Contemplative Music

On Saturday, First Edition Arts presented two vocalists with a rich musical heritage at the B N Vaidya Hall, Dadar. Apoorva Gokhale who sang first, is the great grand-daughter of the early 20th century maestro Pt. Antubuwa Joshi and the grand-daughter of the renowned Pt Gajananbuwa Joshi, guru to some of the finest vocalists of our times. Pt Kedar Bodas who followed Gokhale, is the son of eminent vocalist and guru Pt Narayanrao Bodas and grandson of Pt Laxmanrao Bodas, who founded the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Karachi in 1937.  

Gokhale opened her recital with slow and fast tempo compositions in Bhimpalas followed by Jaitashree and Hindoli, also known as Bhinna Shadja and Kaushikdhwani. We, as non-scholars, needn’t get entangled in arguments over nomenclature. What matters is the musician’s treatment of the melody, the relationship she creates between rhythm and word, the architecture of her presentation, the variety of her musical ideas and that ineffable thing called the soul of music.  

Gokhale sang in a strong, uninflected voice. Her musical ideas were expressed almost entirely through taans which she sang forcefully in aakar, occasionally weaving in the words of the lyric or singing a sargam here and there for textural variation. Her taans were like twisting, winding streams that flowed at an even pace and ended accurately each time, in exactly the same way on the sama. The remarkable thing about her performance was not only the unchanging volume of her voice however high it rose, but the sparkling clarity of every note, however intricate the taan pattern in which it was strung. Without question her mastery over voice, notes and raag grammar was impressive, the result of old school training and assiduous riyaz.  However, as with all classicists, her music was out there, impersonal, like a carefully constructed object. It was not -- nor even meant to be -- an expression of her unique being.

Pt Kedar Boda’s music was exactly the opposite. It was not so much about mastery -- that was taken for granted -- as about the search for the very nature of the musical note. Rather than encounter notes head on, he reached into them to discover them from within. The ornamental device which helped him do that was the meend, dear to both the Gwalior gharana into which he was born, and the Bhendi Bazaar gharana to which he later migrated. Meends are glides between two notes, touching upon all the microtones along the way, thus creating a rounded environment in which the notes yield all their shades. The stretch from one note to the next also carries a deep emotional charge.

The majestic monsoon raag, Miyan ki Malhar, with which Bodas began his recital, lends itself particularly well to meends because of its mix of flat and sharp notes. He gave a sombre, contemplative presentation of three bandishes, the vilambit“Baajat tat bitat, ghan susheer” in the rarely heard jhumra taal, followed by two drut compositions. Despite the song texts being replete with words like “barasan lagi” and “barase boondan” with their potential for representation through vocal modulations, Bodas eschewed drama, concentrating rather on the relationships between notes, notes-and-rhythm and notes-words-and-rhythm. There was drama only when he withheld the shadja for longer than is normally done. His approach to it was like clouds gathering, threatening, but ultimately drifting away without shedding their burden. Even when he did hit the shadja, he held it within closed lips till it melted away into the environment.

Bodas followed Miyan ki Malhar with a captivating exposition of raag Purva (Puriya Kalyan as some scholars call it). Both the vilambit and drut bandishes were composed by one of Bodas’s great influences, Pt Ram Marathe. The drut bandish, “Chanchal chatura sudhara nari”was particularly delightful with its rhythmic words and jaunty beat. Throughout this exposition we were treated to cleverly constructed tihais and choppy taans which countered the roundedness of the meends with their cross-hatched lines.

After a dadra and drut bandish in Khamaj, Bodas ended his recital with the soul-stirring nirguni bhajan in Bhairavi, “Guruji ne bhaane, aise anmol ratan deeni / Jo nahin kisi ka, keval apna.” His rendition was strongly reminiscent of Pt Kumar Gandharva in the way he stressed significant words with a forceful push of the breath. Here was profound philosophy ensconced in simple words set to a simple beat, sung with a quiet intensity that gripped us all and drew us in.    

Published On : 15-06-2016