It was in the late 1990s that city resident Pradeep Mali had received a message from Pandit Bhimsen Joshi,asking him to come and meet him at Kalashree,the bungalow where the late musician lived once. He met me warmly and asked me if I would like to work for Sawai Gandharva Mahotsav as the sound in-charge. Till then,I had handled sound only for small-scale music programmes. This was a huge responsibility as well as an opportunity. I instantly said yes to Panditji (Joshi), recalls 58-year-old Mali,owner of Swaranjali,the name associated with the larger-than-life classical music festival,which is now known as Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav. The musical extravaganza will be will be held at Ramanbaug School from December 12 to 15. Organised every year by the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal,the iconic festival is in its 61st year.
Reminiscing his very first assignment with the festival,Mali says: Of course,I was nervous and tensed whether everything will go as per the expectations of Panditji. Unlike these days,that time the festival used to begin at 4 pm and would go on till 6-7 am the next day. I had to make sure the sound system is flawless and is uninterrupted till the programme ends.
Mali adds that he had a back-up system in place just in case something went wrong.
Thankfully,the need didnt arise. Not just Panditji but also a lot of other people,like Pandit Rajan-Sajan Mishra,Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Robyn Carrigan of Canada,among others,admired my work, he says.
Talking about the revolution he has seen in technology in the last more than a decade,Mali says earlier the sound system used to be spread at the venue with multiple sources. It came with a drawback and created delay sound. We kept updating ourselves over the years. For the last few years,we have been using Adamson,a Canada brand that gives amazing sound clarity. As it works through a single source,there is no delay sound, adds Mali.
He confesses that though he has been attached with the festival for a long time,he doesnt have much knowledge about classical music. However,he adds,I may not understand ragas and swars,but I can differentiate between good and bad performances.
Mali said he is particularly fond of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and looks forward to his performances.
A thorough professional,Mali makes sure that he is personally present at the venue from much before it begins and till much after it ends. I have a team of eight to ten people,who have been with me for a long time,but I still prefer to monitor everything, he says.
Pointing out a minor change that he hopes to see in the music festival,he says,The quality of the sound gets compromised because of the height of the pandal. I feel the management should increase the height so that the listeners can enjoy better quality sound.
Mali says his stint with the music festival has drawbacks as well as advantages. While Swaranjali commands a lot of respect in the market,there is also a misconception that I only manage sound system for classical programmes,whereas I can manage any genre.