Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Spirit of Krishna: A confluence

By Rajesh Garga

On a rainy day you may want to eat some hot vadas with sambar. Or if you are in the mood, you would want to go North Indian and go for some naan and navratan korma. But what would be your reaction if someone offered you vadas soaked in navratan korma? And a generous dollop of Rajasthani churma on top? That was precisely how I felt when I saw the poster of Flute Maestro Shashank’s programme The Spirit of Krishna - A confluence of Indian Classical and Folk Music.

I love listening to Carnatic music and enjoy Hindustani music once in a while. But when they are presented together in the form of a jugalbandi, I always feel that they are full of compromises and that the beauty of neither system is brought out in full. So I tend to avoid jugalbandis and stick to classical presentations.

I love listening to Shashank play the flute. I had missed the last few performances of his in the North East. So, when my friends Divya and Ashvin of Nadasudha invited me to this event, I decided to take the plunge. The fact that this was an ensemble of Carnatic, Hindustani and Folk music and seeing the choice of the words - unique, different etc. - to describe the event, I did go to the concert with much trepidation. But if I have to describe the musical treat that Shashank, Manganiyar Brothers Anwar Khan and Feroze Khan, Purbayan Chatterjee and Patri Satish laid out that evening in one word, it would be: Brilliant.

Carnatic music was by Shashank on the flute with the mridangam as accompaniment and the sitar took care of the Hindustani side. On the other side we had an artist singing folk with support from a dholak. I had not experienced this set-up on stage before. The way each one came in and went out without stumbling and the changing of the lead from one person to another during a song were well orchestrated but retained the flavour of on stage improvisation.

Shashank kicked off the concert by announcing that he would perform a sloka in the raga Ahir Bhairav. It was a pleasant surprise when he started singing Vasudeva sutam devam. That set the tone for the entire concert.

The concert continued with Radhika Krishna, a folk song set in the raga Sauraj before the main item of the evening began. This was a ragam-tanam-pallavi in Kalyani. The rendering by each of the artistes was magnificent. The tanam played by Shashank and the fantastic responses from Purbayan were the and the highlight. The pallavi chosen was Ganalola Muralidhara Sri Krishna Madhava Sri Venugana Lola. Anwar Khan chipped in with a folk interlude during this rendering and it did not sound out of place at all.

This was followed by a percussion special in which Patri rendered the rhythmic phrases orally before he played them on the mridangam. Feroze Khan responded to him on the dholak in his unique style and they played together to end in an incredible crescendo. The concert ended with two other songs Nandanandana Gopala in Desh and a Meera bhajan in Sindhu Bhairavi. Purbayan started singing Mile sur mera tumhara during the Desh rendition, much to the delight of the crowd.

For someone who went in with absolutely no idea of what to expect, the concert lasting a little over two hours was spellbinding. If I have to get back to the food simile, this was tres leches – a three layered cake!

The author lives in Edison, New Jersey.

Nadasudha, an organization founded to promote Indian classical music and dance in the US and support its propagation across the world, can be contacted on (732) 821 8410; 732 422 6830 and nadasudhainc@gmail.com


  1. Rajesh rightly said that this program in all was 3-layered cake! I too love listening to Carnatic music and enjoy Hindustani music once in a while. But Purbayan proved me wrong! OMG, His sitar is fascinating. His command is so precise. When it was announced that he had vocal jugalbandi with Shankar Mahadevan, I was expecting to listen him singing, and that happened :)
    No words can describe Shashank's flute & Satish's mrdanga. His solkat in the thani was again a surprise. Feroze Khan's dolak was also equally brilliant.
    Very sad to see very very less number of rasikas :(