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Talented wasted on trivialities

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The Economic Times, August 20, 1989

Amid the steadily brightening prospect for traditional music, one does come by depressing instances in which artistes, though mercifully few, are still seen to interest themselves only with trivialities, with crass disregard for the more profound virtues of concert presentation of classical music as an art-form.

If they are instrumentalists, all that matters to them is a dazzling display of technical command over the resources of their chosen medium. As for singers, the voice, basically the vehicle of expression, is not a means to an end to them, but an end in itself. The object, in both cases, is plainly populist – an irrepressible ambition to win cheap applause from the galary.

Sharad Sutawane’s vocal recital at the Dadar Matunga Cultural Centre on April 13 came as a tell-tale example of misconceived ideas of true musicianship. Indeed, Sutawane, who belongs to Nagpur but is now based in Pune, working with AIR, hold high credentials of worth-while studentship with veterans musicians–teachers like Bhayyasaheb Wazalwar and Shankerrao Sapre. He is also endowed with a clear, sonorous voice, marked by good depth and range. It could well be the envy of many a vocalist of our time.

With all this, one was saddened to find that the artiste tended to waste his performing talent on catchy, ephemeral tricks of tone and style, which were more impressive than expressive.

True, Sutawane’s repertoire for his three-hour programme covered a fairly wide canvas. We heard vilambit and drut khayals in Marwa, Des, Kedara and Chandrakauns. In between were fast-tempo numbers in two unfamiliar ragas, announced as Vijayanagari and Rasaranjani. According to the artiste, these were both ancient and rare melodies. But he also specially mentioned that the compositions, in which the ragas were rendered, were his own. And he sang them, with great gusto.

But then – believe or not – while singing them, the artiste was seen browsing through the written song-texts of his “self-composed bandishes” from the notebook he had placed in from of him!

Broadly speaking, it is his renditions in the popular ragas, mentioned earlier, that emerged a shade better than the presentations of rare melodies. They showed the artiste’s awareness of the mechanics of khayal-singing, though he could have done due justice to the alap phase and eschewed his overweening fondness for sargams and taans. He ended his recital with a Marathi stage-song and a composition in Bhiravi.

Sutawane was accompanied by Nana Mulay on the tabla and Vishwanath Kanhere on the harmonium. Although both are masters of their instruments, Mulay sounded noisy on occasions, while Kanhere looked unsure on his reeds, once or twice, in his reproduction of the rare ragas presented by the principal artiste.


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