Bengal Classical Music Festival in association with ITC SRA, Dhaka
There are many counts on which the success of an event can be measured. If the Bengal Classical Music Festival 2013, in association with the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, were put to the test on any of these counts, it would come up trumps:
1) For many it is all in the numbers.
The turnout at the four-day event - there were 29,143 people in the auditorium when Ustad Rashid Khan was performing in the wee hours of December 2 and a whopping 31,863 during Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia’s early-morning performance on December 1 - was fabulous. Add to it the political unrest in the capital of Bangladesh and you have a people who are mad about music. They are ready to brave all odds to listen to their favourite musicians, many of whom they had never heard live.
2) It is not just about the numbers, though.
A sensitive and enthusiastic audience raised the bar of the performances at the event. The listeners inspired the musicians with their appreciation and interest. For four nights in a row, the colossal Army Stadium in Dhaka reverberated to the strains of vocal and insytrumental music and the listeners loved what they heard.
3) The artiste line-up couldn’t have been bigger.
Maestros such as Vidushi Girija Devi, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia featured in it, alongside the likes of Ustad Rashid Khan, Pandit Uday Bhawalkar, Vidushi Kaushiki Chakrabarty, Vidushi PadmaTalwarkar, and Shri Purbayan Chatterjee. If the highly introspective genre of Dhrupad was represented by Pandit Uday Bhawalkar in vocal and Ustad Bahauddin Dagar on the Rudra Veena, the Carnatic tradition found suitable expression in the virtuoso rendition of Vidushi Bombay Jayashree.
To give the event a truly sub-continental flavour and also to underscore the shared tradition of music in this part of the world, Pakistan’s most prominent Classical musician, Ustad Rais Khan, was among the performers. Dance - after all, the three elements of nritya (dance), vadya (percussion) and sangeet (music) constitute Music in the larger sense of the word - was an integral part of the festival. While Vidushi Alarmel Valli presented Bharatanatyam, Shri Vishal Krishna took us on a journey back in time to the traditional form of Kathak before it became the more sophisticated, urban expression that it has become today.
The programme also featured youngsters who certainly constitute the future of Hindustrani Classical Music. Scholar of ITC SRA, Ayan Sengupta, delivered a remarkable performance on the sitar, while another Scholar, Saket Sahu, left the audience spellbound with his extraordinary control over the violin.
A Tabla quartet, Shri Asit Dey on vocal, Smt Reenat Fauzia on the sitar and Manipuri dancer Smt Tamanna Rahman, and stood, for Bangladesh’s pool of talent in Classical music and dance at the festival.
4) Nothing stood in the way.
It is not enough to say that the Bengal Classical Music Festival 2013 was a grand success. It is important to look at backdrop of political upheavals that bloodied the streets of Bangladesh in the run up to and during the programme. Cocktail bombs exploded intermittently all over the country, deaths and injuries in sporadic incidents and a serious lack of transport facilities due to wide spread strikes and bus burning incidents provide a bleak perspective to the festival. But amidst it all, the music flowed freely, exhilaratingly, filling every heart. While driving out of the venue in the early morning hours it was humbling to see the streams of men and women who had to walk back after the nightlong performance. There were no buses to take them home as they were on strike. The 12 buses on eight routes that had been arranged by the organisers helped but were clearly not enough to ferry the mammoth gathering!
With the acknowledgement of ITC’s support for the cause of music came the appeal to important corporates in Bangladesh to come forward and help in the effort at propagation of our music. The country that has given birth to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar sadly lacks takers for serious lessons in Hindustani Classical Music. With concerted effort in the right direction, that situation is likely to change.
The first joins steps have certainly been taken by the Bengal Foundation and ITC Sangeet Research Academy.