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String of Hindustani & Carnatic classical musicians at Vasantotsav aim to bring back live concerts to city

February 20 will have a performance by famous sitar player Shakir Khan, followed by vocalist Vijay Koparkar. The audience will then enjoy an enthralling duet between Subramanyam and Chaurasia.

Written by Ruchika Goswamy | Pune |
February 18, 2021 11:10:04 pm
Carnatic classical musicians, Vasantotsav, Shashank Subramanyam, classical music, Vasantrao Deshpande, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Shakir Khan, Vijay Koparkar, Rakesh Chaurasia, pune news, indian expressUnlike the previous years, the festival is on a smaller scale this year and it is an effort by its curator to kick-start live concerts in the city again. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Although he has travelled to over 50 countries so far, renowned flautist Shashank Subramanyam says that India is a land of variety and nowhere in the world has he witnessed a country where within a few kilometers, one has two distinct and great styles of classical music, which speak the same language.

“Apart from being a solo artist, I have always been seriously into collaborative efforts… this is the reason why I have often brought collaborations to Pune. What I believe is that collaboration brings about very interesting things and more importantly a third front,” said the Venu flute maestro.

With Rakesh Chaurasia, the duet is part of the 14th edition of the premier music festival Vasantotsav, to be held from February 19 to February 21 at Ganesh Kala Krida Manch. Organised by Dr Vasantrao Deshpande Pratishthan, the festival features a concoction of different genres of music.

Unlike the previous years, the festival is on a smaller scale this year and it is an effort by its curator to kick-start live concerts in the city again. “We have been doing the festival on a much bigger scale. The centenary celebrations started last year, where we had a pan- Maharashtra tour, but we had to cut it short after three concerts due to the pandemic. In order to kickstart the music space and live concerts, which were halted for such a long time, we had decided to keep the festival completely offline rather than online,” said Rahul Deshpande, acclaimed classical vocalist and grandson of late Dr Vasantrao Deshpande.

He shared that while he was very young when his grandfather passed away, Dr Vasantrao Deshpande knew that he was the one to carry on his legacy. “It was his last wish to teach me. When I was listening to a LP of Kishoritai (Kishori Amonkar) at the age of two, he told my father that if Rahul is enjoying Kishoritai’s piece at such a young age, I would go on to carry his mantle. This is the closest memory I have with my grandfather,” he said.

In continuation of the centenary celebrations of Dr Vasantrao Deshpande, the festival will begin with the performance of Pandit Jasraj’s disciple and famous vocalist, Ankita Joshi, followed by senior Dhrupad vocalist Pandit Uday Bhavalkar’s performance. The inaugural day will be concluded by a performance by Shujaat Hussain Khan (sitar), Mukesh Jadhav (tabla) and Ranjit Barot (percussion) with co-artists.

February 20 will have a performance by famous sitar player Shakir Khan, followed by vocalist Vijay Koparkar. The audience will then enjoy an enthralling duet between Subramanyam and Chaurasia. The day will conclude with a performance by famous classical vocalist Anand Bhate.

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Day three of the music festival will have a tabla duet between Yashwant Vaishnav and Ishaan Ghosh, followed by a programme of ghazals by Pankaj Udhas. The festival will conclude with the performance of famous classical vocalist, Rahul Deshpande, accompanied by Murad Ali on Sarangi.

Speaking about his upcoming performance at Vasantotsav, Subramanyam said, “The first time I performed in Pune was in 1991, and this is probably the fourth time with Vasantotsav. I have known Rakesh Chourasia for decades now and we have performed together thousands of times, both in India and abroad. Rakesh and I often strive to make our concerts pretty fun as it is the coming together of two styles of flutes and it is why we have great admiration for each other. It is also why Rakesh and I have such a fine and successful collaboration,”

The Sangeet Natak Akademi’s senior awardee added that while he has a background of Carnatic music and Chaurasia is well-versed in Hindustani classical music, together it becomes Indian classical music in its true form. “What we try to create is a third front which is truly an Indian one. Instead of playing both forms one after the other which is no big deal, when you have both the styles in a dialogue, it creates a complete third form. The performance will have the two styles of flute playing with two forms of percussion, and hopes to find a common ground,” he said.

He shared that the fondest memory he has of the city is that the audience turnout is always in big numbers. “It is not an audience which comes to sit together in a crowd… it is actually full of knowledgeable people who have come to enjoy serious music. Festivals like Vasantotsav are a ticketed affair and even then people come out to fully support the artist, which is a rarity today for classical music. The pandemic was certainly a time when everything came to a standstill and the art community did suffer a lot overall. Even the audience which has had a year without concerts is very encouraging and wants to watch artists perform live. It is a mutual thing for artists and audience, and both were just waiting for an opportunity to meet in person,”.

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