An evening well spent

Yesterday, I attended a musical concert arranged by Premanjali. The concert had performances by five artists (I don’t want to call them maestros, because to be honest, I don’t know the difference between an artist and a maestro. Who decides which artist is a plain artist and which one is a maestro? I digress.) Vocal recital by Pt. Rajan Misra, Pt. Sajan Misra, followed by a jugalbandi between Pt. Ronu Majumdar on the flute and Pt. Kadri Gopalnath on the saxophone. The last performance was by Rimpa Siva, the tabla sensation (That’s how she was addressed every time!).

 We reached the venue just on time when both the pundits had just started to exercise their vocal chords. I missed the introduction to the first item, so I don’t know which raag it was. The second item was in raag Sohini, and their performance concluded with a Guru Nanak bhajan. The pundits were in absolute harmony. Their voices though sounding very similar, had their own distinct quality. Rajanji’s voice is sharper whereas Sajanji is sweeter. Rajanji looked dominating, he had the biggest share of aalaap. Sajanji complemented his brother with his voice. Their singing was great, but honestly speaking, I got a little bored. I took that opportunity to grab a bite.

 This was followed by the sensational performance by Kadri Gopalnath and Ronu Majumdar. I have heard jugalbandi between kathak and tabla (how can this be jugalbandi, these two complement each other, they can’t compete, can they?), flute and tabla (same argument holds here), but this jugalbandi was true to its name. A western instrument played in the Carnatic music style and an ancient Indian instrument played in Hindustani was a jugalbandi one would die to hear. Kadriji dominated the scene all through the show. He would guide Ronuji what to play and Ronuji didn’t seem to mind. They started off with the ‘Vatapi ganapati’ in raag Hamsadhwani and it was spellbounding. Both the artists played their respective instruments with such élan, it looked like as if they had practised before. Kadriji played his part extemporaneously and Ronuji followed him to the T. This was followed by an item in raag Chandrakauns and again the same great skills were on display. Ronuji was thoroughly enjoying himself. He was playing more for himself than for the audience.

 This was the first time I heard saxophone live and I didn’t like it. It’s a western instrument and not supposed to be played in Carnatic style. There are other Indian instruments, why play a western instrument for something which it is not meant to be. How would you like rock music using a sitar? Anyways, I didn’t like it, saxophone’s sound didn’t suit the Carnatic style.  Mridangam was great. The artist knew when to play and what to play. Durga Prasad Majumdar (Ronuji’s brother and he was playing something which sounded like tabla, it didn’t look like one. It looked like mridangam, but it didn’t sound like one! Ha!), on the other hand lacked that expertise. He wasn’t playing when needed and would play when not needed. But, Ronuji’s skillful performance was a bliss to watch. I hope he performs again in Bangalore.

 Next was Rimpa Siva’s tabla performance. She was accompanied by a harmonium player. The two started off and two minutes into the show and I was bored already. The combination of tabla and harmonium, especially when the attention was on tabla, didn’t sound right. We walked out quietly.

 The arrangements were good. Food counters with good, reasonably priced food. Clean toilets, good acoustics, parking needed more attendants, though. I hope the organizers understand that when artists are on stage, you shouldn’t go on raving about your sponsors. Yes, sponsors have paid you money and you need to give them publicity, but not when ‘five’ artists are on stage, waiting for your pompous display to get over. These artists were nice, didn’t say a word.

 Thanks to the organizers and the sponsors, Bangaloreans got to witness one of the finest performances. Hope they rope in more artists and we get to see more astounding performances like these.

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