From renditions of Amir Khan to works of Jaidev, NCPA's music festival pays tribute to legendary composers.
Now in its ninth edition, Bandish 2018 will be bring to fore composers such as Kishori Amonkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Amir Khan, Ramashreya Jha, Kshetrayya and Pachimiriyam Adiyappayya, whose soulful renditions have kept the element of Indian classical music intact.
Starting today, this three-day musical festival at National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) is spread between Hindustani and Carnatic music and will have compositions of songsmiths whose work haven’t been presented earlier.
“Bandish in Indian classical music is a special composition which has the potential for improvisation. Bandish is a song which is composed in such a way that it has the quintessential core of a raag,” explains Dr. Suvarnalata Rao, programming head-Indian music and research scientist at the NCPA.
Reviving the age-old oral tradition, the idea is to circulate the compositions back into the singers’ community. “It is like any normal music festival but only the definite focus is on compositions. This way they stay in circulation,” tells Dr Rao.
Today, Indian classical vocalist Jayateerth Mevundi of the Kirana gharana will perform the bandish of Ustad Amir Khan and Ramashreya Jha. According to Jayateerth, there is a ‘certain calmness’ in the raags by Ustad Amir Khan. One of Amir Khan’s composition has lines such as ‘Karam karo kripa dayalu tum ho sab jag ke data, Kareem raheem karta dhukh bhanjan dauh saagar so sar vidhata.’ Jayateerth says, “This composition has a mention of bhagwan and allah. His speciality was that in one bandish, you would find the oneness of Hindu and Muslim. He was devoted to god and in many of his compositions, there are descriptions of Ram and Krishna as well.” And for someone who’s grown up listening to the compositions of Ustad Amir Khan, Jayateerth learned the art of keeping the purity of a tarana.
The first day will also have Pandit Raghunandan Panshikar presenting the work of Kishori Amonkar. Ask how she went about selecting singers and Dr Rao says, “Sometimes it is the reckoning of the vocalist that happens when you take the name of the composer. Like when you think of Kishori tai, Raghunandan Panshikar automatically comes to the mind as he is trained by her and her mother.”
While every raag has a thought or personality to it, a bandish hence becomes a tool for the singer to present it an eloquent way, thus giving it a new face.
The second day will have carnatic music vocalist TM Krishna presenting the works of 17th and 18th century composers Kshetrayya and Pachimiriyam Adiyappayya, respectively. “Kshetrayya was a prolific composer of erotic and sensuous compositions known as padams. These compositions were most of the times composed in the courts and honour patron kings. But they were all passionate love poetry, celebrating the body and the nuances of love. And Pachimiriyam Adiyappaiah unheralded the genius of carnatic music. He is known for his only surviving Varnam (a compositional form) in raga Bhairavi, the magnum opus Viriboni,” says Krishna adding that the music of these two composers of the pre-19th century predates the unwavering focus to kirtanas that we witness in Carnatic music today.
The last leg of the festival will also bring to fore the work of distinguish composer Jaidev, to be performed by the likes of Hariharan, Suresh Wadkar and Mahalaxmi Iyer to name a few. “He gave the beautiful composition of Allah Tero Naam. He was a trained classical singer and is known to bring forward unknown voices. Singers like Chhaya Ganguli, Hariharan and Suresh Wadkar, are his protégés. He took them under his wing and gave them a chance,” smiles Dr Rao.
While Krishna believes there is a tendency for all art forms and artists to become obsessed with a singular narrative, leading to the elimination or marginalisation of many composers and their art objects, Dr Rao is of the opinion that classical music at the end of the day is not everybody’s cup of tea. “Today we have classical and Bollywood music. Classical music has always been a challenge. It is a niche understanding. One has to give it time to absorb fully before reaching to a conclusion,” she concludes.
It is like any normal music festival, but only the definite focus is on compositions. This way these compositions will stay in circulation.
Dr Suvarnalata Rao
—Bandish 2018 — A Tribute to Legendary Composers, Today till 5 August, 6.30 pm onwards, At Tata Theatre, NCPA