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Enjoyable treat in light classical

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The Economic Times, May 29, 1988

Full-fledged concerts of light classical music have now become extremely rare. At best, light classical varieties that cover the vast and varied field of thumri, together with its charming and sensitive variations known as hori, chaiti, kajari, jhoola and dadra, are rendered as only tail-pieces to provide the finale of a classical concert.

In the olden days concerts of light classical music were popular because they responded better to a compact mehfil or a baithak than a public concert. Obviously, it was the warmth of an intimate gathering, appreciating the subtle lyrical as well as musical nuances, that gave the singer true inspiration.

No longer, do we have such an actively responsive audience today–the kind of audience which has an insight into the true significance of what is basically shabdapradhan gayaki. This is possibly the reason why thumri music, in its true form and colour, is gradually going out of vogue.

Against this background, the full-fledged recital held recently under the auspices of Sajan Milap came like a heartwarming experience. What agreeably surprised the large audience present at the concert was that the exponent of this tradition was not a performer in the conventional sense, but one who has devoted a life-time to the assiduous acquisition of a large treasure of rare compositions representing the thumri tradition.

What adds to his credit is that the artiste, Mr Batuk Dewanji, now 70, has been a lawyer by profession, having served as solicitor and public prosecutor in Bombay till his retirement on superannuation. But he has pursued music since his student days. In his pursuit, he was fortunate to receive benevolent guidance from many acknowledged masters like Vilayat Hussain Khan of the Agra gharana.

A keen student of musicology and aesthetics, Mr Dewanji finds time to write on musical topics mainly in Gujarati and he has already to his credit a number of publications on the subject, Besides, he conducts lecture-demonstration and teaches lessons to talented students.

Mr Dewanji’s concert was warmly reflective of his sense of aesthetics, backed by erudition and scholarship. The fare he chose for presentation comprised as many as 14 numbers, including two thumris and a dadra in Khamaj and one in Des, besides a hori and tappa in Kafi, with pieces in chaiti, jhoola and kajari to lend variety. The last-mentioned three types have become a rarity. They are all seasonal songs. Chaiti is sung when Spring has waned and Summer is fast approaching. It depicts a feeling of languor and the theme revolves round the Holi festivities. Kajari and jhoola, on the other hand, are rendered in the rainy season. The former, however, depicts a mood of separation while the latter has a slightly frolicsome character.

Even though, Mr Dewanji does not have a sweet, pliable voice of the kind one associates with a professional singer, the devoutness of temper and the charm of feeling he brought to bear on his renditions lent them a fervor and sensitiveness that deeply touched the listeners. As he reeled them off in easy succession, he wasa seen completely immersed in his creative endeavour. Each had a lilt and rhythm of its own and he depicted them in conformity with their conventional attribute.


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