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Sammelan seasons ends

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The Economic Times, Aril 10, 1988

This part of the year usually marks the beginning of the end of the sammelan season. Paradoxical but true, one also witnesses a sudden spurt in the musical activity in this metropolis.

Indeed, it was music all the way in the various parts of Bombay for almost a week from March 30, which witnessed two major sangeet sammelans and two concerts held by music circles. One of the two marathon soirees was held at Chembur, in the eastern suburbs, while the other was at Grant Road in centeral Bombay.

The Chembur event has been an annual affair for several years – it is held to mark the death anniversary of the Atrauli-Jaipur gharana’s pioneer Alladiya Khan. To most of those who reside elsewhere in the sprawling city, the Chembur event happens to be outside each reach, primarily because of the problems of travel and distance, not to speak of the possible compulsion of an overnight stay, since the sessions are held in the evenings which often keep spreading till well past midnight.

On the contrary, the Grant Road soiree, because of the central location, was found easily accessible to music lovers from the nearer suburbs as well. This festival also attracted listeners for several reasons. In the first place, it was an all-women affair in which almost all the artistes who were billed to perform were busy housewives and mothers, who could manage to devote their time to the pursuit of classical music as something much more than a joyous hobby.

Secondly, many of the participants who covered a very wide age group – from the early twenties to the late sixties – have established themselves as top performers in India as well as abroad. Last, but not the least, is the fine planning and coordination, apart from thoughtful billing, all of which made the sammelan an event to remember for long.

The Kala VIbhag of the Kanara Saraswat Association, which sponsored the Sharada Sangeet Sammelan (as the soiree was styled), enlisted as many as 16 vocalists and one sitarist. The standard of performance put through by most participants was consistently above average – the kind of contribution that seemed too good to have come from housewives. Even so, mention must be made of the recitals of Lalith Rao, Saguna Kalyanpur, Vrinda Mundkur, Kumudini Mundkur and the sitarist Mangala Kalyanpur-Nagarkatti.

The sammelan was inaugurated by the celebrated avant garde vocalist, Kishori Amonkar.

Lalith Rao, who is based in Delhi, had the double distinction of performing at a fulfledged morning concert organised by the prestigious Suburban Music Circle of Santa Cruz. Lalith, a Master of Electornic Engineering from Canada, forsook a promising lucrative career in the field and pursued her childhood passion for Hindustani music. Under the guidance of masters of the eminence of Ramrao Naik, Dinkar Kaikini and Khadim Hussain Khan, all of them Agra veterans, she has now achieved her ambition to become one of the leading Hindustani vocalists with opportunities to participate in major musical events in India and several world capitals.

Lalith’s concert at Santa Cruz was predictably true to tupe. For she has always been a sure artiste – one who seldom disappoints. Her renditions in Miyan Ki-Todi, Champak Bilaval, Alhaiya Bilaval and Dhuria Sarang, a rare melody, emerged as charming specimens of impassioned expression. This was one of her rate Bombay appearances and therefore the delights of listening to her music were all the greater.

This week’s column will not be complete without reference to an equally impassioned performance that came from a relatively less-known veteran from Pune. He is the 74-year-old Bhaskarbuva Joshi, the only surviving disciple fo the maestro of yesteryear, the late Ramakrishnabuva Vaze. Old age did not simply seem to matter when he proceeded to reel off melody after melody and bring his compact audience under his spell. (The fare he chose was typical of his mentor’s gharana. It included rare and complex melodies like Nat Bihag, Maru Kalyan and Mangal-Kanada, besides the perennially popular ragas like Marwa, and Bhairavi. In style and approach, he reminded his old time listeners of the individual vocalism of his great guru, known for his robust, ringing voice and his finesse in unraveling the tonal substance of the chosen ragas with amazing ease and skill.


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