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Jazz Meets Indian Classical Music With Sweetness And Grace In Contemporary Classical Music Show

Shuchita Rao

Jazz meets Indian Classical Music with sweetness and grace in Contemporary Classical Music show


By Shuchita Rao


Despite incessant light rain, there was a sense of great excitement in the air on the evening of Sunday, September 10, 2023 at MIT’s Kresge auditorium. The Anirudh Varma Collective team consisting of eight passionate, young classical musicians visiting from India was presenting their very first concert of a two month long, multi-city-concert US tour series. Varma, the award winning, classically trained pianist and creative director of the AV Collective team has received many accolades for his unique, contemporary Indian classical music shows in India, Kuwait and the Maldives. Interestingly, his band’s presence on social media had already created a buzz among music circles in Boston long before the September 10 performance at MIT Kresge.  The band members for the MIT-Kresge concert consisted of Anirudh Varma on keyboard synthesizer, male Hindustani vocalist Saptak Chatterjee, guest vocalist Apoorvaa Deshpande, Sarod player Rohan Prasanna, Sitar player Soumitra Thakur, Tabla player Saptak Sharma, Western percussionist Suyash Gabriel, Guitarist Shrikant Biswakarma, Bassist Madhur Chaudhury and guest artist, Boston based Saxophonist Phil Scarff. Learnquest Academy, MIT-Sangam India Society of Worcester (ISW) were the joint organizers for the MIT-Kresge concert.  


The 2 hour long show opened amid much excitement with the presentation of a traditional khyal in Punjabi language, “Saade Naal Ve” in afternoor Raga Dhani. The rich orchestral support provided by the instruments brought out the best in vocalist Saptak Chatterjee’s smooth and powerful rendition.


“Mandar Baajo” in Shuddh Kalyan was the next traditional khyal and Saptak Chatterjee was again in great form with his exposition of the khyaal, adorned beautifully with gentle glide between notes (meend musical ornamentation).


Vocalist Apoorvaa Deshpande presented the well-known Nirguni bhajan composed and sung by the legendary vocalist Pandit Kumar Gandharva, “Nirbhay Nirgun” with confidence and verve. Apoorvaa’s beautiful voice and poise in presenting the devotional song appealed very much to the audience.


 A heart touching Raga Jhinjhoti rendition of “Kaahe Karata Kanhaayi Chaturai” came next. It was followed by Apoorvaa’s composition of a taraana in Raga Hansadhwani. Spontaneity, mature musical judgement and genuine joy in presentation by all the artists on the stage moulded the tarana composition into a wonderful and spontaneous confluence of musical ideas.


Saptak and Apoorva then sang together “Aiso Navala Laadli”, a much loved composition created by the legendary late Pandit Rajan Mishra of Benaras Gharana. Anirudh’s opening prelude on the keyboard synthesizer to the Jaijaiwanti composition was terrifi


A powerful introduction on the Sarod by Rohan Prasanna brought energy into the Raga Champakali composition “Sagari Rain Jaagat Beeti”. Set to twelve beat cycle Ektaal. A light-hearted exchange between the artists on stage and the audience about whether or not to present Raga Champakali brought smiles and laughter into the auditorium.


Next, two lovely compositions in Raga Tilak Kamod, “Koyaliya Bole Ambuva ki daalariya” and “Neer Bharan Kaise Jaaoon” full of rich melody were presented. Phil Scarff’s fluid introduction to Raga Bhimpalasi on the saxophone and lively exchanges between the Saptak Sharma on the tabla and Suyash Gabriel on the Western drums breathed life into the presentation.


The closing song, a high energy presentation in Raga Shankara “Shankara Damru Baaje” gave a spirited finish to the performance. From the thunderous applause that the AV Collective team received at the end of the show, it was evident that the music struck a chord with the young and old alike in Boston. “I loved all the musicians. They are all so talented. The effort to bring classical music to a broader and more specifically to a younger audience is commendable!” said a concert attendee.

Kudos to the artists, organizers and also to the Jawed Wahid sound team for a memorable show.

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