Monday, April 10, 2017

SIFAS Festival 2017: Ravikiran in sublime form

Arriving at Changi Airport, Singapore, on 1st April, I was happy to be received by Sushma and Shruti. Shruti left with my co-passenger Mannargudi Eswaran, while I stayed back with Sushma to await the arrival by another flight of Satyajit Talwalkar the tabla ustad who was to accompany Kaushiki Chakrabarty (vocal) and Rakesh Chaurasia (flute) in a concert on the 2nd at Esplanade on the Beach. Satyajit turned out to be a cool character, easygoing and confident in his self, the legacy of his tabla maestro father Suresh Talwalkar sitting lightly on him. We were taken straight to the SIFAS premises, where we freshened up in the guest house and had a breakfast of idlis and coffee, before we trooped to the auditorium to listen to Kauhsiki Chakraborty and Rakesh Chaurasia in conversation with a sizable audience. Moderated by the American accented Ganesh Anand (a Hindustani vocal student of SIFAS), the session proved lively and entertaining, even if Kaushiki spoke of how divine her father's (Ajay Chakraborty's) music and nature were in typically traditional tones of guru worship. Both she and Rakesh, who is flute maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia's nephew, spoke of the advantages and disadvantages of their inheritance, though even the so-called negatives did turn out to be positives in the long run. For Kaushiki the child, music was play, and growing up, she revelled in translating every song she learnt into sargam syllables, and pushing herself to extremes while traversing the octaves. Rakesh, in contrast, was lazy about daily riyaz, but Hariprasad overcame this obstacle in his nephew's musical path, by leaving blank cassettes with him in the morning and demanding that they be filled with his practice exercises by the time he returned in the evening. Both confessed to their openness to the idea of collaborations and fusion particularly, gave a strong reply to a member of the audience who suggested that some of these attempts to take classical music to the common folk would result in dilution of the art. Kaushiki drew parallels from the history of music, by referring to the Persian influence on Hindustani music, and even traced the raga Bhoop to the Chinese pentatonic scale. Kaushiki proved an articulate and confident champion of her school of music, and gave some lovely samples of the incredible range of her voice and her amazing virtuosity. He reached out easily to the young in the audience, though she tended to go on a bit too long. Rakesh showed several glimpses of his uncle's sense of humour and repartee, but he fooled no one into believing that he was playful in his pursuit of musical excellence. Like Kaushiki, he spoke of the collaborative work he enjoys doing. Chitravina N Ravikiran’s concert that evening was as good as his best concerts in India. Every raga and every kriti he played was rooted in the traditional mode, and the sound of his instrument resembled some ancient cry to the beyond, giving you goosebumps with its purity and magnificent reverberance. Is there a better Carnatic musician in the authentic tradition? Ravikiran had great support from Akkarai Subhalakshmi (violin) and Mannargudi Eswaran (mridangam) who was celebrating his 72nd birthday. Both of them complemented the chitravina with their sometimes subtle, sometimes dynamic playing. It was also an opportunity for the versatile local percussionist who was playing the ghatam this evening. Charged by the brilliance of his mridangam playing senior, he perhaps got away on occasion. All in all, it was a most memorable concert. By V Ramnarayan (To be continued)

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