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ITC SRA News - October 2014 - September 2015

ITC SRA Holi Milan 2015

When spring has sprung and the cuckoos have started cuckooing incessantly, the gardens of the ITC Sangeet Resarch Academy come alive with splendid blossoms of the season. But colours do not appeal to one’s visual perception alone. Holi, the spring festival, is as much about spraying ‘abir’ on one another as it is about rejuvenating the soul with the many hues of nature. The Holi Milan programme at ITC SRA is the byword for the spirit of spring. The 86-year-young Girija Devi, doyenne of the Benares gharana and undisputed Empress of Thumri, presides over its Holi celebration. Like every year, this year too she was at the centre of the festivities, singing, laughing and affecting everyone with her cheerful magnetism. In a rose pink silk sari, the diamond on her nose and her paan-lined lips mocking at her lovely long white braided hair, Appaji – as she is referred to by everyone at the Academy – presented Horis and Kajris with an energy that only she can conjure up. For the large audience gathered at the Academy’s auditorium on Sunday, 8th March, it was as though colours had taken on distinctly auditory overtones. Not only did she sing herself, she also presented some of the Academy’s scholars. The youngsters did justice to the traditional numbers which are deeply rooted in classical ethos but have the spontaneity and emotional content of folk art forms. Nirbhay Saxena and Sripad Limbekar rendered ‘Nain gulal’, a Hori in Kafi, with commendable aplomb. Sucheta Ganguly, Shoumi Roy and Piu Mukherjee, who gave vocal support to Girija Devi, impeccably trained by her, invested a lot of passion into ‘Dhum machi hai’, ‘Urata abir gulal’ and Holi khelana kaise jaun’. But, as expected, it was Girija Devi ji herself with her nuanced ‘bol banawat’ and her remarkable command over Ragas who communicated vivaciously to all members of the audience. She completely claimed the morning for herself. And she saw to it the colours of spring flooded the hearts of all those present in the ITC SRA auditorium that was ready to burst at the seams.

Malhar Festival at Kolkata - 19th & 20th September 2015

Althoughtechnically the monsoon has shed its last rains by the end of August and beaten a retreat, this time the weather Gods decreed that September should continue to be wet. On the evenings of 19th and 20th September, it rained incessantly. The interiors of the auditorium at GD Birla Sabhagar reverberated to the vocal and instrumental strains of the Malhar Ragas. The Malhar Festival of ITC Sangeet Research Academy, inaugurated by Shri Pradeep Dhobale Executive Director at ITC Ltd, was a tribute to a family of Ragas that hold a unique place in the pantheon of Hindustani Classical Music. It also celebrated the spirit of the season. Distinguished musicians of the city, music lovers and aficionados were in the audience. The newly appointed US Consul General in Kolkata, Mr Craig L Hall, and his wife Mrs Meeryung Hall graced the function with their presence. The festival began with vilambit and drut khayals in Raga Megh performed by Smt. Aparajita Lahiri Brahmachari, a Scholar of the Academy under Dr Girija Devi. She followed up her excellent exploration of the Raga with a Thumri in Mishra Majh Khamaj and an impassioned rendering of a Kajri to suit the occasion. Shri Abir Hussain, Musician Tutor of ITC SRA who trained under Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta and later on also under Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, presented Raga Miyan ki Malhar. His melodious playing highlighted the characteristics of this most popular member of the family through an inspired alap, jod and jhala presentation. He was ably accompanied by Shri Jayanta Chatterjee on tabla. Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar’s masterly rendition of Raga Jayant Malhar concluded the first evening’s programme. A compound of Jaijaiwanti and Malhar, the Raga unfolded itself majestically in Ulhasji’s virtuoso treatment. With his signature layakari, magnificent taankari and well-enunciated gamaks, he recreated the nuances of the dynamic sounds of the monsoon, in which he was helped by traditional bandishes along with one received from his celebrated Guru, Pandit Ramashrey Jha. The two Ragas that constitute Jayant Malhar resounded throughout his performance, creating a soundscape that was both unique as well as rooted in tradition. The second day began with a performance by Shri Sameehan Kashalkar, where he was accompanied by Shri Sanjay Adhikary on tabla. Through traditional bandishes, a splendid badhat, gamak oscillations, and scintillating boltaans, he explored the possibilities of Raga Miyan ki Malhar. His impeccable training from his celebrated father came through in his rendering. Sameehan concluded with a Dadra learnt from Vidushi Girija Devi, who is also his Guru. The vitality of Raga Desh came out in the Jugalbandi of vioilin and slide guitar presented by Shri Saket Sahu, Scholar under Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, and Shri Ratan Bharati, who trains under Pandit Partha Chatterjee. Providing them with magnificent accompaniment on tabla was Shri Ashoke Mukherjee. Always mindful of the mood of the Raga, the duo kept up a wonderful interplay between their instruments and their individual styles, responding to each other with complementary phrases and instinctive understanding. The finale of this year’s Malhar was drawn up by Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty where he was accompanied by Shri Indranil Bhaduri on tabla and Smt. Rupashree Bhattacharya on harmonium. He took the route of Miyan ki Malhar to Mirabai Malhar via Sorat Malhar. Presenting traditional bandishes as well as a self-composed Thumri, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty did justice to his immense reputation and learning. It was a festival. The strains of Mirabai Malhar, with its mood perfectly setting off the last rains of the monsoon to make way for the white clouds of autumn, provided a fitting conclusion to the celebration of a season that spells hope and prosperity.

