Where tradition meets experiment
By MOHAN NADKARNI
The Economic Times, January 10, 1988
A novel and thoughtful concert presentation marked the inauguration of the golden jubilee of the Ramnarain Ruia College, the renowned educational institution of Matunga in Central Bombay, a few days ago.
Novel, because the college authorities, conventionally speaking, departed from the all-too-familiar ritual of inviting a chief guest to start such celebrations. Instead, they hit upon the idea of a music concert to mark the opening of the event.
Thoughtful, because what was presented to the invited audience was an experiment that was rooted in tradition. The four-hour programme was aptly styled “Sangeet Sandhya”, thematic in character and designed to vivify the sentiments of prema (spiritual love) and bhakti (devotion) through the medium of a choice number of evening and night ragas that are traditionally associated with these two human moods.
What is more, the sequence of presentation of these melodies, sung in traditional styles, purported to conform to the age-old time-theory that has come to govern the Hindustani ragas.
What made the programme all the more significant was that three of its brilliant alumni (who have, after taking their degrees in the academics, branched out into classical music to emerge today as top-notch performers from the younger set), joined in to conceive, plan and present their show.
The moving spirit behind the show was Vidyadhar Vyas, presently head of the music department of Bombay Univesity, who was assisted b y Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar and Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande.
For nearly four hours, the audience was regaled to raga-based music, set to singing styles that ranged from dhrupad, dhamur, khayal, tappa, thumri and hori, as also bhajan and Marathi pad.
The programme covered as many as 19 ragas which were sung in rotation by the three vocalists, one after another, in easy succession. The repertoire covered Multani, Shree, Yaman, Yaman-Kalyan, Bihag, Nand, Hamir, Bageshree, Malkauns, Mishra Gara, Pilu, Darbari, Paraj, Des, Bhairav, Nat Bhairav, Todi and the final Bhairavi.
Vyas, who also compered the programme, briefly prefaced each number, explaining the concordant relationship between its song-content and its musical form. The composition (bandishes) of the various ragas were set to medium and fast tempo and were marked by brevity and coherence.
It was an utterly wellrehearsed effort, which also revealed the undoubted originality and virtuosity of the participating youngsters as they came, one after another, to render their pieces with their impassioned voices.
In essence, the concert was enlightening and entertaining in point of its form, design, content and approach.
Even so, one may have a bone or two to pick with the way in which the melodies were arranged. For instance, if one strictly goes by the time-history, it was intriguing to find Hamir, associated with the second quarter of the night, coming after Bihag, which is conventionally rendered a little before midnight.
One also felt that two members in Yaman, with one in Yaman-Kalyan in between, could be avoided. As it happened, they came in succession and, therefore, sounded slightly redundant. The same could be said of Bhairav and Net-Bhairav.
The instrumental support that came from Anant Kunte on the sarangi and Chandrashekar Vaze on the tabla was in accord with the ideas and intuitions of the main singers. But Sheshikant Khambete, the second percussionist, seemed rather passive, even diffident, in his playing. One could often discern occasional fluctuations in laya, which were distracting and irritating.
Earlier, Principal Valsangkar of the Ruia Colelge said in his welcome speech that the inaugural programme was sponsored by another past student, Mr Dandekar, Managing Director of Camlin Ltd., one of the country’s largest manufacturers of stationery.
A multi-storeyed building was already under construction to provide for accommodation to the growing number of students. Besides a man-power development center, the college authorities have plans to hold regular music concerts round the year, in order to motivate and involve more and more students into participating in musical activity.