The GKCM Award Festival 2013: A complete musical experience
- Manjari Sinha
Photos: Arabinda Mahapatra

September 22, 2013

The 19th edition of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra (GKCM) Award Festival most efficiently mounted by Srjan (Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Nrityabasa) at the Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar from 5th to 9th September 2013, was a Festival of Music in its completeness. Taking care of the three components of music as defined in the musical treatise that says “Geetam Vaadyam tatha Nrityam, Trayam Sangeetamuchyate” (Music is threefold, comprising Vocal, Instrumental and Dance), the thoughtfully conceived festival offered a judicial representation of all three, with vocal music by Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar, instrumental music by Pt. Nayan Ghosh -Tabla solo, Purbayan Chatterjee – Sitar, Pt Ronu Majumdar - Flute and dance by Bijayini Satpathy – Odissi, Deepak Maharaj – Kathak, Rama Vaidyanathan – Bharatanatyam and ‘Geetamritam’, the group choreography by Guru  Ratikant Mohapatra presented by the Srjan Repertory.

The five-day festival was dedicated to the memory of Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi, the soulful singer of Ashtapadis from Jayadeva’s Geeta Govindam and a music composer par excellence, who had left for his heavenly abode a few days ago. Inaugurating the festival, the Governor of Odisha Dr. S. Jamir said, “Odisha is the land of art and culture where legendary artistes like Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi enriched the legacy of the performing arts. This festival will cherish their memories…”

The aesthetically done up foyer had Lord Jagannath in the center with the garlanded photos of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi on either sides. Large display panels of photos showcased the historical moments of Kelubabu’s life journey which was also the documented history and development of Odissi dance itself. The dance performances were followed with vocal or instrumental music every day with the exception of a whole evening devoted to flute player Ronu Majumdar on the third day.

Pt. Nayan Ghosh and Pt. Hiranmay Mitra

The inaugural evening had tabla solo by the versatile artiste Pt Nayan Ghosh who is also an equally renowned sitar player. The gifted son and disciple of Pt. Nikhil Ghosh and nephew of Pt. Pannalal Ghosh, Nayan has music flowing in his veins. After the initial training in tabla under his father Pt. Nikhil Ghosh, he was further groomed by the legendary tabla maestro Ustad Ahemad Jan Thirakwa. That Nayan is a repository of the rich wealth of compositions from various Tabla  Baaj (Gharanas) was proved beyond doubt when he played the choicest compositions of the Dilli, Ajrada, Farrukhabad, Lucknow and the Punjab Baaj of Tabla referring the names of the Ustads of that particular Gharana who composed the specific Bandish.

Opening his recital with Teen-tala, he displayed his technical virtuosity in all the three tempos the slow Vilambit laya, the medium Madhya laya and the fast or Drut laya. The slow tempo saw the leisurely Vistaar of bols like the Bol-Aalap of a vocal recital from Peshkara to Quayeda with the ‘Ulat-Palat’ (tossing and turning) of the main bol theme, to Fard and the variety of poetry like Gats like the Aarohi-Avarohi Gat, Do-Dhaara, Tri-Dhaara and Chaudhaara Gat and the Gend Uchhaal Gat et al. Nayan effortlessly compressed Daadara, Jhaptala, Ektala, Ada-Chautala of 6, 10, 12, 14 beat cycles in the 16 beats of Teen-tala displaying the intricacies of Tisra, Chatusra, Khand, Misra and Sankeerna Jaatis.

His poetic Parhant preceded the rare compositions of Kolkata’s Khalifa Masit Khan, Hyderabad’s Ghulam Hussain Khan, Indore’s Raheman Khan, Ud Ahemad Jaan Thirakwa to Pt. Jnanprakash Ghosh and Pt. Nikhil Ghosh to name just a few. The Chaupalli Gat of Haji Vilayet Khan the founder of Farrukhabadi Baaj that started just after the 1st ‘Dha’ of the ‘Sam’ and the Gat by Pt. Nikhil Ghosh with the ‘Anuprasa’ (alliteration) of Ga di ga na bols were some of the exquisite jewels of his repertoire. The melodious Lehera in raga Mishra Shivaranjani provided by Pt. Hiranmay Mitra set the melodious ‘mahaul’ (atmosphere) from the very beginning with his sensitive Aalap. No wonder he came out to be a gifted disciple of Pt. A. Kanan.

Pt. Suresh Talwalkar, Gati Krishna Naik, Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar, Sabyasachi Rout, Pt. Gaurav Chatterjee

Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar’s Hindustani vocal recital was the musical attraction of the second evening. Born into a family of musicians, Kashalkar received his initial training under his father Pt. N.D. Kashalkar before being further groomed by stalwarts like Pt. Ram Marathe and Gajanan Bua Joshi. With equal command on the Gaayakis of the Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur Gharanas, he treats the ragas and compositions (the traditional Bandishes) of different Gharanas in their own particular stylized way. He has in fact evolved his own style of singing with his own unmistakable mark. A senior Guru at the ITC- Sangeet Research Academy (SRA), he has groomed a number of disciples who are performing across the world.

