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Variety Marks Priya Purushothaman’s Hindustani Vocal Concert

Shuchita Rao

On the evening of September 9, music lovers were treated to a wonderful, full-length 3.5 hour vocal recital by an upcoming Hindustani classical vocalist, Priya Purushothaman. The concert featured a variety of Hindustani genres such as khyal, tarana, bandish ki thumri, tap khyal, jhoola as well as a Nirguni bhajan. Priya has had several years of training in Carnatic vocal music as well as in Western classical violin and learned Hindustani vocal music in the traditional Guru-Shishya tradition from the Bangalore based vocalist Smt. Aditi Kaikini Upadhya, the daughter of the late stalwart musician and scholar, the late Pandit Dinkar Kaikini. Shri. Neelesh Nadkarni on the harmonium and Shri. Suryaksha Deshpande on the tabla provided excellent support to Priya in the 2017 Fall season opener presented by MITHAS (MIT Heritage Arts of South Asia).

Commencing the evening with the somber Raga Marwa, Priya unfolded the raga carefully with renditions of three khyals.   â€œPiya More Anata Des” in vilambit laya (slow tempo)  was followed by “Jao Mohan More” in drut laya (fast tempo) 16 beat cycle teentaal and a Gunidas composition “Ho Guniyan mil” set to fast tempo 12 beat cycle ektaal. Priya created a fine balance in the use of sargam, aakaar and composition text/words to develop the raga. Her sound training in the Agra gharana was more than evident in the manner she developed the raga showing command on playing with the rhythmic aspects of development of the raga. Fidelity to purity of swaras (musical notes) and the singing of the rishabh note at a heightened shruti (microtone) as well as a leisurely and tuneful perch on the upper Sa note (taar shadja) were the pleasing aspects of the Marwa raga presentation.

In the presentation of the second raga, Priya’s melodious voice traversed multiple octaves and showed clever play with the two varieties of madhyam note, the shuddh and teevra versions of raga Kedaar. Opening the rendition with a dhrupad style alaap, Priya’s delivery of the renowned musicologist and musician, the late Shri. S.N Ratanjankar’s composition “Jagat Udhhaar” in 7 beat cycle Roopak taal (medium tempo) was replete with attractive embellishments such as the “meend” and “murki”. A taraana composed by Priya’s Grand-Guru Shri. Dinkar Kaikini had more of a “Chaturang” feel because of the use of percussion syllables and sargam in the composition. 

A bandish-ki-thumri “Na maanoongi na maanoongi na maanoongi” in adhhaa teentaal was lilting and the harmonium and tabla accompaniment were notable, adding in many ways to the total effect of the presentation.  In her next presentation, Priya embellished two compositions in raga Shahana, “Avaguna bhayo sakala” set to ten beat cycle jhaptaal and a composition, “Jaane de Maika” by Bindadeen Maharaj (Har Rang) with attractive sargam and aakaar alaaps/taans. A rhythmic seasonal monsoon song “Jhoola Dheere Se Jhulaao” originally sung by the Thumri queen, the late Smt. Shobha Gurtu was followed by a tap-khyaal in Mishra Kaafi that had several intricate taans in its construction. Priya concluded her concert with a Nirguni bhajan “Bhai Santo” in Raga Mishra Keervani.

It is awe-inspiring to see young women like Priya pursue a career in Hindustani classical vocal music with dedication, zest and hard work.  Priya hold a Bachelor’s degree in economics, philosophy and creative writing from the Columbia University.  In 2011, she published a book documenting her interactions with her Grand-Guru, the late Pandit Dinkar Kaikini  titled “Living Music: Conversations with Pandit Dinkar Kaikini”.  Kudos to MITHAS for presenting promising artists like Priya Purushothaman in concert. Boston classical music lovers hope to see more of such concerts in the future.


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