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Mixed fare from Kankana

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The Economic Times, June 18, 1989

What should be the ideal pasce of tempo in a vilambit exploration of a khayal composition? What is the role of sargam in the raga portrayal, and how much of it should form part of a total melodic build-up? And, finally, although taans form an integral part of khayal singing, how and to what extent should they be employed?

These and such other questions have often bedeviled my listening, specially when it comes to concerts by present-day vocalists from the middle rung and the younger lot.

Take the case of Kankana Bannerji who sang for the Dadar Matunga Cultural Centre on June 4. Her chief asset is her marvelous voice, which se can harness purposefully, if only she has the determination to schew her temptation to play to the gallery.

Khankana has been groomed for long years by the late Ustad Amir Khan and later, by Pandit Pratap Narayan. Amir Khan was a master of vilambit depiction and the pace was indeed super-slow. But the range and variety of his extempore improvisation, as also the discretion and imagination he revealed in his sargams and taans, put them in a class by himself.

But many of the present-day vocalists, with pretentions to the Ustad’s discipleship, direct or indirect, do not seem to have comprehended the purpose and significance of Amir Khan’s inimitable vocalism.

Khankana began her recital with khayal vilambit and drut in Marwa. The vilambit tempo was needlessly super-slow, and the singing moved at a ponderous pace. And, in the absence of variety of ideas, the passages and phrases in the progression often sounded repetitious and boring. She, however, lent considerable sprightliness to her drut presentation.

In between, like Amir Khan, the artiste resorted to sargam and taan singing. But they did not show any definite aim or design in the scheme of depiction.

It was in the succeeding Hamsadhvani in madhya laya and drut laya that Kankana showed many good qualities of her music. The presentation also showed that she is more at home with compositions in medium and fast tempo. If only she takes care to give her sargams and taans the right proportion they deserved, she could lend much greater delight to her listeners.

The post-interval vilambit and drut delineation of Nand came, once again, as a reminder of the manner in which she presented the opening Marwa. What is more, she often deviated from the conventional norms of the raga’s form and structure. In sum, her concert could be at best summed up as a mixed fare.

While Vasanti Mhapsekar’s harmonium carried her usual veteran’s touch, Aftab Hussain on the tabla was rather indifferent and erratic. At times, he appeared to be even fluctuating in his laya.


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