This evening he chose the expansive ‘Bihag’ for his main raga and treated it at length singing a Bada Khayal “Dhan dhan re…” in Vilambit (slow) Tilwada tala, the popular Chhota Khayal “abahoon laalan maika….” and a Tarana in Teen-tala adorning the Bandishes with Aaalap, Bol-Aalap, Bahelawa and a variety to Taans in the typical Gwalior style. Then he presented a rare Thumri composition of Kadar Piya in raga Kafi, set to Addha Theka “Garaj garaj baadal, kaisi Bijuri chamke….” describing the rainy season. Normally one hears Thumri in Kafi describing the spring season or the festival of colours called Holi or Phaag, hence they are also called ‘Hori’; but this Thumri being a melodious exception gave listeners a sense of wonder with his onomatopoeic Bol-Taans depicting the lightning and the thunder of dark clouds.

Pt. Kashalkar concluded his impressive concert in the conventional way with the Bhairavi, singing “Dekho Kanhaiya barajori karo na…” This was a lovely composition of Pt. Ratanjankar, the well-known musician and composer of Agra Gharana, hence Kashalkar treated it with the rhythmic vibrancy of Agra Gaayaki. Pt. Suresh Talwalkar’s tabla added charm to Kashalkar’s vocal recital because Talwalkar himself is a trained vocalist and a sensitive musician at heart. Gaurav Chatterjee ably supported him on harmonium.

Mukul Dongrey, Ramdas Palsule, Pt. Ronu Majumdar, Atul Raninga

The whole of the third evening was at Ronu Majumdar’s disposal. He could have easily established himself as an excellent classical flautist playing Raga-Sangeet with the support of just tanpura and tabla sangat in the first half and then moved on to his experimental fusion with key boards, harmonica, synthesizer and the drums; but he chose just the fusion music for the whole evening. With Atul Raninga on keyboards/harmonica, Ramdas Palsule on tabla and Mukul Dongrey on Western percussions, he opened with a track of his 15 year old album ‘Traveler’s Tale’ and then a track from “Calcutta Chiaroscuro.’ ‘Dancing with the Wind’ in Hansadhwani was inspired by Pt. Ravi Shankar’s composition that he composed for a festival in Moscow.

Ronu also played ‘Joy Sutra’ from Fusion Yatra which he admitted was the result of what he has learnt from Western composers like Mozart to R.D. Burman. ‘Back to Roots’ was based on ragas like Kalawati and Jansammohini where he displayed some ‘Ateet-Anaagat’ rhythmic variations. A Drut Ektala Bandish in raga Miyan-Malhar came next, but here also instead of the drone of a tanpura for a tuneful background, he preferred the discordant synthesizer and keyboard. He also indulged in singing the Sargam Taans before playing them on flute. He went on to play a Mirzapuri Kajri, Vande Mataram and Zila Kafi before concluding with the Jog-Jazz which was neither Raga Jog nor Jazz. Although the crowds cheered him, the evening was a disappointment for the connoisseurs who went to listen to Ronu Majumdar, the classical flautist.

Anubrata Chatterjee and Purbayan Chatterjee

Purbayan Chatterjee’s sitar added variety to the instrumental music segment by representing the string instrument after the percussion with Nayan Ghosh’s tabla and the wind instrument in Ronu Majumdar’s flute. Born into a family of musicians, Purbayan learnt the art of sitar and Surbahaar playing from his father Pt. Parthopratim Chatterjee. Anubrata Chatterjee, son and disciple of Pt. Anindo Chatterjee was there to accompany him on tabla. Although Purbayan has also ventured into fusion and world music along with his band the Shastriya Syndicate, he fortunately played the classical Raga-Sangeet in this festival choosing raga Nand for his main raga. It was the most appropriate raga for that time of the evening, according to the time theory of Hindustani classical music.

Opening with a detailed Aalap-Jod-Jhaala to create the mood for the raga he played a slow composition in Roopak tala of seven beats cycle followed by a medium tempo composition based on the popular Bandish “Man ber ber chaahat…” in Drut Ektala and another Teen-tala Bandish “Ajahoon na aaye Shyam….” This was followed by a Kajari “Barsan laagi savan boondiyaan…” set to the lilting gait of Dadara. Anubrata’s able accompaniment on tabla enhanced the beauty and charm of the sitar. Purbayan is a sensitive sitar player with fertile imagination but his unnecessary singing was disappointing, which he could have easily avoided. He was invited there for his melodious sitar recital and not for the substandard singing. 

Manjari Sinha has an MA in Sanskrit from Allahabad University, MA in Music from Vikram University, Ujjain; B.Ed. from Lucknow University; Sangeet Prabhakar in vocal, tabla, sitar and Kathak dance from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad; and further training in sitar from guru Arvind Parikh in the lineage of Ustad Vilayat Khan. She contributes articles in English and Hindi on Music (Hindustani & Carnatic), Dance, Art & Culture for various leading music journals and periodicals. She gives lec-dems on Indian classical music and dance in India and abroad.