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Shruti offers mixed fare

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The Economic Times, August 6, 1989

ShrutiShruti Sadolikar-Katkar, whom I heard at a full-fledged solo recital at the Sangeet Sabha in Bandra East on July 30, has been deservedly rated as one of the three young leading ladies in Hindustani vocal music (the other two being Padma Talwalkar and Veena Sahasrabuddhe) who have come to dominate the concert scene in India and abroad in recent years.

By coincidence, perhaps, all the three had a varying but substantial period of training in the same singing genre – the Atrauli-Jaipur gayaki. Padma and Veena had, of course, had their initial training under gurus of different gharanas. Shruti, on the other hand, had the opportunity of grooming from three gurus of the Antrauli-Jaipur gayaki alone – first her distinguished father, Pt. Wamanrao Sadolikar, and then Gulubhai Jasdenwala and Azizuddin Khan, who benefited from austere studentship with the pioneering gharana stalwart himself, Ustad Alladiya Khan. The deep impress of their puristic gayaki is unmistakably seen in Shruti’s singing. In other words, her style and approach sounds more traditional and less eclectic than that of her confreres.

But this does not detract in the least from the high standard Shruti has set with her performership. In the typical gharana manner, she can handle common as well as uncommon ragas with equal facility and felicity. In addition, she has enriched her repertoire by Marathi natyasangeet which has brought her added popularity in Maharashtra. At times, her fare also includes light classical and devotional forms.

Quite predictably, therefore, the fare she chose at the Bandra concert, which lasted three hours, comprised familiar as also less-known melodies like Bhimpalas, Jaitashri, Kaushi-Kanada and Dagori. These were all khayals rendered in vilambit and drut tempi. In between were compositions in Mishra Mand and Gara, with a Bhairavi devotional, which was a tail-piece.

Having been quite familiar with Shruti’s music for well over two decades, I confess to a feeling that this concert came to me as mixed fare that could just provide pleasant evening. Opinions are apt to diverge on my summation of the performance. For one thing, the choice of ragas could have been more judicious. Second, in terms of time given, each number gave the appearance of uneven attention. Specially her renditions in drut were rather too brief in comparison to the time allotted to her vilambit. Equally odd was the choice of a night raga like Kaushi-Kanada for early-evening presentation. As it is, it is a controversial raga which is rendered differently by different exponents of the same gharana.

As for Shruti’s other numbers, it was rather difficult to identify them whether they wree specimens of thumri or its variations like dadra. While rendering them, it would seem that she could not resist the temptation to infuse many elements of natyasangeet in their presentation. This, incidentally, is the kind of disadvantage or shortcoming that most Marathi classical vocalists have somehow not been able to overcome, when they venture into singing songs from the light classical genres, which have their origin in eastern Uttar Pradesh and call for a thorough understanding, knowledge and ability for diction and delivery. It is a different matter if aficionados of Marathi natyasangeet liked them. For me, the element of authenticity that goes with Shruti’s classical singing should not admit of this kind of deviation.

Harmonist Kiran Lele and saraangiya Anant Kunte lent superb sangat to the principal artiste. Mangesh Muley, an otherwise a brilliant percussionist, could not somehow establish rapport with the singer. Vasant Shrikhande, a budding disciple, showed a fine voice as she gave, vocal support to her mentor.


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