Song of Surrender

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The legacy of Ariyakudi

A tribute on his 50th death anniversary

By Samudri

On 23 January this year, on the 50th death anniversary of Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Carnatica, in association with the Ariyakudi Legacy Centre, presented a musical homage under the overall theme Sri  Ariyakudi: the Legacy Lives On at Arkay Convention Centre, Mylapore, Chennai. The programme was followed by two more commemorative events in quick succession at different venues.

The first programme was highlighted by a lecture by Alepey Venkatesan Ariyakudi's Tunesmithy on the wealth of compositions by Ariyakudi, with particular reference to the Tiruppavai, with songs from the repertoire rendered by Alepey Venkatesan'ss disciples Vaishnavi Anand and Shruti Jayaraman. 

This was followed by a delightful lecture-cum-concert programme by senior vocalist S. Sowmya on Arunachala Kavi's Ramanatakam, with some excellent singing by young musicians Bharat Sundar, Aswath Narayanan, and Gayatri.

"In the fitness of things, this musical homage is to be paid by generations of singers, hailing from different schools of music, " said Venkatesan, stressing that the Ariyakudi influence on musicians went beyond his own disciples and followers of his bani.. It is with this idea that various singers have come together to participate.

On 27 January, Venkatesan gave a weighty yet enjoyable lecture on the Ariyakudi bani at the Sivagami Pethachi hall on Luz Church Road. "A Compendium on Ariyakudi" an illuminating DVD created and performed by Venkatesan was released by chief guest N. Gopalaswami, Chairman, Kalakshetra and received by guest of honour vidushi Sudha Ragunathan. The highlight of the evening was a concert in the Ariyakudi by by vidushis Ranjani and Gayatri. 

The 50th anniversary event culminated in a concert of Ariyakudi's pallavis, presented by Venkatesan and star vocalist Abhishek Raghuram on 28 January at the Mylapore Fine Arts Auditorium, Mylapore, Chennai. The audience enjoyed an in-depth talk on Ariyakudi's pallavis by Venkatesan.

The whole tribute to Ariyakudi, fifty years after his demise, was conducted in a fittingf manner, with great warmth and attention to detail.

Monday, 20 March 2017

A Peep into the Past

Many veterans of the previous century had always been against the microphone, notable among those being Palghat Mani Iyer and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. So it was intriguing for a youngster like me to see how a concert without mikes would be, having been used to hearing music with micrpohones. This led me to the mikeless concert organised by The ARTery in Royapettah. The proximity of the audience to the performing musicians is a great boon in this venue. The way rasikas maintained talam and didn’t use mobile phones or get up during the Thani Avarthanam highlighted the need for more such spaces.

The concert was by Smt. S Sowmya and Sri D Seshachari, one of the Hyderabad Brothers. What struck the listener was the stark difference between both the styles. Seshachari had a masculine style dominated by straight notes, reminding one of Alathur Subbier. Also, the kanakku element was dominant in his rendering of kalpanaswaras. On the other hand, Sowmya was at her feminine best, expressing the best ideas of the Dhanam school. The intricate gamakas reminded one of T Brinda and T Muktha. While the individuality was visible in the alapanas, the duo combined well to give a wholesome offering.

The bill of fare comprised of a good mix of popular and not so oft heard krithis. In the beginning, there was Chinna Nadana (Kalanidhi), followed by a concise exposition of Suruti (Aadidum Arase). The Suruti krithi is a composition of Dr. S Ramanathan, Sowmya’s guru whose centenary year is being observed. The pallavi was beautifully structured and reminded one of the music of the doyen with its simplicity. Dhyaname Varamaina in Dhanyasi followed. A quick Ni Bhakthi Bhagya Sudha in Jayamanohari enlivened the proceedings. The highlight of the concert was a serene Veena Pusthaka Dharini in Vegavahini. The slow pace of the krithi in the serene atmosphere was sheer bliss.

