Our series of day-by-day reports of the entire Convention can be found here.
By Isha Bhallamudi, Aroon Narayanan and Nithyanand Rao
The penultimate day of InterCon began with a series of demonstrations from every intensive group, held in SAC and CLT simultaneously, and continuing into the afternoon. Photos of some of these demonstrations:
— SPIC MACAY (@spicmacay) June 13, 2014
The overnight concerts that everyone had been eagerly looking forward to, was scheduled to begin at 8 pm and end at 7 am, featuring an impressive lineup of maestros. Although the performances were superb, the audience was incredibly exhausted courtesy the demanding routine of the previous days, and kept thinning through the night until the organizers were forced to prevent anyone from stepping out.
Those who were able to pay consistent attention to the performers throughout the night, however, took back precious memories of a sublime, beautiful night.
Here we bring you short reviews of each of the overnight concerts:
For the Love of His Art
The first concert of the evening kicked off well with Pandit Birju Maharaj who performed despite a foot injury, purely for the love of Kathak and his regard of SPIC MACAY. It started a little late, inadvertently beginning a domino effect that led to the overnight concert series ending only around 9 am, instead of the scheduled 7 am conclusion.
Padma Vibhushan Birju Maharaj performed marvellously, rendering, among others, a jugalbandi between the feminine ghungroo and the masculine tabla, the latter evocatively portrayed by Shri Umesh Mishra, as well as an original composition.
His student and accompanist, Smt. Saswathi Sen captivated the audience by demonstrating how even something as removed from dance as the process of goal scoring in hockey, can be expressed through Kathak, in addition to rendering a composition rooted in mythology, Ahalya Utthan.
All in all, the first performance of the overnight concert was very well received, with an audience so large that it had to be allowed into the SAC rafters.
A Living Legend
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s concert was supposed to begin at 9 pm, but it was well past 10 when the performance actually began. The audience was seated and Pt. Sharma, with Pt. Ram Kumar Mishra accompanying him on the tabla, were both ready. However, Pt. Sharma was not happy with the way the soothing sound of his santoor was conveyed by the audio equipment at SAC. It took numerous back-and-forth trips from the stage to the sound engineers by his disciple from Japan, Takahiro Arai — who was accompanying him on the tanpura — to set it right. This, however, ate up a lot of time, and Pt. Sharma was left visibly irritated. He picked up the mic and aired his frustration calmly, in a manner befitting a man of his stature. He said it disturbs an artist when something like this happens and it throws him off balance.
He then talked to the audience for a bit, telling them how best to enjoy music. Contrary to what is commonly believed, he said that “those who are less knowledgeable, but are able to emotionally connect can enjoy classical music better.” His humility came to the fore when he asked the audience to “forget the musician and his awards; close your eyes and enjoy the music.” Before starting the performance, he requested the audience to not clap. It soon became obvious once the concert began, however, that this was one thing the audience could not stop themselves from doing.
He began with raag Baageshwari in Teentaal, followed by Jhaptaal. Like a few other of the performers that IIT Madras saw during this convention, he recognized that his audience was uninitiated and went over his plans with them. He indicated that he would start out with an aalap which is just a mixture of various combinations of the swaras of the raga, used as a warming-up exercise by the performer. Then, the tablist would jump in on the action and they would move on to the jor, where the tempo of the performance is set with the introduction of the accompaniments. Finally, they would end with the pacy and melodic jhala, which acts as a conclusion to the composition.
Although the audience was visibly tired, they seemed to have enjoyed the concert very much. The music was sublime and heavenly, transporting the enthusiastic listener to another world altogether. However, the night was far from over.
A Father-Son Duo
Padma Bhushan Dr. L. Subrahmaniam played to an expectant, but exhausted, audience and in true guile of a performer, made sure he did not lose their ears at any point in time. At regular intervals, he would smile and ask the audience if they were asleep and then restart the concert again only on getting a decent response. He also chose to play renditions at at least a moderate speed, breaking into pacy fillers at interludes. He was supported in this by Vidwan V. V. Ramanamurthy on the mridangam, Vidwan Vaikom Gopal Krishnan on the ghatam and Vidwan Ghantasala Satya Sai on the morsing.
He also explained his course in the beginning. Starting out with a kriti in praise of Lord Ganesha in Mohanaraaga, he moved on to a raagam thaanam pallavi. It is here that he flaunted his daunting and expansive range of pace and subtlety, dishing out improvisation after improvisation of magnificent class and sophistication. By the time he was finished, he had duelled successfully with the demons of sleep clutching on to his audience and emerged an appreciated victor.
Lastly, he performed a violin duet with his son, Ambi Subramaniam, who had been sitting demurely beside his father hitherto. Revelling in the diversity of challenges thrown at him by his father, he matched up brilliantly to the maestro and ended with a small solo of his own. Recognizing paucity of time, they wrapped up soon after.
Carrying Forward an Old Legacy
The dhrupad concert, by Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar, began well over an hour behind schedule. By the time the concert began, volunteers had been posted at the door to ensure that nobody stepped out. The audience was noticeably exhausted and sleepy, and several members of it were sleeping indiscriminately.
However, the concert was rendered so beautifully as to really touch those who were awake enough to listen deeply. We feel that given the exacting schedule of the convention, the overnight concert could not do justice to the audience’s desire to enjoy the maestros who were performing.
Ustad Dagar is said to be descended from the legendary Swami Haridas Dagar, Tansen’s guru, and reportedly has a vocal range that spans three scales. Unlike his father, who was part of the celebrated Dagar Brothers duo, he is a solo singer. He performed soulfully, tapping into the mood of the ragas with brilliance, rendering, among others, raag Darbari.
A Maestro at Work
One of the most recognized Carnatic vocalists of our time, Vidwan T. M. Krishna definitely deserved a more responsive and sizeable audience than that he was left with at 5:30 in the morning, his concert having been delayed by a staggering two and a half hours. Although not scantily attended, the foyer was only about three-quarters full and half of those in attendance were too tired to be participative. As an effect, probably, his singing was more subdued than usual, but entertaining nonetheless. He began with Chakkani Raja, a Thyagaraja krithi in Karaharapriya set to Adi taala, and went on to perform about a dozen aalaps of varying complexity and grace. The concert was characterised by his usual strict adherence to an orthodox style and expansive hand gestures at most times, losing himself in the mesmerising labyrinthe of his own music. He was accompanied by Vidwan H. N. Bhaskar on the violin and Vidwan K. Arun Prakash on the mridangam.