Venue: Ravi Shankar Centre for Arts, Chanakyapuri
Date: 15-18 March 2017
“Son Chiraiya”, an organization promoting the music of the east (read music such as thumris, kajris, instruments and folk) has put forth a lovely ensemble of music to celebrate the centenary of Ustad Bismillah Khan, the shehnai star.
Yesterday was the first evening that started with shehnai by Rajen Prasanna and was followed by a recital by the legendary vocalist Girija Devi.
Rajen Prasanna and his accompanying artists played for about one hour. The pieces included Hori, Chaiti and Gangadwar, a piece that was played by Bismillah in reverence to the river Ganga in Benares. It felt as if the notes from the shehnai floated in the amphitheatre before drifting off in the skies. In the process it left a spell bound bunch of audience. Even the children listened with their jaws dropped. Playing a wind instrument is tough and needs years of practice. But when it is by a master like Prasanna, it penetrates the listener’s senses and fills him with peace and melody. With practitioners like Prasanna, the great Bismillah doesn’t need to worry about his legacy.
After setting the mood for the evening, Prasanna left the stage to grand dame of Hindustani vocal music – Girija Devi. She is 88 and looking at her one realizes age is just a number. She took stage and after a few words about her association with Bismillah and Ravi Shankar, she let her music do the talking. She and her students regaled the audience with thrumri, kajri, chaiti and in tune with the Holi festival, a hori. The notes obediently danced up and down on Girija Devi’s strong yet melodious voice. The audience heard with rapt attention. Apart from the nodding of heads, tapping of fingers and occasional clapping along, there was absolutely no movement in the theatre. Among her accompanying artists was the famous tabla player Shubh Maharaj. Girija Devi said that he was the fourth generation of artists from his family that she is playing with. The one hour twenty minutes that she sang was bliss.
Actually the whole evening was an out of the world experience. The beautiful open air theatre at Ravi Shankar Centre for Arts, where we had earlier watched Arushi Mudgal and Bikram Ghosh perform, was the perfect setting for a soiree like this.
The inputs by Malini Awasthi and Yatindir Singh from Son Chiraiya as well as anecdotes and advice by Girija Devi were invaluable and beautiful insights to the enigmatic world of Hindustani school of music.
They have Rajan – Sajan Mishra and Sekhar Sen, among others performing at 6:30 pm till 18th March, 2017. All good things in life come free – so is this event. It is a must do for all music lovers. Purab Rang – the Hindustani concerts on Bismillah’s birth centenary is a befitting tribute to the maestro.