The main piece of the evening was Ethavunara, preceeded by an elaborate alapana. The differing styles were so refreshing to hear. It was reflective of the variety which Carnatic Music offered. BU Ganesh Prasad’s reply on the violin was refreshing. The krithi followed with niraval and swaram at the traditional Seetha Gowri. The Thani Avarthanam by Mannargudi Eswaran was energetic and well received by the audience.

The post thani segment had a lot of padams and javalis which included Ososi (Mukhari), Taarumaaru (Natakurinji), Nithirayil (Panthuvarali) and Telesunura (Saveri). The musicians rendered the pieces alternatively. The brilliance of the Dhanam school was evident from Sowmya’s rendering. The pathantharam of Dhanam school is truly rich in its content and was soaked with intricate gamakas, voice modulation and so many different phrases. The magic of the Dhanam school is something truly one of its own and Dr Sowmya needs to be appreciated for her adherence to that style in its entirety.

The concert was one which would linger for a long time in the minds of the rasikas who attended the same. The atmosphere without electric lighting, without mikes and chairs made one wonder whether the doyens were actually right in what they said. While technology has definitely aided in taking Carnatic Music to the masses, a doubt lingers whether chamber music in this type of setting is the best setting possible. One more thing which could set in is higher interaction between the audience and the artistes. That would truly take us back to the good old days. Kudos to the organisers “The ARTery” for this idea and putting the show together.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Neela Ramgopal honoured

As a part of their Spring Music Festival, Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira conferred the title Sangita Vedantha Dhurina on renowned vocalist, Sangita Kala Acharya Neela Ramgopal along with a purse of Rs. One lakh and a silver medal. The award was presented by His Holiness Sri Sri Yadugiri Yathiraja Narayana Ramanuja Jeeyar, Melukote on Sunday 12 February 2017 at the Bangalore Gayana Samaja Auditorium.

N Bhagyalakshmi

By Anjana Anand

N Bhagyalakshmi is an established vocalist who has been instrumental in coaching students at Kalakshetra in music for a decade now. A versatile artist, she strives to perfect her art and has accompanied many leading dancers with vocal support. She now teaches full-time at Kalakshetra. Bhagyalakshmi is also the spouse of the well-known violinist Natarajan Sigamani. Her passion for Carnatic music is evident in this conversation with Sruti.

Can you describe your background in music?

I pursued my diploma in Veena, training under Professor Rajeswari at Kalakshetra. At the same time, I also began studying music and completed my B.A in music. I wrote the Madras University exams for the Sangeetha Siromani. Back then, it was equivalent to an M.A in music.

When did you start singing for dance ? Who were the artists you accompanied early in your career?

I began singing for Krishnaveni Lakshmanan after I finished my diploma in Veena. She gave me many opportunities. I was also accompanying the dancer Sujatha Srinivasan. I then had this break singing for Malavika Sarukkai--in 1992. There was no looking back. I never imagined I would sing for her permanently but our association lasted almost eleven years. In a month, we were busy with performances for at least fifteen days! I learnt a lot from Malavika. She is a thorough professional, and I appreciate that about her. Be it rehearsals, or the routine and her practice, she was very inspiring.

Any memorable teachers you particularly recollect learning from?

My most memorable experience was learning from Dr. Balamuralikrishna. He was a fantastic teacher and gave me many helpful hints on how to sing a particular ragam, how the ‘ucharippu’ is most important in a song and so on. At a festival in Narada Gana Sabha, Mahalakshmi, a student of Kalakshetra, performed only Balamuralikrishna’s items. I had the opportunity then to learn from him again for the kutcheri. After I left Kalakshetra, I continued my training with Charumathi Ramachandran and I learned a lot of her repertoire. At this point, I also began to accompany her sister, Lakshmi Vishwanathan in her dance performances. I also trained under Vidwan Bombay Ramachandran, imbibing a many kritis and varnams from him. What I learnt from these gurus has really helped me evolve as a musician and helps me even now as a teacher. From my mother, who was my first teacher, to Bombay Ramachandran, they have all guided me to travel this far. I would like to specially mention Rajaram Sir who was my mentor, my father-like figure. Of course, my most important pillar of support throughout has been my husband, who is also a violinist and encourages me in everything I do.

