By Shrinkhla Sahai
You could have mistaken it for an evening of good friends pulling each other’s leg over their favourite football teams. But this was far from that. It was a jugalbandi in Hindustani classical music. Salil Bhatt (satvikveena), Matthias Müller (guitar) and Pranshu Chaturlal (tabla) infused the concert with refreshingly easy-going camaraderie as they exchanged appreciative glances over smooth arrival at the sama, threw a challenge at one another in an intense sawal-jawab, or rounded-off a complicated gat pattern with a laugh.
Organised by Pracheen Kala Kendra, Chandigarh, and Lok Kala Manch, New Delhi, the collaboration between the satvikveena and the guitar presented an enjoyable musical dialogue. The conversation between the two instrumentalists, Salil Bhatt and Matthias Müller, started almost a decade ago when they attended each other’s concerts in Switzerland. While Salil Bhatt is an accomplished performer with many energetic feats on his creation -- the satvikveena, Müller is trained in classical and jazz guitar, and later studied Carnatic music.
The duo began with the raga Basant Mukhari. The delineation of a luxurious alap brought out the acoustic character of both the string instruments. While the satvikveena had a strong presence and a higher-pitched tone, the guitar presented an inward-looking and deeply poised musical texture. Bhatt’s dexterity was matched by Müller’s lyrical quality. As they meandered into the jod and jhala segments, it was striking that both the musicians picked up their cues keenly and enjoyed each other’s music. They were joined by the smiling and cherubic young tabla player, Pranshu Chaturlal, who rose to the occasion to claim his moment of rhythmic virtuosity. The second composition was based on raga Keervani, titled Hichki. Bhatt’s interpretation was tinged with pathos while Müller followed it up with a lilting melody. The composition in raga Jog was balanced with elements of jazz and precise pauses. A brief and delightful Bhairavi with hues of folk melody was the final composition for the evening.
Presented as a unique Indo-German collaboration, the jugalbandi had an engaging appeal, and was musically exciting, along with a dash of mirth that is rather rare to find in classical concerts.