‘Khayal Yadnya’ — The best of old and new

The three-day ‘Khayal Yadnya’ was a perfect tribute to Pt. Bhimsen Joshi on his centenary

A massive, three-day musical festival was held in Pune recently to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. Titled ‘Khayal Yadnya’, 38 vocalists representing various khayal forms performed from 7 a.m. onwards; thus one heard several morning and afternoon raags.

Pt. Bhimsen Joshi  

Streamed live as well, the festival was organised by the Pune-based Sangeetacharya Pt. D.V. Kanebua Pratishthan, brainchild of vocalist Manjusha Patil. The festival opened with the sole dhrupad presentation by Uday Bhawalkar, whose sombre raag Bhairav and devotional composition, ‘Narayan tum Hari’ set the tone for the festival.

Hearing so many vocalists, of different ages and stature, one after the other continuously for three days was a unique experience. With an allotted time slot of around 45 minutes, it was interesting to observe that most singers chose to present one raag in entirety rather than two or more concise offerings; without doubt the ability to prolong a raag is seen as a virtue these days. About four decades ago, the ability of a performer to extract the essence of a raag (nichod ) in a short time was hailed as much as the competence to linger and expand. One also noted with regret that most new generation singers do not quite bother to do riyaaz in the kharaj saptak (lower octave), leaving their voice span much reduced. The grandeur and majesty of singing the lower notes are lost.

The rigid adherence to rendering raags according to the time of the day was abandoned on occasion; perhaps Hindustani music is slowly going the Carnatic way, which gave up the time theory years ago.

Manjusha Patil  

Special moments

There were some special moments — Vijay Koparkar’s Basant Mukhari, Ram Deshpande’s Todi, Devaki Pandit’s Hindol with a profusion of authentic Jaipur taans of different gaits, Omkar Dadarkar’s Puriya had power and drama and Manjusha Patil’s Bageshwari was both emotionally appealing in the vilambit and thrilling in the dhrut. The piece de resistance of the festival was presented by Ustad Rashid Khan. Accompanied by three disciples, he was at his mellow best in Puriya. His voice is indeed unparalleled.

Ram Deshpande 

A careful selection of raags ensured that one was able to hear some rare ones — Ashwini Bhide Deshpande sang raag Jogiya with a meticulous thoroughness in her wonderfully steady voice. Arati Ankalikar Tikekar’s raag Sarag Valari was thought provoking. Over the years, she has chosen to invariably present unusual raags. Nishad Bakre’s Kukubh Bilawal included some nice taan patterns, Kalapani Komkali skilfully expanded Beehad Bhairav, which she described as ‘dhun ugam’ (based on a dhun) and Raghunandan Panshikar rendered Savani Kalyan with élan. After the concert he said, “for me, the bandish has a devotional feel which is important.”

Impressive choice of raags

Many singers of the younger generation also impressed with their raag choice such as Arati Thakur Kundalkar’s (Kirana gharana) raag Bhupal Todi, Saurabh Kadgaonkar’s (Jaipur Attrauli gharana) Lalita Gauri, Nagesh Adgaonkar’s (Rampur Sahaswan gharana) Puriya Dhanashri and Sham Kalyan, Saurabh Naik’s (Gwalior gharana) raag Vrindavani Sarang, Anuja Zokarkar’s (Gwalior gharana) Gaoti, and Basant. It was surprising to not hear more Basant renditions during Basant Panchami (February 16).

Young vocalists like Dhananjay Hegde also held their own. Bhuvanesh Komkali seems to be getting better and better, while Sawani Shendesings her own compositions with pleasure and polish. Rahul Deshpande’s Nat Bhairav was noteworthy.

Ustad Rashid Khan  

Mature interpretations of raags by seniors including Pt. Venkatesh Kumar ( Asavari), Madhup Mudgal (Chayanat, Suha Sugrai and Jog), and Shaunaq Abhisheki ( Marwa and Bhoop Nat) ensured a balanced presentation.

It was heartening to see many musicians in the audience. Their presence, and that of erudite listeners during a live performance held in the memory of a legend brought out the best in the singers.

All announcements were in Marathi, which was surprising, given the global reach of the online platform.

The festival featured some of the best accompanying artistes such as Arvind Azad, Vijay Ghate, Ramdas Palsule and Bharat Kamat on the tabla, and Aravind Thatte, Suyog Kundalkar, Milind Kulkarni and Tanmay Deochake on the harmonium. The festival, which was memorable in many ways, ended with Pt. Rajan-Sajan Mishra’s heartwarming rendition of Bhairavi.

The Delhi-based author writes on Hindustani music and musicians.

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