Sangeet Natak Akademi’s online Sangeet Pratibha festival showcased an impressive line-up of talent
Despite being headless (there has been no chairman or governing committee for over 16 months), Sangeet Natak Akademi recently held a four-day Young Musicians Festival, featuring artistes from the western part of the country. It was a pleasure to see a showcase of fine talents.
Opening proceedings with a presentation of the rare raag Dhani, Aarti Thakur Kundalkar of the Kirana gharana impressed with her confidence. It was interesting to note she is a music teacher too, as was Manas Kumar on the violin, who played next. Manas is a well-known musician from Mumbai, and his Jhinjhoti was, expectedly, without blemish. The third singer, Sachin Arjun Teli, from Goa exhibited his impeccable training with the rendition of raag Kedara.
The next performer was sitarist Mehtab Ali Niazi of the vocal Bhendi Bazar gharana; he is now also learning from veteran vocalist Pt. Sajan Mishra. With online concerts that are recorded earlier, the organisers cannot always ensure adherence to the time theory of raags; Mehtab presented the early evening Shudha Kalyan, which ideally should have been heard after raag Dhani. Mehtab wowed with smooth strokes, refined rendering and tayyari; interestingly, he ended with a dhrut jhala played in Ek taal (usually instrumentalists shift to Teen taal in the dhrut laya as they are more rehearsed in it). The final performance was Ajinkya Joshi’s tabla solo. A disciple of Pt. Suresh Talwalkar, he displayed power and dexterity.
The second day started with Goa’s Sonik Velingkar on the flute playing raag Marwa. Trained in the Maihar tradition of Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Sonik also teaches music in Goa. Rutuja Lad, currently a disciple of Jaipur gharana exponent Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, sang raag Nand. Imdadkhani gharana sitarist Shakir Khan presented raag Sham Kalyan with his usual flourish. Rajkot-based young vocalist Kauser Haji, again a disciple of vidushi Ashwini Bhide, presented Raga Jog with competence; one looks forward to hearing her more often. The concluding recital was by Goa’s Dattaraj Surlekar on the harmonium playing Rageshwari.
The third day had Mumbai-based Hrishikesh Mazumdar playing a soulful raag Puriya on the flute. There were also two vocalists — Jui Dhaygude Pande, learning from Arun Dravid of Jaipur gharana, and Mughda Gaonkar, disciple of Mewati gharana’s Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar.
The highlights were the sarod recital by the talented Abhishek Borkar of the Maihar gharana, who played Hemant, a raag created by the gharana’s founder Ustad Allaudin Khan; and Solapur’s Hrishikesh Survase’s tabla solo. He played in Jhaptaal, his crisp strokes, accompanied by both harmonium and flute, adding a pleasant element of novelty.
The concluding day started with Solapur’s Gorakhnath Jadhav playing the sundari, an instrument that is a smaller version of the shehnai, invented by the Jadhav family around 90 years ago. Both instruments are slowly becoming confined to auspicious occasions only, so the inclusion in this festival was welcome.
The dazzling young vocalist Mohammed Aman from Jaipur sang raag Bihag. The controlled speed, intricacy and weight of his dhrut taans enthralled. His beautifully honed baritone exhibits a good degree of riyaaz, which augurs well for his future.
The inclusion of S. Jayanth from Chennai on the flute in the Carnatic tradition was unexpected, but definitely welcome. The Gwalior gharana vocalist Sanika Goregaonkar creditably expanded the limited raag Malgunji.
Rampur Sahaswan gharana doyen Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan’s grandson Ghulam Niyaz Khan presented the final concert in raag Yaman. His singing had the stamp of the gharana.
With short 30-40 minute slots, the artistes had to choose their songs carefully. This too is a much-needed attribute in a performer. Suhyog Kundalkar, Tejovrush Joshi, Milind Kulkarni, Swapnil Bhise were some of the high calibre accompanists, which added to the overall enjoyment of the concerts.
However, one felt it was not fair to present relative novices immediately after seasoned artistes. The tradition of presenting senior artistes towards the end is a more practical arrangement.
Additionally, one could not help but notice that given the time constraint, all the instrumentalists chose to present a truncated auchar rather than full aalap and went straight to the composition. While in the flute, harmonium and violin, this is understandable, as these instruments follow the vocal tradition and don’t have a specific baaj, with the sitar and sarod, it’s the traditional presentation format that showcases this important aspect. Sadly, this seems to be the trend now.
SNA needs to be credited for carefully selecting young artistes who are not heard often, in addition to rising stars, and also for including different musical styles. One looks forward to festivals of young artistes from the North, South and East too.
The Delhi-based author writes on Hindusthani music.