News & Notes
Paramparik Indian Classical Conference 2023
Living the Tradition
Worshipping the rising sun or adulating stars is a commonly practiced ritual, and this tradition reeks of an ulterior motive-inspired thought process or sycophancy. Yet a few organisations like ‘Paramparik-The Tradition’ have stayed committed to serving the unsung heroes of Indian classical music and the underprivileged rural education sector since 2001. The only exception during the 19th Paramparik Indian Classical Conference, held at Kolkata’s prestigious Birla Sabhagar, were star percussionist Bickram Ghosh and steadily rising Carnatic violin virtuosos Swarnalata and Shubhalakshmi (Pinky), the widely celebrated Akkarai Sisters who already enjoy star-status among musicians of their generation.
R Sankaranarayanan on the mridangam and S Krishna on the ghatam were superbly compatible when all joined in to commence with an enchanting varnam (Ganapati stuti, raga Kanakam, Adi tala, composed by Swarnalata). The speed and varying tempo added spark to this short and sweet prelude before they settled down with their main item in raga Purvikalyani. The pin-pointed accuracy of notes made even the chromatically applied shuddh and komal rishabha dazzlingly clear. The introspective beginning by Shubhalakshmi relied on very long and lingering notes juxtaposed with jhala-like effect in the raga segment. Swarnalata elaborated on the idea formed by her sister. However, a sudden change to a different raga came as a jolt initially, but one enjoyed their synchronised display of virtuosity. The composition (Adi tala) again punched in the ragamakika. Well-defined oscillations, delighting tuneful tanam at high speed, and mutual understanding were the hallmark of their duet, followed by electrifying tani replete with sawal-jawab. They closed with a bhajan composed by Maharaja Swati Tirunal in Sindhu Bhairavi.
The challenging finale was scripted by highly intellectual sarod maestro Prattyush Banerjee and internationally acclaimed tabla exponent Bickram Ghosh. Both are busy and successful as composers in the arena of commercial music as well and, therefore, occasionally appear on the classical stage. But when they do, both discard the stock music and serve pure raga music to initiated listeners. Ruchira Panda, renowned vocalist, curator and lifeline of Paramparik, had ensured that ambience for erudite performers.
The sarod interpreted the sweet, romantic raga Jhinjhoti’s unusual pensive mood in alap’s slow-moving notes, meend-laden phrases and emotive bends. The jod arrived as this mood’s extension, and powerful bolkari seemed to vent out anger or frustration. The composition set to nine-and-a-half beats remained an enigma, and yet there was a tug at heart. It was the same with Nayaki Kanada, Banerjee’s second choice. The raga bared the pain of its soul and then played hide-n-seek in ada Chau taal before getting even in fast Teen taal. The concluding piece was a heady blend of bhatiyali, baul, and kirtan, wherein each form tip-toed in and disappeared but not before exhibiting its unique gait within the tala frame of similar number of beats. The tabla was at its imaginative best as an alibi.
Veteran tabla maestro Sanjay Mukherjee’s rare appearance as soloist stood out for its rich contents’ ‘edutaining’ value. Accompanied by his multitalented disciple Hiranmay Mitra, he played Teen taal studded with rich traditional compositions and their paralleled self-composed jodas with exemplary nikas (expression). His witty rejoinders while explaining the finer nuances of his art vouched for his claim that Bengal’s tabla, (thanks to his guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh) rules the world now.
As the opening artist of this day-long event, learned vocalist-composer and successful khayal-thumri guru Anjana Nath chose Shuddh Sarang, confirming her faith in the time-scale theory of Indian music. Ably supported by Hindole Majumdar (tabla) and Gourab Chatterjee (harmonium), her delineation of the noon-time raga displayed step-by-step progression by weaving in soulfully enunciated lyrics of the slow Ek taal and fast Teen taal bandishes. Albeit constrained by sore throat, she treated them with due ornamentation with varied taans of different weight and designs. She closed with an emotionally charged Hori (Kafi, fast dipchandi and kaherwa). If dipchandi leaned towards a yearning mood, kaherwa showed determination.
Another vocalist Sanjoy Banerjee, a USA-based NRI now, exhibited his unflinching faith in classical Indian traditions through his version of raga Bihag. Rupak Bhattacharjee (tabla) and Anirban Chakrabary (harmonium) sensitively supported his medium-paced bada khayal and two drut compositions in fast Teen taal and Ek taal replete with almost all aspects of khayal singing which could do better without repetitive phrases. The concluding bhajan was served as a dessert.