By Shrinkhla Sahai
Rudaad-e-Shireen, a unique concert featuring women vocalists of the Dilli gharana, paved a refreshing and entertaining path to celebrating ‘womanhood’. Conceptualized by Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan and presented by his disciples, the concert masterfully blended the soulful poetry of Hazrat Amir Khusro and paintings of the celebrated Raja Ravi Varma with the andaaz and technique of Dilli gharana vocalism.
The stage came alive with the aesthetically conceived light and set design, the six performers with lamps, dressed in red, with the backdrop of the paintings looked poignant and stunning. Adopting the format of musical story-telling, the performance invited the audience into the world of Shireen, a world that resonates with the lives of many women today. The narrative starts with the carefree, joyful childhood of Shireen and follows the trajectory of her life, touching upon themes like child marriage, centrality of marriage in the life of a woman, her struggles in a patriarchal society, the social taboos that a woman faces when she tries to carve out her own space and identity.
Vusat Iqbal Khan excelled with her emotive appeal as the narrator, and the compositions were charmingly presented by Bhawna, Anju, Mohena, Leena and Shaheen. The bandishes of Hazrat Amir Khusro were composed by Ustad Iqbal Ahmad Khan and included a wide variety consisting of jhoola, geets, sawelas, keh mukarniya, qauls, qawwalis, bidais, banhda geet and baramaasa geet.
The fresh perspective that differentiates this performance from regular classical music concerts is that it presented the traditional repertoire while raising critical questions about modern Indian society. The classical and the semi-classical compositions were interpreted as spaces of freedom and expression of the otherwise oppressed feminine voice within the narrative. Interestingly, the protagonist eventually finds her identity and self-actualization as a musician as she follows a Sufi mystic through the streets, away from the boundaries of home and domesticity.
Initiated in Delhi by the Sursagar Society of Delhi Gharana, the innovative approach and aesthetic detailing of the concert makes it a show that should travel across different performance venues in the country.