At one point you were very actively singing for dance and then took a break. Was that a conscious decision?

It was not really a conscious decision. My daughter was born in 2005 and I had already stopped singing for Malavika in 2004. Between 2005 and 2007, I looked after my child, hence did not perform anywhere. It was a dilemma for me as I was torn between singing for dance and taking care of my child. However, the transition to teaching came smoothly and happened naturally. In 2007, Leela Samson asked me if I would like to teach at Kalakshetra, and I immediately complied. I came back to Kalakshetra, and it has been such a beautiful experience these ten years. I haven’t travelled much after I took up teaching. Right now, I love coaching my students. I also take Skype lessons from students countries such as the US and Denmark. However, I make it a point to sing for dance kutcheris during the season.

Any awards you particularly recollect?

In 1995, when Malavika Sarukkai danced at Narada Gana Sabha, I was her accompanying vocalist. That year, I received the best singer for dance award and it was covered by Sruti magazine. In fact, I still retain a copy of it! I am delighted that I was honoured with the prestigious award, even as I recall it now.

I also fondly remember singing for CV Chandrashekar’s daughter (Manjari?) at Krishna Gana Sabha around 2000-2001, where I was awarded the best singer.

In Baltimore, U.S.A., I was conferred with an honorary citizenship by the Mayor.

Can you tell us about some of your trips while singing for dance, and any experiences that you cherish?

I recollect a number of memorable experiences in my singing career. One particular favourite is singing for Malavika Sarukkai at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. It was a moment of pride for me.

We also attended the Festival of India in Brazil, and travelling to Japan, Philippines and Singapore from there on. Another cherished memory was singing for Malavika at the Theatre De La Ville in Paris. We performed the same repertoire for six days, but each day, it was a different audience. It didn’t feel like a concert at all! We also did a memorable tour of Germany covering 18 cities in 22 days!

Of course, of all memories, the most wonderful was when we performed at Pandit Ravi Shankar’s house. He appreciated my singing and that was an unforgettable moment. Then, there were so many other concerts – at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Jacob’s Pillow at Massachusetts – each of them a gem of a memory.

I used to sing for Rhadha even while accompanying Malavika. I enjoyed singing for Rhadha. It was the pristine Vazhuvoor bani with Rhadha, from alarippu to manduka sabdam and so on. I still sing for Rhadha and A Lakshman. By the time, Malavika had begun exploring thematic performances. There was much creativity among artists and the dancers, and both Rhadha and Malavika give ample opportunities for the musicians to be at their creative best. I also thoroughly enjoyed singing Krishna Karnamritam for Seetharama Sarma Sir. I absolutely relish singing for the creative aspects in dance.

How do you keep in touch with music? Tell us something about your association with Kalakshetra.

As I have already mentioned, I am actively involved in teaching music now and perform sometimes during the season. I sincerely thank Kalakshetra because that is where I learnt a lot – it was the institute that gave me knowledge and my music. I learnt practically everything from Kalakshetra. I would especially express my gratitude to Rajaram sir, who was the principal then. My co-artists have been very helpful and they have made me what I am today. I would also thank Leela Samson and Priyadarsini Govind for inviting me to be a visiting faculty. I would like to impart the knowledge I received from my gurus to my students at Kalakshetra.

