A Living Link

The riches that Pt Sharad Sathe so joyously and generously gifted to us on Sunday morning at Ravindra Natya Mandir, brought to mind a scene from Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play Wada Chirebandi. In the scene, the eldest daughter-in-law of the Deshpande family adorns herself with the family jewels. Deeply moved by the experience, she imagines that past generations of Deshpande women are standing around her watching. They once wore the ornaments she is wearing now, making her a living link in a chain that extended far back in time.

You felt the presence of just such a chain during Sathe’s concert. When he swooped from a high note to a low, he reminded you of Pt Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, his guru’s guru. When he stressed a consonant for added weight or touched a grace note in a particular way, he reminded you of Pt Sharadchandra Arolkar, his guru for 30 years. But otherwise those greats were strongly present only in the fundamental aesthetic principles of Sathe’s music, while his musical expression remained uniquely his.

The concert, the fourth in the Secret Masters Series presented by First Edition Arts, began with bada and chhota khayals in raga Prabhat Bhairav, a combination of Lalit and Bhairav. I must admit to being wary of jod ragas which often seem to be constructed by clipping the wings of two strong flyers without necessarily producing a third capable of soaring as high. But in Sathe’s hands Prabhat Bhairav achieved a luminous beauty. Every time he moved lightly from Bhairav to Lalit, the audience sighed spontaneously with pleasure. The vilambit bandish, Kosar kosar tarasaye gave him much scope for detailed elaboration and emotional expression. Rich with meends, bol alaps and taans of great variety often ending in tihais, his rendition also intensified the meaning of the emotionally charged lyric expressing the devotee’s hope for a safe passage to the other shore of the deep ocean of life in the Prophet’s boat. On one occasion Sathe withdrew all force from his voice to utter tarasaye almost as a whisper, suggestive of a person experiencing thirst. While occasions like this created an emotional impact, they were also a way of exploring the elasticity of space through volume and manner of utterance. At one point, Sathe glided from a true voice to a falsetto to reduce space to a thin line that cut sharply through the upper octave.

In the two-part Todi that followed, Sathe sang an Arolkar bandish in jhaptal and the traditional tarana dara tile dara tile. At the risk of sounding parochial I will say that, by and large, vocalists who are not grounded in the Gwalior gayaki, tend to sing taranas like chhota khayals, unaware of or self-indulgently ignoring the fact that the tarana is a distinct form of music. Sathe’s dara tile was an object lesson in how a tarana is to be sung. The energy of his singing, although never aggressive, was also a reminder of his confessed preference for a ‘masculine’ music. Ustad Faiyaz Khan was one of his early heroes.

After the interval, Sathe gave us a luminous Yamani Bilawal. The mood of the vilambit, Aana paro ri, was mellower, more contemplative than the vigorously expressive Prabhat Bhairav. But it lifted with the playful layakari of the drut, Piya bin kaise. At no point did Sathe spin out his khayals like some vocalists who continue to sing even after they’ve run out of musical ideas. Instead, he packed in new ideas at every turn. And when he had said all that he wanted to say, he stopped. This not only intensified our experience of his music but also allowed him time to pick some more choice jewels from his treasure chest for our delectation.

He next sang two bandishes in Miyan ki Sarang. There is something about Shuddh Sarang that suggests vulnerability and loneliness to me. The feeling is possibly personal, but it disturbs me even as I am enjoying the beautiful melody. In Sathe’s Miyan ki Sarang, the heat of the noonday sun was shadowed by the clouds of Malhar creating a raga of light and shade that was totally bewitching. The concert ended with two energetically sung tappas in Bhairavi.

There were many occasions in the course of the morning when the singer awed the audience with his complex, breath-taking taans and the power of his supple voice as it rose beyond the upper shadja. Age was evidently only a number for Pandit Sharad Sathe who completed 85 last month.

Published On : 30-03-2017