Written by Sameer Manekar
Continuing with the series of spectacular performances, music lovers of Pune were welcomed by vocalist Dr Rita Dev’s powerful voice on the second day of the 66th Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav. Regarded as the torchbearer of Benaras gharana, Dev explored raga Madhuvanti in her dhrut teen taal bandish, Payaliya mori baje, jhanak jhanakaye.
Having learnt the intricate skills of thumri from her tutor, legendary vocalist late Dr Girija Devi, Dev performed for the first time the thumri, sajan tum kahe ko neha lagaye, depicting Radha’s restlessness to meet Krishna.
With a legacy of 14 generations of musicians and the tutelage of his father, singer Pandit Prakashsingh Salunke, Saurabh Salunke began with raga Puriya Kalyan during his debut performance at the festival, enchanting the audience with his rendering of taans that is a speciality of the Patiala gharana.
Currently pursuing sangeet alankar (masters), Salunke enthralled the audience with his performance of barsan lagi sawan bundiya raja, and gained much applause and requests of an encore for his enchanting performance of late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s abhang, teerth vitthala, kshetra vitthala.
Son of veteran santoor player, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma launched into his performance with the sweet and calming melody of raga Gorakh Kalyan, usually performed after sunset. Sharma’s performance elicited multiple rounds of applause. With more than 50 albums to his name, and being the first Indian musician to record with the French pianist Richard Clayderman, Sharma’s jugalbandi with tabla player Pandit Mukundraj Deo wove some magic into the air.
When Pandit Ajay Pohankar took to the stage, he was greeted with thunderous applause. The vocalist, who performed as an 11-year-old boy at the Sawai Gandharva Mahotsav, and who shared the stage with legends like Pandit Joshi, late Hirabai Badodekar of Kirana gharana, late Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan of Patiala gharana, and late Ustad Salamat Ali Khan of Sham Chaurasi gharana, his mere presence sent a wave of excitement through the audience.
Acknowledging the audience’s excitement, Pandit Pohankar launched into his performance with raga Kausi-kanada, a late night raga. An exponent of Kirana gharana, master of thumri, and with a career spanning six decades, Pandit Pohankar sent the audience into a spell with harmonious swaras, ending the second day on a high note.