Birthdays & Anniversaries


V.V. Subramanyam - Buy Now

Monday, 6 March 2017

Ekaika: the singular legacy of Deba Prasad Das

By Sunil Kothari

Gajendra Panda
'Ekaika' means solo and Gajendra Panda, prime disciple of Odissi doyen Deba Prasad Das, has taken it upon himself to revive the glory of the solo format of Odissi and project his guru’s vision under the banner of Ekaika. Gajendra Panda feels that the recent trend at all major dance festivals, be it Konark or Khajuraho, privileges group presentations of Odissi, thereby marginalising the potential of a talented solo dancer in the process. Under the auspices of his institution Tridhara—the very name suggestive of the three streams of his guru Deba Prasad Das’s approach, that is, tribal, folk and traditional Odissi—Panda has launched Ekaika with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Government of Odisha.

While his concern has been echoed by dance observers and critics, the organisers feel that group dance offers scope for many young dancers to perform while solo dance loses its reach on a large arena. Both arguments have some validity. However, in the case of a closed auditorium with a capacity of about 500 seats, a solo performance—especially the abhinaya can be seen and enjoyed. As part of Ekaika, Panda presented his disciple Aarya Nande from Sarangarh at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar.

Speaking on the occasion, dignitaries recalled Guru Deba Prasad’s long association with Indrani Rahman who put Odissi on the international map. They also stressed the importance of taking Odissi beyond its strongholds of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack even as they lauded the efforts of Gajendra Panda in discovering and grooming talent in far-flung Sarangarh on the border of Orissa.

Aarya Nande opened her recital with the traditional mangalacharan.  The invocation dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and Narasimha had the hallmark of Guru Deba Prasad Das’s usage of sabdaswarapata. This tradition of sabdaswarapata, like the kavits in Kathak, lends an aural texture with its epithets and mnemonic syllables.  The Deba Prasad bani is distinct for his choreography of sthayi nritya and recitation of the ukutas, mnemonic syllables like kititkka tahum tahum ta theinda.

Manaudharana, an Odiya bhajan by Upendra Bhanja in praise of Lord Jagannatha, set to Misra Arabhi raga and Triputa tala, was choreographed with communicative sanchari bhavas. Similarly the episode of Gajendra moksha was suffused with drama. The court scene in the  Mahabharata depicting the game of dice and Draupadi’s humiliation are old familiars to audiences of dance and drama. So is the story of  Siva saving his devotee Markandeya from Yama, the god of death. The dancer has to guard against portraying exaggerated abhinaya and understand the fine line between the artistic and the theatrical.


Aarya Nande
The nritta oriented pallavi choreographed by Gajendra in Keeravani with music composed by Lakshmikant Palit had some movements of folk dance. There was an element of abandon in the lifting of the leg and waving of the arms, with the dancer often performing in a circle. Aarya, however, needs to rigorously practise the chauka position. The concluding Durga Tandava saw Aarya in her element, performing with vigorous frenzied movements to highlight goddess Durga’s tandava. Guru Deba Prasad Das is known for such compositions that he brought within the fold of the Odissi repertoire.

Vocalist Vinod Bihari Panda rendered the text of the song in a powerful baritone while the accompaniment on mardala by Ramachandra Behera, violin by Agnimitra Behera, sitar by Swapaneswar Chakrabarti and flute by Jabahar Misra were pitch-perfect and evoked the precise shades of the mood. It is indeed heartening to see the efforts of Gajendra Panda, a performing artist himself, in keeping his guru’s tradition alive and imparting training to young dancers of promise.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

SaMaPa Sangeet Sammelan

By Meena Banerjee


During the 12th SaMaPa Sangeet Sammelan held from 2 to 4 December 2016, at Kamani Hall in Delhi, it was proved what a commonly heard evening raga like Yaman (slow Ektaal and fast Teental khayals) can do when reverentially treated by a maestro like Venkatesh Kumar. His pathos-ridden, innovative phrases and taans, highlighted by his sur-filled, robust, rich voice and immaculate sense of balancing emotions with virtuosity made the recital captivating. Sensitively supported by Keshav Joshi (tabla) and Vinay Mishra, he also sang two traditional compositions in raga Jaijaiwanti (medium-paced Jhaptaal and fast Teental) replete with sparkling taans and pin-pointed tihais.

