Letters to a friend...


A Curious Mind W(o/a)nders...- http://ayanwonders.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 22, 2005

Musical musings

Have been listening to Bismillah's rendition of raag Bhairav on the shehnai latetly. Intoxicating to say the least.
Shehnai has two immediate associations for me.
One is the Indpendence day. If we (me and my brother) are at home on an Independence day, it will invariably be the Desh raag on the Ustad's shehnai that will awaken us (we would be sleeping lazily while baba would have gotten up at the break of dawn to put on the TV). And second is of course marriage. Any Bengali marriage (why bengali, any North Indian marriage) is incomplete without the strains of the shehnai. In the early mornings what better to wake up an entire marriage party than play those mellifluous strains on the shahnai...still brings back distinct memories of chhoto mama's (younger maternal-uncle's) marriage.

Different raags on the different instruments evoke such varied emotions and feelings.
For instance, malhar on the sarangi (have been looking for malhar on the sarangi mp3s for quite sometime...haven't found any yet). If you've ever visted those raparts in Rajasthan, you'd know the power and beauty of the folksy Malhar songs accompanied by the sarangi...those rural singers performing in the courtyards of those ancient forts; they are meant to appease the rain gods, and we are mere humans!

Or the power of the Tabla.
Hyderabad had this tradition of hosting ustads and pandits for all night performances every few years at the Ravindra Bharati or the Lalita Kala Thorana and in those days (before event- management had happened) it was completely free. Yet seats would stay empty...but that hardly made any difference. Whenever possible, we (our entire family) would be there and sometimes get to be a part of the magic of a Zakir Hussain and Allah Rakhan performing together; that is a performance I still remember. The power of showmanship and intense energy (Zakir) tempered by the beauty of maturity and age (Allah Rakhan).

And it's not limited to Indian music or instruments alone. Had the good fortune of listening to Jazz in the mecca of Jazz, New Orleans (had gone there for a conference a few years back). Sitting in those seedy restaurants in the French Quarter by the river-side listening to the hopes of an entire community through the depth of jazz; how could one stay untouched!

Or the roadside music in Munich (I don't even remember the name of the quadrangle). It was just two players, one on violin and one playing a cross between a piano and harmonium (don't remember the name of the instrument)...they were musicians who played on the roadside for money (can't call them beggars), but what dexterity and depth....had to postpone all my activities that evening to listen to that music in that street corner (and though I couldn't give then any money, they were so thrilled to have somebody listening to them with such absorption and respect, that they played a few special compositions for me). Had a similar experience in the New York metro stations too but was too scared at that time to enjoy it fully (that was my first foreign trip for a conference).

Lucknow is supposed to be one of the seats of Hindustani Classical music and has the famous Bhatkhande University. One dream is to attend an all-night classical performance in this city of Nawabs. Hope modern Lucknow still continues the tradition of those vintage classical performances, and hope I'll be able to find time to witness one of those before I leave this place...


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