News & Notes

The Bhilwada ‘Sur - Sangam’

The 11th edition of the Bhilwada Sur Sangam was held at the Kamani Auditorium, Delhi with the same sensitivity for music and reverence for the musicians, orchestrating an array of Indian classical vocal and instrumental recitals by the established and upcoming musicians.


The two-day festival was dedicated to the memory of Manik Bhide of Jaipur Gharana and Rashid Khan of Rampur-Saheswan Gharana, stalwarts of  Hindustani classical music, that we lost this year. The festival comprising violin, sitar, and vocal performances; commenced with a solemn ceremony of lamp-lighting in front of the portrait of Manik Bhide on the inaugural evening and Rashid Khan the next evening.


The inaugural evening will be remembered for the emotionally charged vocal offering of Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, a tribute to Manik Bhide, her mother, mentor and guru. Ashwini, is not just a ‘Sangeet Viasharad’, but also has a doctorate in Biochemistry from Bhabha Atomic Research Institute, Mumbai and D. Lit. from ITM University Gwalior. Initiated into the gayaki of Jaipur Atrauli gharana under Ratnakar Pai, she was further groomed under her mother, a senior disciple of Kishori Amonkar.


Ashwini, opened her vocal recital with raga Bhoopali, a soothing and melodious raga of the evening. Her rich voice and the bell-like intonation could be felt from the beginning, when her shadja, oscillating from the mandra dhaivat, emerged from the tuneful drone of the pair of tanpuras strummed by two of her talented disciples. The auchar (initial introductory alap) lead to the vilambit Khayal, Pratham sur saadhe, a composition of Kishori Amonkar. The gradual elaboration of the raga, along with the bandish set to slow Teen taal, was followed with bol-alap, and a variety of aakar taans, that drenched the rasikas with the melodious showers of crystal-clear swaras. The following chhota khayal Laya sur chhand, lit the evening with the luminous glow of Bhoopali.

Next came Lalit-Pancham, a raga of the spring season with a dhamar composition Van van basant phuli hai, set to Dhamar tala of fourteen beats time cycle, that she sang with an exemplary tabla sangati by Vinod Lele, reflecting twists and turns of the vibrant bandish. The Hori in misra Pahadi, Kyon gulal rang daro, set to the lilting gait of Dadra taal followed with multiple hues of expressions asking ‘Kyon’ (why are you throwing gulal?)


Ashwini concluded with a Chaiti Sab bana amuvaan baurailen ho Rama, piya ghar naahin evoking the emotions of a Virahini nayika, where Vinay Mishra’s harmonium reflected nuances of her emotional expressions. 


The evening opened with the violin recital by Manas Kumar, a gifted young violinist from Assam. Initiated into music at a tender age of five by his father G. Chaumua, he underwent intensive training at eleven years of age under the tutelage of Bidyut Misra, a violin lecturer at the State College of Music Assam, for thirteen years, and was further groomed under V. Balaji at the BHU. Manas excelled in academics as well, securing B.Sc. degree in Physics. He did his Masters in Music from Bhatkhande University, Lucknow. An A grade artist of AIR, Manas is a well-known violinist of the present generation, popular in the classical concert circuits as well as in collaborative works.


Puriya-Kalyan was a perfect choice to begin with. Manas tenderly coaxed the evening raga into vivid life opening with an auchar as a preface to the vilambit ektaal composition. Unfolding the raga with the pathos of Puriya and the captivating charm of Kalyan, he wove a tapestry of symphony with each ascending note. The drut composition was based on the popular bandish Main toh kar aai piyu sang rangareliyaan set to Teen taal. The next composition had a slightly faster pace, followed with the ati-drut laya (fastest tempo) Teentaal composition to facilitate the jet-speed jhala.


The main raga was followed by Jog with a medium tempo composition in Roopak tala of seven beats cycle. The popular bandish of raga Nand Ajahun na aaye Shyam in Teen taal came next. He had a grip over whatever ragas he played and a striking clarity in taans. Manas concluded his violin recital with a melodious dhun in raga Pahadi.  Ojas Adhya’s superb tabla accompaniment was the added attraction of his violin recital. 


The second evening dedicated to the memory of the Rashid Khan, offered the nostalgic flavour of Agra gharana, when Waseem Ahmed Khan took the stage and opened his vocal recital with the typical ‘nom-tom’ aalap of Agra gharana. It was raga Jaijaiwanti, one of the most favourite ragas of this gharana, immortalized by none other than the ‘Aftab-e-Masiqui’ (Sun of the world of music) Faiyaz Khan. 


Waseem belongs to the 17th generation in the family tree of the famed gharana. Initiated into music by his grandfather Ata Hussain Khan and trained under his father Naseem Ahemd Khan, he was further groomed into the intricacies at the ITC-SRA under Shafi Ahmed Khan. A sought-after vocalist, Waseem is invited in music festivals across the globe. He has also been teaching the young scholars at the ITC-SRA for more than a decade, as a faculty.


His expansive aalap in Jaijaiwanti gradually explored the vistas of the raga from mandra to madhya, and taar saptak, with exemplary ease. The aalap gradually rose to ascending tempo without any percussive support. Spaciously rendered, the movements were exquisitely performed with the striking grandeur of gamakas, a signature of his gharana. 


Waseem then presented the famous Paalana garh la in vilambit Ektaal. The elaboration of the bandish through the bol-alap, behlawa, bop-taans and the impressive aakar taans gave way to the popular Naadan ankhiyaan laagin composed by Faiyaz Khan. Waseem presented it with great aplomb. The hori in misra Piloo was the icing on the cake. The unobtrusive theka on tabla by Vinod Lele and the reflective Harmonium of Vinay Mishra, enhanced the vibrant vocal recital of Waseem Ahemad Khan.


The festival peaked with the concluding shuddha Kalyan on sitar by Buddhaditya Mukherji. Accompanied on tabla by Somen Nandi, he eschewed the customary aalap-jod jhala and opened with the masitkhani gat set to vilambit Teentaal. He elaborated the evening raga in great detail with his palpable sensitivity and admirable aesthetic sense. 


Bhilwara Sur Sangam, stands as a testament to the LNJ Bhilwara Group's enduring commitment to classical music and its profound impact on society. More than a musical event, it is a celebration that symbolises cultural support and artistic brilliance, inspiring future generations to cherish and sustain Indian musical heritage.

(The author is a music scholar and critic)