Pt Jitendra Abhisheki Sangeet Mahotsav, Goa
Pt Jitendra Abhisheki Sangeet Mahotsav, Goa
Goa has been the home to great vocalists including Kesar Bai Kerkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Lata Mangeshkar and Jitendra Abhisheki. During the Portuguese occupation of Goa of around 450 years, which lasted till 1961, Indian arts were repressed and not allowed to flourish. As such, musicians and other artists relocated to safe havens, controlled by Hindu chiefs. Thus, most artists from Goa today belong to the region of Ponda which was not under Portuguese control.
Ponda was the venue of the 16th memorial festival dedicated to one of Goa’s most popular, and iconic vocalists Jitendra Abhisheki. It is not until one goes to Goa that one fully understands the extent of this singer’s popularity. He also taught literally hundreds of disciples.
The two-day festival, organised by the Tarangini Sanskritik Pratishthan was an immersive experience, starting at 9:30 am and concluding after 10 pm. It opened with the vocal recital of young 25-year-old Vishwajeet Mestri, originally from Goa, but now Pune based. He is currently under training with Shounaq Abhisheki, the son and musical heir of Jitendra Abhisheki. Despite his youth, Vishwajeet sang with confidence and maturity; he has a good voice and is of course beautifully trained; as such his brief 45-minute concert set the appropriate tone for the festival that followed. Starting with the famous khayal in raga Todi, Bajo re Mohammed Shah, composed in honour of the Mughal Emperor Muhammed Shah Rangile, Vishwajeet smoothly concluded with a tarana in Ek taal in the same raga.
The second artist was again a vocalist from Goa, Samiksha Kakodkar. A disciple of Jaipur-Attrauli gharana doyen Dhonutai Kulkarni, who had learnt from none other than Kesarbai Kerkar herself, Samiksha is currently under training with Goa-based Alka Deo Marulkar. Acquitting herself well, Samiksha’s taan patterns of different gaits were interesting. Her guru, Alka Deo, is a prolific composer and it was interesting to hear her composition sung by Samiksha.
Indeed one of the notable aspects of this two-day festival of 16 artists was the excellent selection of the vocalists. It was enlightening to hear so many talented singers who are not yet mainstream in the concert circuit, but who fully deserve to be there. One realised that Goa today is without doubt a hub of classical music, specifically vocal classical music.
The third artist was Mumbai-based star Ninad Daithankar on the santoor, accompanied by Pune-based Mayank Bedekar on the tabla who matched him impressively with his slick accompaniment. A competent instrumentalist, Ninad followed the style on santoor set by maestro Shivkumar Sharma, given the limitations of the instrument, of heavy reliance on ‘taal khel’. His main piece was in Roopak tala, lending itself to frequent interaction with the tabla, and tihais. The raga was Charukesi, which has become very popular with North Indian musicians as it is not bound by the time theory of North Indian ragas and can be performed at any time.
Bringing in a welcome sobriety in his rendering, Vijay Koparkar sang raga Basant Mukhari. Singing with the polish and emotion one expects from this seasoned senior singer, who has trained under Vasantrao Deshpande as well as Jitendra Abhisheki, Vijay sang three compositions, all of which gave prominence to the note shudha dhaivat, as is correct in the raga. His concluding Bhairavi dadra was composed by Vasantrao Deshpande and was an unusual and really delightful piece.
After a lunch break, vocalist Sachin Nevpurkar, from Aurangabad, sang raga Sur Malhar, a somewhat unusual choice for a September concert, as usually the monsoons are over by end August. His abhang, avagha rang ek zala, tuned and made popular by Kishori Amonkar was well sung.
The next artist was Delhi-based vocalist Nabanita Chaudhari, who represented Banaras gharana gayaki (she has learnt from Rajan-Sajan Mishra and Shobha Gurtu). She sang raga Madhuwanti then a thumri in misra Sivaranjani. At this festival, one heard more Gwalior and Jaipur gharana singers; as such, Nabanita’s gayaki was refreshingly different. The characteristic Banaras gayaki, with the exploration of the bandishes redolent of the old world leisurely barhat, was welcome. However, her prowess as a singer was somewhat inadequate.
Flautist Amar Oak, a disciple of Hari Prasad Chaurasia, presented a leisurely exploration of raga Durga. It was a pleasure to hear aalap-jor-jhala on the flute, instead of the now increasingly popular brief auchar, then vilambit composition, a la khayal singers. His compositions were in a nine-beat cycle, then drut Ek taal, 12-beats. On the tabla was the dexterous Mayank Bedekar.
