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Delectable fare of morning melodies

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The Economic Times, March 12, 1989

Prabha Atre, acknowledged as one of our avant garde Hindustani vocalists, is known as much for her scholarly attainments as for her concert performances.

By and large, however, her mehfils have somehow been few and far between. But whenever she chooses to perform in public, she emerges as a sure artiste who would seldom disappoint her audiences.

This was evident, once again, when Prabha Atre gave an early-morning recital for the suburban Music Circle at Santa Cruz in the presence of a packed audience on February 19. She sang animatedly for four hours, offering a delectable fare of morning melodies. The delight was all the greater because morning concerts continue to be a rarity. Also one does not have the opportunity to hear time-tested ragas like Alhaiya Bilaval which was, incidentally, her most memorable presentation at this concert. The other items of her repertoire were Ahir Bhairav, a Mishra Kamaj thumri, Nat Bhairav and the final Bhairavi.

The Ahir Bhairav was the opening number. The first flourishes of the raga exploration gave a disconcerting feeling to her eager listeners. One sensed an uncertain voice which made it pretty difficult for her to forge ahead with the aplomb and unction, so typical of her. It almost seemed that she was going to disappoint. The tempo of her singing looked not only slow but even ponderous. It was as though she could not muster courage to reach the tar shadja. So the raga kept sprawling for as long as 80 minutes. In such a build-up there were moments of monotony. Listlessness and boredom for the listeners.

It was with the succeeding presentation in Alhaiya Bilaval that the artiste was seen in great form. The rest of the fare also showed her in an expansive mood. It was then that she could unravel the unsuspecting beauties of her different numbers. Her expressive power, as much as the euphony and luminosity of her voice made her musical ideas and intuitions acquire concrete shape and form.

All this showed, once again, that her pre-occupation with research or the rigours of teaching lecturing have done little to her great musicianly gifts.

While the veteran Anant Rane on her harmonium and Sai Banker on the tabla faithfully followed the principal artise, special mention needs to be made about the three disciples (Sarla Desai, Sneha Ketkar and Pranati Mhatre) who were enlisted by her mentior to lend vocal sangat by turns. The standard of individual performance shown by them provided positive evidence of the worthwhile grooming and their own riyaz. It was commendable that the guru encouraged each of them to play their part equitably without snapping their singing as is usually done by other masters. Here was an example for other gurus in the field to emulate.

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