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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Musical Melange

It’s only very rarely that Mumbai gets an auditory feast of this type,let alone a concert that can also double up as a history lesson.

Written by Pooja Pillai |
July 8, 2010 12:35:05 am

It’s only very rarely that Mumbai gets an auditory feast of this type,let alone a concert that can also double up as a history lesson. This weekend,starting July 9,the National Centre for Performing Arts will be presenting a three-day festival —dedicated to some of India’s most legendary composers like Miyan Tansen,Amir Khusrau Dehlavi and Muthuswami Dikshitar — a first for Mumbai. As Dr Suvarnalata Rao,programming head of Indian music at NCPA says,“Most concerts tend to revolve around celebrity performers. We wanted to do something different and focus instead on the composers,who’ve made our cultural history so rich.” The concert,Bandish,will seek to inform the public about India’s musical traditions and the people who shaped them.

Bandish was conceived by Rao six months ago when she was discussing some of Khusrau’s couplets with a friend. “It occurred to me that there are many such beautiful compositions which connoisseurs like us might know of,but which the wider public is completely ignorant of.” The composers who will form part of the festival include,apart from the three greats already mentioned,18th century Khayal composers Adarang and Sadarang,carnatic music doyen Papanasam Sivan,and Vaishnavites Raskhan and Raheem. The wide mix of genres — Carnatic,Hindustani,Sufi and Bhakti — was deliberate. “You could say that through this concert,we wanted to showcase the whole gamut of India’s musical richness. Besides,we were careful to pick composers who are still being sung today,” says Rao.

The performers for this concert are among the best in the country —Bombay Jayashri,Ulhas Kashalkar,Shekhar Sen,Ramakant and Umakant Gundecha and Shujaat Husain Khan. Most of the artistes chosen already have a close association with the composers they’ll be performing. Bombay Jayashri for instance,was happy to perform both Dikshitar and Sivan. “These two composers are very close to my heart. They are a 100 years apart,but the way they have influenced Carnatic music and its development is something that is worth exploring,” says the singer. Similarly,when Sen was approached to perform Ras Khan,the singer himself suggested including Raheem. “I thought it would be interesting to include the two together because they’re good examples of religious syncretism in India. Raskhan was a muslim of Persian origin,while Raheem,who was born Abdul Raheem Khan-i-Khana,was the son of Akbar’s guardian,Bairam Khan. Yet both these poets embraced Vaishnavism and their compositions about Lord Krishna are some of the best in Indian history,” says Sen.

Rao hopes that not only will the concert attract people who’re already fans of Indian traditional music,but will also succeed in enticing youngsters. “I find it very tragic that so few have heard of these composers. Everyone may know of Khusrau,because even internationally,he’s become ‘trendy’,but what about the others?” she laments. She hopes to make this an annual festival and maybe even take it to other cities. “Finances are always a constraint,” she confesses,“but my conviction in this festival is strong and hopefully it’ll be well-received by the public.

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