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KHMC - September 2017 Presentation Delights Audiences

Shuchita Rao and Mali Santhanakrishnan

For non-profit organization KHMC’s Fall season 2017 opening concert, a visiting musician from Kolkata, Shri. Ujjal Banerjee presented a lecture-demonstration on Rabindra Sangeet in the Hindustani segment. Titled “Rabindra Sangeet – Beyond Borders”, the lec-dem was held in the beautiful home of Uma (Founder, Sruthilaya school of Carnatic music) and Sankar Gangaikondan on Friday, August 25, 2017.  Shri Dipankar Deshmukh on the Esraj and Shri Abhilash Mehta on the tabla provided excellent accompaniment to Shri. Banerjee.

Shri. Ujjal Banerjee has received training in Rabindra Sangeet from Shri Abhiroop Guhathakurta. He has also had several years of training in Hindustani Classical vocal music under the Late Krishnadas Ghosh and Pandit Kamal Banerjee, (direct disciple of the legendary vocalist Ustad Amir Khan of Indore Gharana), Pandit Usharanjan Mukherjee and Pandit Shrikant Bakhre.

Shri Ujjal Banerjee sang more than ten Rabindra Sangeet compositions that clearly showed how diverse musical influences inspired Tagore’s creative mind. He created unique compositions styled after Hindustani classical, semi-classical, Bengali folk, Western and Carnatic music. Explaining the meaning of the lyrics in English before he sang each composition, he won hearts by his fluid musical delivery steeped in melody and rhythm. While Tagore’s compositions were based on popular Hindustani ragas, they were never rigidly structured within its grammatical structure confines – the poet-musician always managed to use his brilliant imagination to foray into allied ragas to bring out the beauty of the lyrics in an evocative manner. Shri Abhilash Mehta played a variety of rhythm cycles such as Jhampak, Dadra, Keherva and Chautaal and recited and demonstrated the teevra taal for the benefit of the audience. This is the key contribution of KHMC music programs – in addition to the performances, the artists educate the audience about what they present in the performance.

Several music enthusiasts in the audience appreciated the program and said that they found the lecture interesting and the demonstration very melodious. One member from the audience spontaneously sang a Purvi Kalyani composition sharing his insights about Carnatic music influence on a Rabindra Sangeet composition sung by Shri Banerjee.  In the capacity of Shri Ujjal Banerjee’s student, I sang the popular Tagore song “Tomar Khola Hawa Lagiye Paley”. Shri Banerjee concluded his presentation by inviting the audience to sing along with him in an interactive exercise.  The fact that Tagore was deeply impacted by Indian classical music, Western music as well as the folk music and vision of baul singers was brought out very well in Shri Ujjal Banerjee’s presentation. The audience also grasped how well Tagore integrated the myriad musical influences in his life not only to create unique compositions but to popularize them within the mainstream musical scene of Bengal. Tagore’s Rabindra Sangeet has stood the test of time and continues to delight audiences to this day.

Karaikkal Shri R. Jaishankar’s brilliant and pious Carnatic concert followed Shri Ujjal Banerjee’s mesmerizing presentation. Shri Jaishankar was accompanied by Shri Kalyan Gopalakrishnan on Violin and Kumari Rajna Swaminathan on Mridangam.

Shri Jaishankar received his training from two legends : late Kalaimamani Sangeetha Acharya Vairamangalam Sri S. Lakshminarayanan and late Thiruvengadu Sri A. Jayaraman. Currently, he is continuing his work with the critically acclaimed vocalist, Sri N. Vijay Siva.

Shri Jaishankar started his concert with a beautiful shloka on Lord Subramanya by Adi Shankaracharya and followed it with the Shri G.N. Balasubramaniam’s Hamsadhwani composition Vara Vallabha Ramana. After Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar’s brisk Ambavani Nannu in Keeravani ragam, he presented a crisp alapana in Raga Bilahari. Shri Jaishankar sang Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s krithi Paridhanamichithe and sprinkled it with some very well placed kalpana swaras.

With his next exploration Shri Jaishankar took the audience to a trance. Delving into the raga Rasikapriya, the 72nd melakartha, with such ease and command, he weaved magical patterns with his presentation, spell binding the listeners. Shri Kalyan matched note for note and showed his virtuosity and expertise in his solo presentation of Rasikapriya, which was followed by Koteeswara Iyer’s masterpiece krithi Arul Seyya Vendum Ayya.

The main composition of the concert was Saint Thyagaraja’s Karaharapriya gem Pakkala Nilabadi in Misrachapu Talam (7 beat cycle). Shri Jaishankar presented an elaborate Karaharpriya alapana and Shri Kalyan followed it with an exquisite solo on violin. Shri Jaishankar presented the kriti with all the emotions the composer intended to present with. Kumari Rajana played a sharp taniavartanam in a mathematically challenging, aesthetically beautiful spot – 3 mathras after starting point of the cycle – with such ease, fully embodying the style of her guru, living legend Sangeetha Kalanidhi Umayalpuram Shri K. Sivaraman.

Shri Jaishankar concluded his concert with Mahakavi Bharathiyar’s Kaani Nilam Vendum, and the traditional Shankarabharanam Thillana composed by Ponniah Pillai. What we had on the stage was true inspiration. If the audience closed their eyes and listened to the concert, the audience would not know Shri Jaishankar was visually challenged or that it was a girl born and raised in this country that played the mridhangam at such a high level.

The inviting ambience, the terrific food and the two amazing presentations of Rabindra Sangeet and Classical Carnatic enthralled the audience and made for an incredibly memorable evening of musical enchantment!

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