The latter was the most thrilling charm of Kathak maestro Rajendra Gangani’s recital as the grand finale of the three-day extravaganza. It was amazing how, during the footwork, he used each part of his foot-sole for different effects with equal dynamism and how accurately he hit each of the sam (first beat of the rhythmic cycle). His forceful, masculine movements were supported by an equally inspired Fateh Singh Gangani’s tabla and young Rishi Upadhyay’s pakhawaj. He essentially presented pure dance in Teentaal; and, for a brief abhinaya, chose a beautiful bhajan Pavan mand sugandh set to Roopak.

The most commendable part of this soiree was its focus on dhrupad. While young dhrupad-duo Milan (vocal) and Mahima (pakhawaj), daughters-disciples of Pandit Ravishankar Upadhyay, regaled the listeners with their stimulated but brief recital (Bagesree Chautaal and Adana Sooltaal); Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar’s elaborate alap in raga Jaijaiwanti was soothingly melodious. The jod segment focussed on emulating the aural effects of pakhawaj (unlike other Dagars who replicate the veena). For this he included some other-than-usually-accepted vowels. It was interesting; but soon after he lost the accuracy of pitch in the upper reaches. However, with the able support of pakhawaj maestro Mohan Shyam Sharma, delighting bol-baant (rhythmic divisions of lyrics) in Chautaal (Muraliya kaise baaji) compensated nicely. He also sang raga Malkauns. 

Bhajan Sopori showcased the versatility of his modified santoor with usual élan while playing raga Kausi Kanada (slow Ektaal and fast Teentaal) heavily decked up with meend, gamaka and delicate krintan-like phrases. His masterly crafted rhythmic variants received brilliant answers on the tabla of Rashid Mustafa Thirakwa. Even at a break-neck speed, both displayed superb anticipation and replies. The following Kafi-tappa was unique. A lot of ‘gitkiri’-like loops were created by the maestro with telling effect.

These fine embellishments were accompanied by purab ang gayaki’s nuances when thumri exponent Malini Awasthi offered Najuk baiyan kyun marori (Khamaj) with beautiful bol-banao. Supported by Dharmanath Mishra (harmonium), Ramkumar Mishra (tabla) and Murad Ali’s emotive sarangi, the laggi, for crisp rhythmic effect, could do with fewer words though. Next Kafi-Piloo, set to Addha, arrived with superbly emoted lyrics. She concluded with her guru Girija Devi’s oft-sung Deewana kiye Shyam; but gave it her own stamp very effectively. Before this she also paid tributes to Rahat Ali, her previous guru, through a Pahadi dadra with unmistakable Punjabi (Patiala) flavour. Jadua daar gayi, a lively ‘Tona’-dadra (Keeravani) was the penultimate item of her enthralling recital.

The young turks Kamal Sabri (sarangi) with Rafiuddin Sabri (tabla), and Abhay Rustam Sopori (santoor), with Mithilesh Jha (tabla) and Rishi Upadhyay (pakhawaj), chose rare ragas for their recitals. While Sabri played raga Saugandh, Sopori etched Nirmalkauns with a rare gat composition set to ten-and-a-half beats. Both virtuosos, undoubtedly, are stylish representatives of their respective traditions and promise a great future. Other participants were Gaurav Mazumdar (sitar) with Akram Khan (tabla), Bholanath Mishra (vocal) with Durjay Bhaumik (tabla) along with Zakir Dhaulpuri (harmonium) and Mehtab Ali Niazi (sitar) with Romaan Khan (tabla). 

Though the motto of the Sopori Academy of Music and Performing Arts (SaMaPa) is ‘Jan-jan tak sangeet’ (music to the masses), this national level platform for presentation, propagation, and teaching of traditional music and performing arts, apparently, also treads in the arena of fine arts under the dynamic stewardship of Bhajan Sopori and his son-disciple Abhay Rustam Sopori. The flower-bedecked foyer of the famous venue wore the look of an art exhibition with vibrantly colourful paintings by artists from Kashmir.

