Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A welcome return of classical music in Assam

 By Mitra Phukan
In an otherwise vibrant cultural scenario, Hindustani classical music has visibly (and audibly) gone into decline in Assam. This is a great pity, for at one time this was a flourishing art form in these valleys, and many recollect the All Assam Music Conferences with nostalgia and pride. There was a time when there were three nights of all-night performances, but now you are hard pressed to find even a single evening’s show of the genre in the city. This is all the more surprising because other categories of the performing arts – even traditional music and dance, – flourish here. There are of course, several reasons for this, of which the insurgency related unrest is but one. Who, in this troubled region would risk organising an evening’s programme, when a chance bomb blast or bandh call could result in cancelling the programme at the last moment?

It was therefore a welcome development when the North East Centre of the Sangeet Natak Akademi organised Surangan – a festival of music, on 11th and 12th October at the SNA NEC Hall. The six artists featured in the festival are all well known, and committed to keep the flame alive in this strife torn land.

After the formal inauguration by renowned artist Prabhat Sarma, violinist Bidyut Misra opened the programme with four compositions in raga Bilakshana. The two percussionists who accompanied him on the tabla, Sudip Sarkar and Tirthendu Bhattacharjee, added energy to the concert. His was a mature, balanced performance, showing mastery over his medium. Jayaprakash Medhi’s vocal recital with Pankaj Sarma (harmonium) and Nitul Krishna Goswami (tabla) was followed by a sitar concert by Nabin Rajkonwor. His Keeravani reflected the trademark sweetness of his guru Monilal Nag’s playing. He concluded with a dhun, ably accompanied on the tabla by Subrata Chakravarty.

The second evening began with a mellifluous exposition of raga Bhoopali by flautist Deepak Sarma. His comprehensive and nuanced demonstration of the pentatonic raga impressed the listeners, who frequently broke into spontaneous applause. He was ably accompanied on the tabla by Dhriti Gobinda Dutta. This was followed by a vocal recital by Jiten Basumatari, known for his beautiful renditions of bhajans. He has a full bodied voice honed to a mellowness that appeals to listeners. His tabla accompanist was Dibyajyoti Sangmai, who gave sensitive support, as did Bhupen Nath on the harmonium.

The festival concluded with a sarod concert by Tarun Kalita who played Jhinjhoti in Jhaptaal and Teentaal. Though marked by vigorous stroke play, the rendering was pleasingly melodious. After a few more compositions, he ended with Omor aponar dex, in which the audience joined in. He was ably accompanied on the tabla by Debashish Bhattacharya.

During the festival, it was encouraging to see the hall overflowing with connoisseurs of music and musicians. It was heartening also to note that the audience had a sizeable section of youngsters and children. This augurs well for Hindustani classical music in the region, and we hope the Sangeet Natak Akademi will organise such festivals from time to time.

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