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The string star

Ravi Shankar
The Hindu

By Manjari Sinha

Pandit Ravi Shankar sparkled, as always, at the Music in the Park concert in New Delhi.

The Music in the Park series of Spic-Macay featured a memorable sitar recital by Pandit Ravi Shankar and his talented daughter and disciple Anoushka at New Delhi's Nehru Park recently. The concert was preceded by a short film on the maestro's life and his phenomenal contribution to the classical music world of East and the West as a performer, composer, teacher and writer, as well as his pioneering work in taking Indian music to the West. It was amazing to see that at the age of 90, his passion for music is the same as ever.

Welcoming his audience, the veteran opened his concert with a detailed alap–jod-jhala in raga Shuddha Kalyan. The deep resonance of his electrifying elaboration in the lower octave during his signature ‘laraj-kharaj ka kaam' was equally matched by Anoushka in alternative octaves. He had Bickram Ghosh to accompany him on the tabla, who joined him during the taar paran in the jod section with the pakhawaj-like tonal quality of a ‘chaude munh ka tabla'. This reminded his old fans of his historic concert at the city's Siri Fort auditorium way back in the '80s when Pandit Durga Lal had accompanied him on the pakhawaj.

The compositions started in Yaman Kalyan, the most melodious raga of the evening. The traditional Masitkhani gat was set to slow Teen tala with its meend drenched mukhra (the opening phrase) starting from the 13th beat of the 16-beat cycle. Pandit ji would enjoy taking the tabla player for a ride during the ‘ateet-anaagat' technique, where the ‘sam' would either come a beat earlier or a beat later than its expected prominent beat. Anoushka not only enjoyed the rhythmic ‘chhed-chhad' but also complemented his melodic intricacies.

The faster composition was set to drut Ek tala that saw a variety of impromptu intricate taan pattern flourishes alternately played by the guru-shishya duo who shared the same wavelength. The uniqueness of this piece was that it continued till the end in this challenging tala itself, unlike the normal tendency to switch over to Teen tala during the jhaala as an easier option.

Bickram at times slipped into the Teen tala cycle imagining this conventional trend, but was at once brought back to the track of 12 beats of drut Ek tala by the sitar players who reached the crescendo of fast jhaala even the culminating tihai sticking diligently to the same tala, inviting thunderous applause.

This was followed by Mishra Pilu, a raga in a lighter vein that saw a chain of ragas and talas during the ragamala and talamala (a garland of ragas and talas), reciprocated by the tabla with equal verve.

Pandit ji and Anoushka also played Lankadahan Sarang, a rare raga, to warm up the audience in the cold weather. It was heartening to witness the guru-shishya parampara flourishing as a living tradition in the deep concern of Anoushka for her guru's diminishing hearing power due to old age, when she seemed to become tense for him and then smile proudly the next moment on the beauty of her guru's divine art.