Widely acclaimed as a ‘cultural bridge’ of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country, SaMaPa has created a new generation of connoisseurs that recognises the contribution of individuals for their tireless efforts in propagating and keeping the traditional folk and classical culture alive. The award ceremony preceding the musicals on the last two days proved this point when Baba Yogendra and Dr. Shobha Kosar (heads of cultural institutions dedicated to promotion and propagation of Indian art and culture), Venkatesh Kumar (veteran classical vocalist), Kamal Sabri (young sarangi exponent), Abdul Rashid Hafiz and Gulzar Ahmad Ganaie (Kashmir’s folk singers) and this writer (music appreciation and musicology) were warmly felicitated.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan (18 Feb1927- 4 Jan 2017)

A tribute

By Meena Banerjee

Sitar maestro Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, who passed away at his Bandra (Mumbai) residence  in January this year, was in the league of such great names in the field as Ravi Shankar,  Vilayat Khan and Nikhil Banerjee,. He effortlessly straddled the worlds of Hindustani classical music and Hindi cinema, and established the ‘Jafferkhani baaj’ – a unique style of playing the instrument.  He was highly decorated, receiving such awards as Tantri Vilas (which he received at the hands of former prime minister Indira Gandhi), Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Tagore Ratna and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

How did Halim Jaffer Khan achieve such eminence when the legendary triumvirate of sitar were at their peak? This question haunted me, and I put it to him when, during his last Kolkata visit in 2004, I met him at the residence of his prime disciple Harashankar Bhattacharya, whom he fondly addressed as his ‘Bada Beta’ (elder son). He took the question very sportingly and answered, ‘Riyaaz ki roshni ne raah kar di (Devoted practice illuminated my path) and my disciples are now following it. In 1976, I founded the Halim Academy of Sitar in Mumbai. Zunain, my son-disciple and a few dedicated disciples like Prasad Joglekar and Gargi Shinde have come forward to take care of the Academy; and Harashankar founded ‘Madhyami’ here in Kolkata to promote and propagate the Jafferkhani Baaj. His young boy Deepshankar is showing great promise of keeping the flag flying high.’

I asked him why he calls called his style ‘Jaffarkhani’ and not ‘Indore Baaj’ as a member of the Indore Beenkar gharana that follows the tradition of Ustad Bande Ali Khan. He patiently explained that since his playing method had experienced a paradigm shift from the tradition he belonged to, and since his singer father had sowed the seeds to invent new traditions within the tradition, he dedicated this baaj to his father Jaffer Khan.

Born to this renowned vocalist and erudite musician in Jawra, Madhya Pradesh, Khansaheb’s early life was steeped in music, related scriptures and literature. Extremely well versed in Indian philosophy he quoted Sanskrit slokas effortlessly and on this occasion too he floored me with some such quotes.  

According to Khansaheb, he started his musical career with the All India Radio while in his teens in the early 1940s. He was among the earliest trendsetters of Indian classical musicians collaborating with western musicians. Khansaheb  partnered jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck in 1958, even before the Beatles met Ravi Shankar. He also teamed up with English classical guitarist Julian Bream in 1963. He became the first Hindustani classical musician to collaborate with a Carnatic musician when he did so with veena vidwan Emani Sankara Sastry.

He was also among the earliest sitarists to perform in Hindi cinema. As far back as 1946, composer Khurshid Anwar first invited him and he later worked with eminent composers like Vasant Desai, Madan Mohan, Naushad and many others. He played the sitar for KL Saigal's film Parwana (1947) followed by epic films like Sampoorna Ramayan, and Mughal-E-Azam, classical dance and music based blockbusters like Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje and Goonj Uthi Shehnai, apart from other hits like Yadein, Shabab, Kohinoor and numerous others. Raga Hamir-based song ‘Madhuban me Radhika naache re’, soulfully sung by Mohd Rafi with Khansaheb’s scintillating sitar as its backbone was a big hit in the 1960s.

