yamuna Kalyani gave the song more emotion and opened new horizons which were well explored by both the artists and transcended geographical and cultural borders. This fusion collaboration served as a soft and elegant gradient, just like the one you might see in the evening sky, where the colours gracefully merge and change from blue to pink, purple and orange. Such was the beautiful rendition in this piece.
The order in which the artists performed couldn’t be more perfect. We were first treated to a typical, miniature traditional Carnatic performance followed by a beautiful fusion piece in a raga common to both genres. It was amazing to see how a single Raga could be sung in completely different styles which made the contrast completely clear. We were then led to a magnificent rendition of Hindustani pieces.
After the break, Shreyas Joglekar in his honey-like voice showed a completely different shade of style. His voice sounded deep, soulful, and very down-to-earth. He performed three pieces: a Tarana, which is equivalent to a Thillana in Carnatic music, a Thumri (a style in Hindustani that shows human emotion) and finally a contrasting piece, which was rendered in Raga Bageshri. Shreyas-ji explained that the Raga Bageshri was a very difficult one to do justice to and that it was a more spiritual raga. The artist showed a beautiful contrast between the emotions of a human being and the devotional love that one might feel towards someone or something that has a Higher Power. I was very surprised that the Khayal singer said that it was his first time performing a Thumri bandish. This shows the amount of versatility and openness towards other styles that an artist like Shreyas Joglekar must possess. During the performance, it seemed as if the tabla artist and the vocalist were having a wonderful conversation through the medium of music. The beats of the tabla lent a structure that was beautifully integrated with Shreyas-ji’s melodious and deep voice.
Last, but not least, the majestic Dhrupad singer, Amit Sharma graced the stage and was accompanied by Chidambaram Narayanan, Shrirang Mirajkar and Priyanka-ji on the mridangam, tabla and the taanpura respectively. Amit Sharma-ji explained the minute technicalities of the genre: “Dhrupad is a style that comes from the Samaveda and where vocalists attempt to get to know their true selves, the eternal being through music.” He also shared another interesting fact: “The veena was invented by Lord Shiva, who was inspired to create this beautiful instrument after seeing his wife Goddess Parvati lying down in that shape. The Naadam or sound that comes from the voice-box mimics the veena”. The artist then moved on by singing two beautiful bandish in the Dhrupad style. While singing, I could feel that Amit Sharma-ji had become one with the taanpura. Not only that, but it is also quite a rare sight to see two very important percussion instruments playing side by side in a perfect rhythm and harmony. When I closed my eyes, it was nearly impossible to distinguish the two instruments from each other. Such was the collaboration between Chidambaram Narayanan and Shrirang Mirajkar.
Overall, all performances were magnificent in their own way and each artist showcased a different side that I had never seen before. Apart from that, the sound quality of the concert was absolutely amazing. The sound quality allowed me to listen in a more immersive manner, being attentive to each of the performances. It made me want to listen more and more and now, I already look forward to new surprises and variety that next year’s SDH concert might bring.
(Images courtesy Pramod Prashant)
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