Music in memory of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi

February 24, 2022 0 Comments


Bhimsen Joshi’s popularity and respect transcend gharanas and generations. Born on February 4, 1922, his birth centenary this year was celebrated with concerts in various cities across India, culminating in a three-day titled ‘Poornahuti’, featuring 38 artistes at Pune. The all-day event was organised by the Kanebua Pratishthan, which held a similar festival last year.

The first two days featured instrumentalists and Kathak dancers. Quite a few flautists performed, the first and foremost being maestro Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia accompanied by Debasmita and Suchismita Chatterji, followed by two of his senior disciples, Rakesh Chaurasia and Rupak Kulkarni. It was interesting to see how different the presentations of Rakesh and Rupak were — the former chose a light interpretation of the morning raag Lalit, flamboyantly presented in the gayaki style, foraying into unorthodox note combinations while opting for sprightly compositions. Ojas Adhiya on the tabla provided excellent and interactive interludes. Rupak followed the traditional tantrakaari presentation of aalap-jor-jhala, with an expert though sedate accompaniment by Mukesh Jadhav. Rupak chose the somewhat rare raag Prabhat Bhairav. Amar Oak, the fourth flautist, presented with elan the raag Vrindavani Sarang. His concert showed that he is as proficient in the classical idiom as in light music.

Sitar exponent Pt. Nayan Ghosh’s Mian ki Todi stood out for its raagdari, proportion, and presentation and, for me, this was the most satisfying instrumental concert of the festival. Bringing in a pleasantly different approach was Purbayan Chatterji, of the Senia Maihar gharana, who interestingly played a raag of his own, a combination of Patdeep and Shahana. Sahana Bannerji, representing the Rampur Senia gharana, presented traditional and well-structured compositions.

Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The only sarodiyas were brothers Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash; their inclusion in the festival was especially welcome as Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, while in Gwalior, had briefly learnt from their grandfather, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan. Presenting the rarely played raag Lalita Gauri (which these days is usually heard only in vocal concerts), Amaan was in his element. The next raag they chose was Nandkauns.

It was laudable to include the sarangi for a solo concert, presented by Jodhpur gharana’s Ustad Dilshad Khan, who played raag Gurjari Todi. Expert sarangi players are usually great musicians with a wealth of unusual compositions, gleaned from singers of all gharanas. Dilshad is a 10th generation exponent with enormous riyaaz.

Violin recitals by Pt. Atul Upadhye, and the next day by his son Tejas, and a jugalbandi by the mother-daughter duo of Sangeeta and Nandini Shankar were enjoyable. Saskia de Haas Rao on the cello played a jugalbandi with her sitariya husband Pt. Shubhendra Rao. There were also santoor recitals by Rahul Sharma and Ninad Daithankar; a somewhat disappointing slide guitar concert by Manish Pingle, whose control seemed shaky, and sundari and shehnai concerts by Pramod Gaikwad and Kalyan Apar. One missed the rudra veena and surbahar, two traditional instruments of the north, that are finding fewer performers.

The concluding day featured only vocalists. This was a veritable treat, with singers from all gharanas. It was delightful to hear so many morning to night raags such as Mian ki Todi, Bairagi Bhairav, Kirwani, Desi Todi, Bhairon-Bahar, Jaunpuri, Samant Sarang, Multani, Shudha Sarang, Gaoti, Patdeep, Purvi, Puriya, Shuddha Kalyan, Kedara, Basant Bahar and Bhairavi. They were, however, not always presented in the correct sequence and, sadly, some were repeated, something never done by the older generation of musicians.

It was a wonderful opportunity to hear talented vocalists such as Prabhakar and Diwakar Kashyap of Banaras gharana and disciples of Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra; the Goa-based Pravin Goankar; Hemant Pendse; and, most interestingly, young Noushad-Nishad Harlapur from Karnataka. The brothers, still in their 20s, show promise. Concerts by Kalpana Zokarkar, Apoorva and Pallavi Joshi, Sanjeev Chimalgi, Manjusha Patil and Pt. Venkatesh Kumar were noteworthy, satisfying not just aurally but cerebrally too.

Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar

Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The piece de resistance expectedly was the finale by Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar. It was his first live concert in the past two years and elicited a standing ovation from the audience. His incredibly masterful rendition of the jod raag Basant Bahar, which is extremely difficult to sing, brought alive the mood of spring. He demonstrated his unequalled position with his concluding raag, a sublime Bhairavi.

‘Poornahuti’ was an inclusive and appropriate tribute to Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. The organiser, Manjusha Patil, needs to be complimented for selecting worthy singers from all streams. Of course, one missed vocalists from the Patiala and Delhi gharanas, even while realising that it’s hard to accomodate so many artistes on a single day.

Pt. Venkatesh Kumar summed up the mood, “ Do saal hum sab ghar baithe sirf tambura ko dekh rahe the, aaj itna accha lag raha hai” (For two years, we sat home just looking at the tambura, it feels so good today).

The concerts are available on showline.in

The Delhi-based reviewer writes on classical music and musicians.



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