By Rushil Dutta & Ketaki Latkar
Reminiscent of a flowing river that moves ahead unabated by the rocky terrain appearing on its path; in a meditative and enchanting spirit, Devaki Pandit’s soothing voice never fails to cast a spell. Be it her rendition of raag Gaud Malhar or a bandish in raag Hamsadhwani, Pandit is always at the zenith of engaging the audiences with sharp aesthetics and interesting variations, given the range of her art from bal sangeet to ghazals, spiritual compositions, playback singing and also songs for Hindi films. Pandit, along with vocalist Shounak Abhisheki, son of Pt Jitendra Abhisheki will be performing along with santoor player Rahul Sharma, in the city for the Barkha Ritu national music festival. The festival, which is the brainchild of Mahesh Babu, Managing Director of Banyan Tree Events, was staged at city’s Yashwantrao Chavan auditorium on July 25 as a celebration of the rains. In addition to Pune, Barkha Ritu will be taking the monsoon ragas across the nation, including cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Chennai.
Pandit’s initiation into classical music happened at the tender age of two by her mother Usha Pandit, who was then the disciple of Pt Abhisheki. Later, she received training in classical music by stalwarts such as Pt. Vasantrao Kulkarni, Kishori Amonkar, Pt. Abhisheki and Pt. Babanrao Haldankar.
A true believer in the all encompassing traits of music, her trajectory has not been deterred by roadblocks and limitations. Speaking about the forthcoming Barkha Ritu performance, she says, “I share an incredible musical rapport with Abhisheki. Despite being distinguished in his own way, the synergy that we create is enlivening. It is interesting to engage in jugalbandi with him and in the impending performance, we will be presenting a series of different raagas, mostly bandishas and bhajans as also semi-classical pieces.”
Abhisheki who is Pandit’s gurubhai, grew up in a household which observed the guru-shishya parampara, as an effect of which, as a child, he’d wake up to the sound of riyaaz each morning. He believes music runs in his blood, but doesn’t remember his father forcing him to take forth their two generation long Hindustani musical tradition.
“My father on the other hand stressed on academics a lot. Besides being a full-time musician, I’m a law graduate,” shares Shounak.
During his growing years, the sight and sound of his father’s disciples practising rigorously would have him intrigued. One fine day his father took him under his wings. “My education in music has been very holistic. One of the first lessons my father gave me was on how I should be driven towards carving a style of my own,” says Shounak, adding, “He was also big on listening and learning, a habit he tried inculcating in me. He believed this combination gave one an idiosyncratic aesthetic approach.”
His father, according to Shounak, was an insatiable learner, who kept learning from gurus till he was in his 60s. “His vast knowledge in the field exposed me to a sea of styles, which would be impossible to acquaint by myself,” says Shounak, who further adds, “Because of him, I am well-versed with the Agra and Jaipur styles, which he combines in his singing style.”
Though both Pandit and Shounak have shared stage several times before, this is the first time that they have come together to perform compositions set specifically in raga Malhaar, the monsoon raga. “Being students of the same guru, I consider her my elder sister. I have learnt a lot from her. We’d be presenting classical duets based on Kukub Malhar, Sur Malhar and Miyan malhar, among others. We also plan on singing a few semi-classical compositions by Kabir and Meera Bai,” adds Shounak.