An evening of paying homage to the late sarod maestro, Ustad Bahadur Khan, at the Science City auditorium resulted in the classical music lovers in the city getting to listen to five consecutive performances by famous figures in the world of Indian classical music. The programme commenced with a sarod recital by Shahadaat Hussain Khan, who is a resident of Bangladesh at present. Although he is a nephew of the late Ustad Bahadur Khan as well as his disciple, his rendition did not remind listeners of his teacher. His alaap and jor in Raga Maru Bihag was disappointing. For the ordinary and predictable vistaars the gat, too, was unimpressive. His brief presentation in Raga Desh was comparatively better.
The sitar player, Kushal Das, took a little time to introduce the unfamiliar Raga Madhumanjari to the audience through his long alaap, which settled into its pace in the jor and jhala thereafter. Kushal’s gat was arresting; he has a smooth, sweet style of playing which made his vistaars and taans enchanting. But he had a tendency to increase the length of a single performance, which could have been avoided.
The name of Pandit Swapan Choudhury created a wave of interest among the audience, as Calcutta rarely gets a chance to witness his solo tabla performance. He did not dishearten his listeners. He focused on teentaal in madhyalay, and along with the theka and palta theka, his tabla lahara demonstrated complicated bols, parans and chakradhaar parans, replete with his spontaneous spark. His unique presentation of tihaais and even chouhaais distinctly carried the grandeur of the Luckhnow Gharana.
Sadly, one of the main attractions of the programme, Ustad Rashid Khan, was not in his element. Although his voice and style of presentation were attractive, his vistaars and taans remained structured in his vilambit kheyal in Raga Puriya Kalyan. It was actually his drut kheyal in teentaal that was charming. A brief performance of Raga Behag in madhyalay jhamptaal, complete with his exceptional touches, created a fitting mood. The charm continued when he sang kheyals in Raga Darbari Kanada, “Ken bairana” and “Mora piya mose bolat nahi”, especially in the vistaars of the lower and middle octaves.
The best performer of the evening was undoubtedly Pandit Venkatesh Kumar (picture), who gave the audience a real audio-visual pleasure. The generosity of his voice and forceful taans, along with his intricate modulations, made his vilambit kheyal in Raga Multaan mesmerizing. His short yet sparkling vistaars, his dominance of the key notes as well as his aggressive body language in both the vilambit and drut kheyals gave one the rush of feeling much like the one brought on by an over-boundary scored for every ball. He also presented the vilambit and drut kheyals in Raga Patdeep in his distinctive style, and concluded his part with the famous bhajan, “Payo ji maine Ram ratan dhan payo.”
On the tabla, Shubhankar Banerjee was wonderful. Samar Saha and Abhijeet Banerjee, too, were perfect.