Indian Classical Music and Dance Conference at Chandigarh

Pracheen Kala Kendra, Chandigarh organised its  showpiece Indian classical music and dance conference, Bhaskar Rao Nritya and Sangeet Sammelan recently. In its 49th year, this annual classical concert is a much awaited calendar event. As is customary, ‘Gunijan Shammanana – veneration of the eminent – this year saw, senior vocalist Primila Puri, Ravindra Mishra and S. D Sharma – both veteran art critis, Kamal Tiwari, renowned art practicioneer and communicator, being felicitated.

The programme went underway with Raga Puriya Dhanashree recital by Kirana and Gwalior gharana‘s representative Padmashree Pandit M Venkatesh Kumar. The characteristic of Kirana Gharana gives precedence to melody while the characteristic of Gwalior Gharana puts its emphasis on the style of intonation and progress. Incidentally, this North-Karnataka resident is an exponent of devotional songs composed by Tansen’s legendary teacher Swami Haridas. Through his mellifluous rendition in vilambit ektaal which resolved through drut, he effortlessly let blossom the mood aspects of the ragas. Dedicating his next – Raga Kedar in vilambit Roopak taal to Hindustani classical vocalist, composer, and teacher, Bhaskar Rao Bakhale, he then moved to, ‘Aaj kaise Ghar Jau‘. This Thumri composed in Mishra khamaj Raga in deepchandi taal had the necessary drama that it entails. He ended his session with a Raga Bhairavi bhajan  in addha taal which had the right sprinkle of bitter-sweet spiritual desolation. All throughout the recital tabla percussionist, Pandit Parimal Chakraborty demonstrated his able ambidexterity while Paromita Mukhopadhyay on the harmonium supported with  a copybook accompaniment. It was a fitting first day as we reluctantly walked to our stays, arranged within the sizable premises, with a contended heart.

Ustad Asghar Husain, seemingly taught well by his father Anwar Husain, during his virtuous violin recital could balance the gayaki and tantakari in his Raga Saraswati. Violin being and western instrument and Raga Saraswati being predominantly practiced in Hindustani classical music on Sarangi, Pt. Husain had to improvise some technical aspects and might I say very successfully so. What also needs to be said was his vilambit Bandish (char taal ki sawaari/ 11 matra) which ensconced gamak, tanduroho (rare)  tehai, madhalay and drut teen taal. Ustad Akhtar Hasan on tabla provided apposite counterpoints.


The second day came to a close with a dance recital by a trio – Vidushi Meenu Thakur with Kuchipudi, Vidushi Vani Madhav with Odissi and Swati Wangnoo Tiwari with Kathak. Starting off together through a dance-confluence, they then went on to either present solo, duo in combinations and of course trio with each displaying the intricacies of their own craft, as we experienced Jagganath Ashtkum, lahar, asthapadi lalitalabanga, geet Govindam, tarana and mangalam during the course of their recital. In such an experiment, what is required is to hold onto space division, observation and collaborative composition. With Kathak and Odissi we could adduce the segregating subtilities which could have been more pronounced during the Odissi Kuchipudi combinations.

Pt. Ajay Prasanna’s flute recital in Raga Puriya-Kalyan brought in a touch of melancholia. This piece began with Rupak taal and when he segued into madhyalay teen taal, he imparted the mellifluous transition with an echo filigree. Continuing with the same Raga during the drut teen taal he went on to sketch the images of Kurukshetra – flute being the Krishna and tabla by upcomig Abhishek Mishra being Arjun, who was in good stead throughout. Spring was not far behind so he ended his session with hari in Raga Kafi.


Calcutta’s own, slide-guitarist, Debashish Bhattacharya, sprouted a romantic atmos through Raag Bihag, infusing it with surprising sudden cuckoo notes in the middle perhaps hearking to Spring, setting up the mood right at the beginning of day three. He credibly brought us the nuances of bina, sitar and surshringhar melding it with slide-guitar through aalap, jor sampakita jhala through his own invented instrumen‘Chaturangi‘. Interestingly, his instrumentation was not limited to those instruments as we could also hear glimpes ,esraj and sarod as well. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali’s ‘Naina more taras rahe‘ in Mishra Pilu Raga was evocative and his ‘O ki o bondhu kajol bromora’, a popular bhatiali was a pleasant ending. It has to be mentioned that tabla-player, Pandit Parimal Chakraborty lent an enthusiastic support to fructify Bhattacharya’s vision.

Next day began with a jugalbandi of son-father duo – Ram Kumar and Rahul Kumar Mishra, the former a disciple of his legendary grandfather Pt. Anokhelal of Benaras gharana, who proffered a rich continuum of indian classical heritage and presented us with truncated uthan, amod, gat, chakradhar and the likes. During their performance they tributed Ut. Allah Rakha via his inventive ‘ari or trigun lay-er kaida‘ and doffed their caps to  Pt. Anokhelal when they traversed through his composition, ‘na dhin dhin na‘. All throughout out the performance Pt. Ram kumar held his guiding hand on Rahul Kumar for him to flower on his own,  as did Rajendra Banerjee on Harmonium with is filial disposition. Incidentally, Pt. Ram Kumar, whose father is vocalist, Padmashree, Pt. Chhannulal Mishra, had is initial training under her mother Manorama Devi, the only one to do so.


Pt. Soumitra Lahiri is an expert sitarist. Ragashee and Bagashree in Kafi thaät (badima; sambadisa), blended together in Raga Malgunji (aalap, jor, vilambit madhaylay, drut and jhala in teen taal). His early grounding was in Bishnupur Gharana and his rendition of that gharana‘s flag-bearer, Gyanendra Prasad Goswami’s renowned bandish, ‘Ujal kajol duti nayantara’ was outstanding. With a pahari dhun in dadra taal, he ended his presentation. Pt. Tanmoy Bose, disciple of respected Kanai Dutta and Pt. Shankha Ghosh, ably stamped his Farukhabad gharana via his tabla accompaniment during this session.

Within the short time that Sarodist, Pt Narendranath Dhar was given, he nonetheless etched his expertise through Drupadi aalap, jor and jhala in Senia gharana. His teacher, Senia-gharana sarodist Radhika Mohan Mitra, used to maintain that one should take efforts to first etch out the Raga aspects, subsequently sculpt the ‘idol’ and then embellish with ornaments to do justice to the piece. His bin-ang’er Sarod playing was tethered to the exactitude of tradation. He rounded off his sesession with hus  second and last presentation was hari (semi-classical) in deepchandi taal. A very young Durjoy Bhaumik was his tabla aid.


Curtains of the conference came down after a decent Bharatanatyam recital by Kanaka Sudhakar and her troupe. They performed natyanjali dedicated to Ganapathi, Saraswati, Shiva, Vishnu and her own teacher, in that order. It followed a jugalbandi between her and her disciples, Hanuman Chalisa in alarippu and a solo padam portraying Yasodah and Baal Gopal. The group showcased their improvisation in Dashavatar.

Mention must be made of Punita Bawa who was as much a compassionate host as an able compare. It was learnt through Sajal Koser, secretary, Pracheen Prachin Kala Kendra, that the centre wants to establish an holistic archive of indian classical music and wants to further dedicate themselves to unearth talents in folk and classical at the very grassroot level.


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