The evening concluded with the dignified and masterly concert by Shruti Sadolikar Katkar. Today the senior-most exponent of the Jaipur-Attrauli style, Shruti has honed her music with inputs from several masters including Azizuddin Khan (grandson of Alladiya Khan), Gullubhai Jasdanwalla (disciple of Alladiya Khan. Incidentally he was also a guru to Jitendra Abhisheki making her presence at the festival so appropriate). Of course, her main guru was her father, Wamanrao Sadolikar, disciple of Alladiya Khan and his son Bhurji Khan).
Shruti started her concert with raga Bageswari, in which she sang the famous composition Gore gore mukhre. The next was an unusual composition in Punjabi, Dil nahi lagda, in drut Teen taal. Displaying her immense knowledge of unusual compositions, Shruti next sang a truly delightful composition in Jhap taal, dedicated to Sree Krishna, unusually in raga Gaur Malhar. Shifting to a rare form of Malkauns with the use of shuddha dhaivata, Shruti sang two compositions, with her usual depth and skilled barhat. She then sang a bhajan, Ram rang le. The audience was saddened to see her presentation end, so Shruti was persuaded to sing a concluding piece in Bhairavi, Mere bichare yaar.
The accompaniment was superb - the veteran Goa born Mangesh Mule on tabla, and Sudhir Nayak on the harmonium - an accompanist of whom it has been rightly said Raaste dikhane walle sangat kaar (an accompanist who hints at new directions the raga can take).
The second day of the festival started with a senior disciple of Jitendra Abhisheki, Raghunath Phadke. His exposition of raga Gurjari Todi was competent and enjoyable; he concluded with a popular abhang. Next was an excellent tabla solo by Goa-based Shailesh Gaokar. It was humbling for this writer, who travels a lot to hear musicians in different parts of India, to see the degree of excellence attained by artists who are not really heard that often. It is a sad reflection that the same 20-30 artists are heard so much, whereas there are so many more very talented musicians who really deserve a concert platform.
Next, Pune-based Kalyani Deshpande on the sitar played raga Shudh Sarang. Perhaps her prowess on the instrument did not captivate.
One of the highlights of the day was the vocal concert of Manjusha Patil, definitely one of the finest vocalists today. Her clear ringing voice and facility of movement have always been her assets - now she combines these with a balance and mature aesthetic. Her thumri is particularly noteworthy and self-acquired, as her main gurus D.V. Kanebuva and Ulhas Kashalkar, are not really considered great thumri exponents. She presented a carefully thought-out raga Vrindavani Sarang, followed by a sprightly composition in Roopak taal (seven-beats) in raga Hindol. It was wonderful to hear the luminosity her voice acquires in the ‘taar saptak’.
Saurabh Kadgaonkar of the Jaipur-Attrauli gharana, a disciple of Raghunandan Pansikar sang next. Raga Bhimpalasi was presented accurately; but the piece de resistance of his concert was the popular composition by Jitendra Abhisheki from the iconic production, Katyar Kaljat Ghusali. One realised at this festival, that in the region, the audience familiarity with popular abhangs is a huge factor in guiding artist presentations. Listening to the same artists in North India, one does not get to hear these compositions often.
Including a brief kathak dance ensemble by Varada Bedekar and two of her disciples was, perhaps, avoidable as the festival could have focussed solely on music.
Abhijeet Pohankar played Bageshwari on the keyboards. The grand festival ended with Jaipur-Attrauli gharana vocalist Devki Pandit. A hugely dexterous singer, Devki belongs to a family of iconic singers, originally from Goa. She started with a Jaipur-Attrauli favourite composition dedicated to Lord Siva in Roopak taal, in raga Jhinjhoti. Singing in the leisurely style her gharana is known for, Devki impressed with her slow difficult-to-sing taans, maintaining the meandering of notes with a rounded excellence. She sang raga Sohini next, a composition in Roopak taal by the Agra gharana doyen, Pran piya (Vilayat Hussain Khan) handling it with finesse. The concluding composition was in drut Teen taal; her felicity with speedy passages is again breathtaking. Devki ended the festival appropriately with raga Bhairavi, a raga called ‘sada suhagin’ implying it can be sung at any time, and also that it is always appropriate. Without a doubt, her concert proved why she is considered one of the finest singers today.
The festival not only reminded one of the huge contributions, musically, of Jitendra Abhisheki as a composer, but also the fact that his legacy of nurturing talent in the younger generation was equally significant. Providing a platform to worthy artists is a great service to the world of music. The festival in Goa is just one of the many events held by the Tarangini Sanskitik Pratishthan founded in 1982 by Jitendra Abhisheki himself, and kept alive now by his son, Shounaq Abhisheki.