It was this wide spectrum of his music-world that chiselled Khansaheb's musical persona. He remained an extremely broad-minded traditionalist who embraced all aesthetically appealing aspects of music belonging to different genres – be it folk or light classical or pristinely pure classical. He adopted numerous Carnatic ragas like Keeravani, Latangi and  Kanakangi and modified them to suit his baaj and Hindustani classical music. Khansaheb also invented ragas including Madhyami.

Shraddhanjali

Madhyami is also the name of the organization founded by Harashankar Bhattacharya under whose aegis an emotion-charged ‘Shraddhanjali’ was offered to his Guruji Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan on 28 January at Bhasha Parishad Sabhagar. Choking with tears Bhattacharya recounted', "Guruji selected Madhyami as the identity of this organization because its idea was conceived in my residence in Madhyamgram,  a suburb of Kolkata". Harashankar and Deepshankar played a father-son duet in raga Marwa, the first raga taught to the senior by their beacon. 

Earlier, while discussing the characteristics of this demanding style he had clarified, ‘Guruji’s style was noticed and recognised as ‘exclusive’ way back in 1940s! Jafferkhani baaj is almost completely based on tantrakari which incorporates almost every imaginable aspect of instrumentalism. It has some unique components of vocalism as well.

‘Usually sitar players start their recital by strumming the strings for resonance, but we start our alap with “lahak” or a kind of echo. When the index finger of the left hand presses the ‘baaj’ string to contact the fret of a note, plucking the same string with the mizrab brings out the natural echoing tone of that particular note. Guruji invented this style of using echo and meend-echo (same method that glides over several notes). This is difficult. It needs very gentle and delicate touch with tremendous control on each stroke, but leaves a different and perceptible impact.

‘We call our alap ‘jod alap’. It has a tempo faster than usual.  The jod too begins on a faster than usual tempo and uses a unique ‘chapka anga’ which covers six-to-twelve notes in one stroke of mizrab. Fine ornaments like zamzama (two notes in descending order within one jerky stroke), khatka (ditto in ascending order), murki (three notes in one stroke), uchaat (combination of khatka-murki), uchaat-ladi (stringed uchaats) and ghaseet (sliding movement) make it heavily ornate. Moreover, the playing of two strings simultaneously, like guitar, further gives a unique chord-like tonality. According to Guruji jhala becomes unnecessary after all this.

‘Our gatkaris (whole gamut of playing the gat-composition) incorporate complex rhythm-play in which each beat gets divided in several parts. For example, usually a Masirkhani gat begins from the 13th beat of teental (16 beats). But Guruji’s composition often take-off from 12 and ½ beat or from 14th beat. One must understand the starting from even numbered beat is much more difficult from the odd-numbered ones. The gatkaris also encourages the traditional ‘ladant-ka-baaj’ when both sitarist and tabla player improvise simultaneously before arriving at the sam (first beat of the tala cycle). The soft tonality turns to power-packed melody at this stage, which climaxes in the thhonk-jhala with greater number of chikari strokes than in a normal jhala.’

Deepshankar, perhaps the youngest exponent of Jafferkhani Baaj, said, ‘Since both Dadu and Baba always encouraged me not to copy them but to think and analyse before following them, and since I am deeply influenced by my vocalist mother, a disciple of Pandit A Kanan, I try to inject vocalism in my playing. Dadu, as a token of approval, soaked in blessings, gave me his jacket which he wore on the day of his debut recital.

‘What can be a more precious award than this!’, said Deepshankar, who, along with his father received the prestigious ‘Jadu Bhatta Award’ in December 2016. The award acknowledges a successful guru-sishya duo that strives to carry the tradition forward. ‘Guruji asked me to show the trophy and I had my seat reserved in January. How would I know that this would be utilised to attend his last rites?’ said a shaken Harashankar Bhattacharya.

Birthdays & Anniversaries