Raga Analysis Class - 17th July 2015

Aparajita Lahiri Brahmachari,As a student and devotee of music, I always had an interest regarding the huge variety of Ragas, each of unique in type. Having learnt music for more than 23 years gives a fair and prominently distinct idea of the fact that behind the majesty of Hindustani classical music lies a the power of Raga and its various dimensions. There are ragas known to depict each and every mood and season. At ITC Sangeet Research Academy, utmost importance is given to the Raga system of Indian Classical Music and the Raga Analysis class is one of those time when the scholars and Gurus of the Academy sit together and discuss the particulars of a single Raga, how it should be rendered, what the different routes within the framework of the Raga are or what the criterions are behind establishing a Raga during performance. Being a Senior Scholar of this Academy, I, along with my 2 scholar friends, were given the responsibility of organising this time's Raga Analysis class by our Executive Director and our respected Gurus.The Raga decided was Malhar and a few different types in the Malhar group. The first question that came to my mind was what the actual phrase of Raga Malhar should be like? "What is the essence of Malhar?", "Is there any Raga called Shuddha Malhar?".I along with Debasmita requested our Gurus to explain the track of Malhar, Shudh Malhar and Megh / Megh Malhar. Guru Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty firstly mentioned that if we want to know or sing or play Raga Malhar we would need to know about Raga Darbari because both Ragas use the same phrases (R P, M P g M R S) and this very phrase is what denotes the difference between both the Ragas. A question posed by Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty was,"What is a phrase or why are there even phrases in Ragas?" Sankumay Debnath, a scholar, was asked to begin an alaap of Raga Megh and was asked to established the Raga in one phrase. N S N P, P R. This was the phrase sung by Sankumay and he was asked to build on the same phrase through different routes. Guru Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar said there are Ragas of the same swara/notes like Bhupali/ Deshkar, Megh/Madhmad Sarang, Puriya/Marwa/Sohini. "These Ragas have the same notes but become different through different rendition of the same notes. "Swar, swar sangati, badhat, meend, murki etc are all the terms that have fixed meaning and the same affects each and every Raga and makes it different", said Pandit Kashalkar. On Megh and Megh Malhar it was said that there is no such difference between the two Ragas. Megh is recited with Malhar ang which is R M P, P MgR S. Between M and R there is usage of komal Gandhar which is rendered through meend. Some artists use clear komal Gandhar saying that Megh Malhar and some artists sing M R S with meend which is called Megh. The following is a frequently used phrase of Raga Megh and important one as well. n S R M P n S, S n S P N M P R M S R n S

Guru-Scholar Meeting - 10th July 2015

A joint meeting between the Scholars and Gurus of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy on July 10 proved to be momentous. It was decided that a magnificent tradition of the Academy, a Raga Analysis Class with all the august Gurus of the Academy participating, would be held on a monthly basis. The first group of Ragas, in keeping with the mood of the season, was to be Malhar. On July 17, it was decided, this group of Ragas would be explored in all its glory. The Scholars responded enthusiastically, promising animated participation in the event. The significance of these discussions has to be judged in the light of the superior erudition of the Gurus who have their own experiences and understanding of the Ragas. These enrich the Scholars beyond measure. And often teach them to look at their music in a new light.

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