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On the shoulders of musical giants

During an Indian classical music concert, a vocalist usually presents pieces that have been composed by several individuals. The vocalists featured in this festival, however, will focus on just one or two legendary composers, writes Sumana Ramanan.

art and culture Updated: Jul 10, 2010 00:51 IST
Sumana Ramanan

During an Indian classical music concert, a vocalist usually presents pieces that have been composed by several individuals. The vocalists featured in this festival, however, will focus on just one or two legendary composers.

The festival began yesterday with recitals by the Gundecha brothers and Ulhas Kashalkar. The former, who are dhrupadiyas, focused on Miyan Tansen’s compositions, while Kashalkar, a khayal artist, sung compositions of Sadarang and Adarang, who were part of Mohammad Shah Rangila’s court. Today, Bombay Jayashri (now based in Chennai) will present compositions of Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Papanasam Sivan. Dikshitar, one of Carnatic music’s holy trinity, composed in Sanskrit between the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Sivan worked roughly a century later, composing in Tamil.

Since in Carnatic music ragas are not associated with particular times of the day, it is difficult to guess which ones she might pick. One hopes that Jayashri a serious and accomplished artist who evolves every year, will not sing the over-presented Vathapi Ganapathim in raga Hamsadhwani, perhaps the most recognised Carnatic kriti outside south India.

On Sunday, Shekhar Sen, composer and actor, will focus on 16th century giants: he will sing pads and geets of Hindi poet Raskhan, whose works in praise of Krishna epitomise India’s composite culture, and the dohas of Raheem, one of the nine jewels at Akbar’s court.

The grand finalé will be a concert by sitarist and vocalist Shujaat Hussain Khan, who will present Amir Khusro’s ghazals and compositions of qaul and qalbana.

This festival will be an annual feature of the NCPA’s calendar.

“The concept has such potential,” says Suvarnalata Rao, the centre’s head of programming for Indian music. “We have thousands of composers.