It’s already a feast when Pandit Birju Maharaj or Ustad Zakir Hussain performs individually. So expectations naturally fly sky-high when the two great artistes perform together, as they will on Thursday. Adding to this already heady mix will be Kolkata-based Ajoy Chakraborty, who will sing the thumris accompanying the dance pieces.
One can already imagine the fireworks as Zakir Hussain responds to the Maharaj’s gestures and intricate footwork, and Chakraborty heightening this repartee with his delicate murkees and harkats, two types of embellishments in Hindustani music.
The programme will begin with a mridangam recital by Dr Thrichy Sankaran, who will be performing in the city probably for the first time. The event, Music Summit with World Masters, has been organised by Kalasangam, one of the country’s most well-endowed music circles, to coincide with Birju Maharaj’s 75th birthday. Venerated as the reigning emperor of the kathak dance form, he is the trio’s most senior member and will be performing in the city after a long gap. Tabla superstar Zakir
Hussain hardly needs an introduction to Mumbai audiences, while Ajoy Chakraborty, a highly ranked singer in the post-Bhimsen Joshi era, has a huge base of admirers in the city.
We can also look forward to Birju Maharaj singing some thumri phrases and then enacting them. Although he is not a rigorously trained singer, he succeeds in coming across as an able exponent of the thumri, his voice full of emotion and subtle inflections conveying the sentiment expressed in the lyrics.
When an artiste specialising in one art form tries to demonstrate his skills in a related one, it can sound amateurish. This has happened when the late sitar legend Vilayat Khan broke into song or when Rais Khan or Sultan Khan suddenly start singing in the midst of playing the sitar or sarangi respectively. This is not the case with Birju Maharaj, a master of bhava, or emotion. “Birju Maharaj has taught me many kathak thumris, in ragas Khamaj, Sohini and Kafi,” said Ajoy Chakraborty.