Malhar Festival 2017
The various colours and fragrances of Malhar revealed themselves during the ITC Sangeet Research Academy’s Malhar Festival at GD Birla Sabhagar recently. The event showcased Scholars and Musician Tutors of the Academy alongside virtuoso performers in a spirit of inclusiveness focused on the propagation of our country’s richest
traditions of cultural music.
The highest point of the festival was reached when Ashwini Bhide Deshpande concluded this edition of the Malhar festival with a rich, textured, erudite and masterly rendition of Miyan ki Malhar. The vilambit bandish ‘Karim naam tero’ which she chose, as she explained, did for Miyan ki Malhar what no other composition could – it brought out the innermost essence of the profoundly expansive Raga. Her treatment was overwhelmingly meditative as she developed the Raga step upon step. An acute sense of structure and design permeated her performance with an aesthetics that is one of her greatest accomplishments. Ashwiniji’s concluding piece, Prateeksha or Bhoopkali, was a study in the exploration of the hauntingly melodic Raga. She invested her presentation of Prateeksha with a mood of melancholy – viraha – that tugged
at the heartstrings.
The festival had also opened with an exploration of Miyan ki Malhar – in many ways a tribute to a Raga that offers immense scope for development and fulfilment, one that is endless in its possibilities. Waseem Ahmed Khan’s interpretation was laced with the robustness of Agra gharana and its full-bodied romantic appeal.
Paramananda Roy’s Surdasi Malhar was enthralling. The flautist charmed the audience with his balanced rendition of yet another famous Raga of the Malhar family. Ranjani and Gayatri, vocalist sisters of the Carnatic tradition, took the opportunity to get drenched in the spirit of the Malhars even though the family of Ragas does not exist in the southern part of the country the way it does in the north. Whether it was in their Gaud Malhar or Amritvarshini or Meera Bhajan in Megh Malhar, they continually and instinctively complemented each other. Their rendition had an unusual freshness and an elemental energy that integrated them, even as the individuality of the two artistes remained a constant source of wonder.
The second day opened with a remarkable performance by Alick Sengupta. Mature, sensitive and beautifully ordered, his Gaud Malhar bore the unmistakable stamp of his Guru Ulhas Kashalkar’s Gwalior style even while it put on show Alick’s immense individual talent. The young musician who has great potential concluded with a couple of Mishra Kafi bandishes.
Raga Megh, in Abir Hussain’s delicate rendering, was a treat. For the sarodiya who is known for his melodiousness, the solemn and introspective Raga was a significant choice. He did justice to its meends and andolans to make it deeply atmospheric.
And it rained throughout. If not in its real manifestation in nature, it did in the minds of the audience who were drenched in the spirit of the Malhar season.