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“Vasant-Vaibhav”, a memorable event

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The Economic Times, May 15, 1988


“Vasant-Vaibhav”, the three-session soiree, held at Matunga, on April 30 and May 1, was yet another major musical event that came almost at the end of the current sammelan. It was memorable, too, in many ways.

Organised by the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal to collect funds for a three-storey building which is being erected to commemorate the contribution of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, the celebrated evangelist in Hindustani music, at Vashi, in New Bombay, “Vasant-Vaibhav” brought three topmost vocalists of the country to perform on its common platform.

What adds significance to the soiree is that the billing of these three vocalists–acknowledged as the “Big Three” in Hindustani music–represented two “streams” of ideologies which dominate the scene today. Kumar Gandharva (63), Kishori Amonkar (56) and Bhimsen Joshi (66) were the virtuosi that came to perform, one after another, at the three sessions–in that order.

Kumar Gandharva and Kishori Amonkar have come to be rightly acclaimed as exponents of avant garde vocalism in Hindustani music. Indeed, each has evolved a free style of their own that often seems to abjure tradition–the very tradition which has nurtured and fostered their artistic genius–and they seek to give their music continous life and excitement.

Bhimsen Joshi does not reveal the spirit of a rebel in his approach to his music. If anything, his approach is that of a silent reformer, whose beliefs in some of our age-old conventions in classical music have remained unchanged. Yet, he has moved with the changing times and tastes of music-loving audiences. That is because he has the right instincts and plenty of natural talent to communicate them to his listeners. Added to this is his sheer versatility which also gives his music the kind of liveliness and excitement associated with the music of his avant garde confreres.

The full-fledged recitals at the “Vasant-Vaibhav” sammelan by these three luminaries came as a resounding affirmation, once again, of their personality bound vocalism.

Although Kumar started his recital with a slightly uncertain voice which gave his opening Bhimpalas a patchy uneven character, he got going with his succeeding Yaman Kalyan with his usual aplomb. It revealed, as always, an adroit but baffling assimilation of many popular influence of Omkarnath Thakur’s gayaki. There was of course heavy emphasis on the folk idiom–a quality which lends to Kumar’s style, his distinctive note of individuality.

It was Kishori’s Miyan-Ki-Todi at the morning session of the following day that possibly brought out the best of her generative talent and genius. It id tend to loosen the rules of the classical frame and content but not much. In fact there were many traits in the exploration which reminded us of the master-fully cohesive style of her celebrated mother and mentor, the octogenarian Moghubai Kurdikar.

Opinions might differ over the latter-day fashion which Kishori has come to adopt in engaging her disciples for providing her vocal support. These days she has a male and a female disciple who lend her sangat. The mingling of voices of a radically different character does not quite create a pleasurable effect of the listening ear.

On the contrary, it tends to detract, in so small measuer, from the quality of the main performance. It is quite understandable that she should try to project the talent of her favourite proteges. But this is not the way to project them. It might even prove counter-productive to the future of the young talented hopefuls.

It was a rate fusion of intelligence and passion that marked Bhimsen Joshi’s performance at the closing evening session. Be it his Puriya Dhanashree, with which he began, or the compositions like Bahar or Jogia or even the Marathi number–all of which comprised his repertoire–he sang them in a powerful voice.

The passages showed, once again, his penchant for the dramatic, the ornamental and the virile wherever these attributes were necessary to vivify the mood. Forthrightness was matched with simplicity, specially when he passed into rapid strain.

There were no formal speeches or any function to mark the sammelans inauguration. By all accounts, the show was a sell-out. Admission was, incidentally, by invitation and those who attended the programme were largely drawn from the elite sections or fonors to the memorial fund.


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