Monday, May 23, 2005

Silken strings of the Veena and Sitar

(It's been quite a while since there was a music related post here)

Carnatic and Hindustani classical musicians traditionally respected each other, often enjoyed either style of music, and a number of them put in some effort to learn the other style. But it took jugalbandhis of Carnatic and Hindustani musicians to bring listeners of either style to appreciate the other. The results have often been very enjoyable, yet invariably I prefer a good Carnatic concert, or a good Hindustani concert. But sometimes, there is just that perfect balance of Carnatic precision and Hindustani flow achieved in a jugalbandhi, that results in the mesmerizing.

To me, Carnatic music is like a mighty river in spate; surging on purposefully, sometimes overwhelmingly with joy. Hindustani music is more like a myriad mountain streams, exploring little corners here, and getting lost there. But they both reach the same destination, an ocean of bounty. When they blend together in balanced unison, the results are sometimes amazing. Last night was one such occasion.

Seattle was treated to a wonderful jugalbandhi by Jayanthi Kumaresh on the Veena and Gaurav Majumdar on the Sitar. The veena and the sitar are first cousins, very similarly designed stringed instruments with frets, and wooden bridges. But they remain two of a family, separated by distance. And when they came together last night, it was a joyous family reunion, with wonderful moments of polyphony and symphony. The sounds are similar, yet different, and each creates its own mood that goes perfectly with the other. The show started precariously, with the sound system causing havoc. The microphones seemed to work on the all or nothing principle; either nothing was heard, or else they would boom out and burst into static. It took twenty minutes for the organizers to figure it all out, and the audience greeted this success with raucous applause. Then the concert started, and left the listeners enthralled.

The choice of raga was excellent, and the usual suspects (Kalyani/Yaman, or Sindu Bhairavi) were avoided. Instead, they started with a mellow alap(ana) in Vasantha/Adi B(v)asant, and raised the tempo with a boisterous gat in the same raga. Then the “main piece” followed, and it was a ragam-tanam-pallavi in the beautiful Keeravani, followed by a jugalbandhi of the percussionists (Satish Kumar on the mridangam, Nitin Mitta on the tabala), worth listening to in it self. The concert aptly finished off with Vaishnava Janato in Harikambhoji/Khamaj, and received the standing ovation it deserved. There really was a blending of Carnatic and Hindustani styles, and not a forced match. A perfect end to a slightly chilly and damp Seattle evening. If only people could come together in this way, retaining their own identities, and making each other’s lives better.


Srikanth said...

Great to see a music related post! Well-written, in erudite (I like this word as well) prose.

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