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A confluence of musicians and music lovers

Published : Mar 7, 2018, 2:46 am IST
Updated : Mar 7, 2018, 2:47 am IST

The concluding evening session features Kalapini Komkali, daughter of the iconic Pt Kumar Gandharva.

 Jayanthi Kumaresh
  Jayanthi Kumaresh

The Shriram Bharatiya Shankarlal Festival will take place from 8-11th March at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra Lawns, on Copernicus Marg in New Delhi.

Delhi’s premier classical music event, the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra Shankarlal Festival is being held from March 8-10. Aficionados have been attending this grand festival through the years, which was set up by none other than Bharat Ratna Pt Ravi Shankar along with members of the Shriram family, some members of whom he also taught.

What is special about the Shankarlal Festival is that it’s not only about music. Over the years it has come to be a gathering of like-minded people who connect at Shankarlal only.

There is always a lavish menu of traditional old Delhi food available from mouth-watering “chaat” to crisp, freshly fried “jalebis” and interaction while eating, between concerts (sometimes even during concerts, if the artist does not please!) is a Shankarlal ritual.

This year is the 71st edition of the festival, and Shobha Deepak Singh was keen to bring something new to her audience. In her words “I wanted to bring in newer faces to Delhi audiences who always expect more from Shankarlal”.

An attempt is to include as many artists as possible, to provide the audience with as mixed a palette, so every evening features three artists per evening. Personally one feels this is unnecessary; an artist of stature needs a minimum of an hour-and-a-half to really present their best, and with three artists in an evening that rarely happens. Two artists per evening is enough variety.

The festival opens with a vocal recital by Shounak Abhisheki, son of the late Pt Jitendra Abhisheki, a prolific composer and teacher of the Agra gharana. He is followed by Pt Debashish Bhattacharya on the chaturangi slide guitar, an instrument he has modified himself. Grammy nominee Debashish Bhattacharya inexplicably is seldom seen on Delhi’s stages, despite being one of the finest instrumentalists today, with an enviable command of his instrument and impeccable aesthetic instinct. He verbalised his excitement at performing at Shankarlal for the first time “Shankarlal is one of the biggest festivals in North India, and I am thankful I will be performing at this awesome event.”

The evening concludes with Jaipur Attrauli trained Vidushi Arti Ankalikar Tikekar, a polished suave singer who after the demise of her Guru Vidushi Kishori Amonkar is one of the senior representatives of her gharana.

The second day, March 9, starts with Uday Bhawalkar, the popular dhrupad vocalist disciple of Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar. The second performer is Ustad Irshad Khan, second son of Ustad Imrat Khan of the Inayatkhani gharana. Irshad today is one of the few surbahar exponents of quality, but at this recital he will be playing the sitar. He said he was happy to be performing at Shankarlal after a long time. The evening concludes with none other than, undoubtedly the tallest vocalist of his generation, Pt Ulhas Kashalkar. One is awestruck to remember that this great performer is also a prolific teacher with around a dozen singing disciples including Manjusha Patil, Shashank Maktedar, Omkar Dadarkar, Ojesh Pratap Singh and son Sameehan Kashalkar.

The concluding day starts with a morning session of the best of Carnatic musicians — Vidushi Dr Jayanthi Kumaresh on the saraswati veena, an instrument her family has played for more than 5 generations, her forbear being a direct disciple of Saint Tygaraja himself. Jayanthi said “I have heard so much about this festival and the connoisseurs who patronize it. Though the Saraswathi Veena is an ancient instrument, and is the National Instrument of India, there are still so many people who have never it performed “Live”. I have always wanted to present this instrument to new audiences, and it is my privilege to present the Saraswathi Veena for the first time at Shankarlal.” She is followed by the “Nightingale of the South” Vidushi Bombay Jayashri, whose popularity as a classical singer is matched by her playback singing, including her Oscar nominated lullaby in Life of Pi.

The concluding evening session features Kalapini Komkali, daughter of the iconic Pt Kumar Gandharva. She is followed by Grammy nominee, flautist Pt Ronu Mazumdar of the Senia Maihar gharana, known for his extreme lyricity and dexterity on the flute. The festival concludes with the doyen of the Mewati gharana, Padmavibhushan Pt Jasraj, who rarely misses singing at Shankarlal, and is virtually a permanent fixture. Indeed the lineup is special, being a judicious mix of different singing styles, includes less known faces, and has different instruments in the saraswati veena and chaturangi slide guitar.

The writer writes on music, musicians and matters of music

Tags: debashish bhattacharya, jayanthi kumaresh