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Prabhakar Karekar shines as a classicist

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The Economic Times, March 26, 1989

Prabhakar Karekar

Prabhakar Karekar

Shudh Kalyan is one of the most charming melodies associated with the early evening hours. But it is also tricky raga and, therefore, not everybody’s cup of tea. If this ancient raga is not heard as often as music-lovers would love to listen, it is because of its close affinity with similar-sounding melodies like Bhoopali, Deskar and Jait-Kalyan.

What, however, establishes the distinctive identity of Shudh Kalyan is that it shines effectively in the lower and middle registers. Equally important is the “re, pa” sangati. Also, the tivramadhyam is spotlighted through a glide. Unlike Bhoopali, madhyam and nishad are employed in Shudh Kalyan, but with great care and skill. Besides, the raga is at times rendered as a pentatonic (odava) raga. All this adds up to a seeming reluctance on the part of even hard-boiled performers to present it with authenticity and this is possibly why the raga has become a rarity in today’s concert fare.

But, when Prabhakar Karekar chose this raga for his opening number at a concert held at Bhaidas Hall in observance of the centenary of the famous Vishweshwar Venugopal Temple of Karkala, in Dakshina Kannada on March 4, I hardly knew I was in for a surprise as well as a treat!

Singing in a crushingly sonorous voice and accompanied by Omkar Gulvady on the tabla and Baban Manjrekar on the harmonium, Karekar, shaped his theme into an elegant, streamlined presentation. In its form and fashioning, he took due care to keep its identity distinct by right emphasis on its melodic virtues and other tricky motives.

There was also the characteristic repose in the exploration of vilambit, while the faster passage in drut showed not only practiced ease, but also rhythmic elegance and celebrity.

The second item was a soulful bhajan of Tulsidas, which has been immortalized by the followers of the great Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. Though it is mostly set and heard in Jhinjoti, Karekar lent it an added evocatory element by introducing sequences of other related ragas and thereby accentuated its emotive report.

This recital left one in no doubt that Prabhakar Karekar, who has all along been more popular as a top exponent of Marathi natya sangeet, can now be easily rated as an equally perceptive classicist. True, his initial studentship was with that eminent exponent of stage music, Suresh Haldankar.

Later, he had also the benefit of tutelage with veterans of the caliber of Abhisheki C. R. Vyas and K. G. Ginde. All this, backed by his own effort, has helped him to emerge as a Hindustani classcist in his own right. One hopes that he would have more and more opportunities fo regaling high-brow audiences in time to time.

Karekar’s recital was followed by a brilliant Bharata Natyam performance by young Anuradha Naimpally. Presently settled in the U.S., she had received formal training in dance from her gurus, Venugopal and Jayashree Pillai, the famed exponents of the Tanjavur tradition. She has also fruitful guidance from the guru Parvati Kumar. Anuradha presented lecture-demonstration and workshops, besides concert performances.

Her recital reflected her deep involvement in her chosen pursuit. Though it was a conventional repertoire, what struck one was the precision, accuracy and abandon with which she reeled off her items. Her abhinaya was as expressive as her stage presence was impressive.

The accompanying ensemble included her two gurus (natuvangam), while Laxmi Parathasarathy supplemented the vocal part. Mridangam was ably handed by Shreedhar Parathasarathy and Shekhar Tanjurkar played the violin in intimate accord with his confreres.


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