Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Two wizards at their best

By Meena Banerjee

In a rare gesture tabla maestro Zakir Hussain played the double role of a soloist and an accompanist during one event. The occasion too was rare. Mumbai’s packed-to-capacity Tata Theatre witnessed this memorable event organized by the family and friends of Pandit Arvind Parikh, some months ago, to celebrate his birthday as he entered the ninth decade of his life – scripting success as a businessman, musician, musicologist and guru of numerous dedicated disciples from all over the world. The introductions by Snehal Parikh and Poorvi Parikh, industrialist son and vocalist-businesswoman daughter, were steeped in musical tehzeeb, love and veneration.

Arvind Parikh (2nd from R) and his family members with Shivkumar Sharma and Zakir Hussain
Zakir Hussain's solo recital in the first half of the evening, proved that Indian music has its root in contemplation based instant creativity, where the tuning of the instrument and the alignment of voice to the chosen pitch also denote an inner sanctification. The tone and the rhythm vibrate within the musician and the whole exercise of innovation is aimed at achieving an inner and outer equilibrium, a oneness that merges the artist with the art. With the steady nagma, measuring the tala-cycles with precision, by harmonium virtuoso Ajay Joglekar, he played Teental with innumerable intricate designs between two beats that gave glimpses of a world of rhythmic innovations. Those who understood it went numb; those, who came only to see the handsome star in action, were in raptures!

Apparently, the essence of this rich musical tradition is somewhat at stake in the present state of metropolitan confinement; but not when maestros like Shivkumar Sharma, whose name is synonymous with the santoor, share the stage with someone like Zakir Hussain as the accompanist. In the final part of this grand melodious celebration, Sharma chose to play raga Jhinjhoti.  He gauged the mixed crowd before announcing the raga, but not without a good-humoured satire, "Even if I do not announce the raga, the initiated listeners will recognize it; and a different name will not make a difference to those who are not familiar with the raga!"


Despite all, he did etch the features of this sweet evening melody with utmost sincerity of a devotee. The elaborate alap explored the intrinsic beauty of this oft-heard evening melody in a fashion that made it appear like a freshly bloomed flower bathed in crystal clear dewdrops. The jod segment came as a pointer that intricate rhythmic patterns are going to form the remaining body of the presentation. When the beautiful gat-bandish, set to Roopak tala (7 beats) did arrive, Zakir Hussain joined in very quietly. Together they facilitated impeccably designed complex laya-chhanda with awe-inspiring ease. There came a point when the santoor ventured out on an eight-beat track within this seven-beat cycle with innumerable melodic patterns, the tabla pointed out the bars of Roopak by gently hitting at first and fourth beats with computer like precision; and then replied with matching designs. This was electric!
Shivkumar Sharma with Zakir Hussain
A swaying gat-bandish, set to sitarkhani, displayed delighting saath-sangat (in which both the musicians anticipate the next melodic or rhythmic move and play almost simultaneously). This amazing prowess of mind-reading became the core of the jhala in super-fast Teental later. There were encores for a Bhairavi-dhun but Sharma was in a mood to play Pahadi dhun and decked it up in chromatic-notes-based delicately beautiful phrases. Since Arvind Parikh, in his own words, is a "bhakti-margi" musician, his two musician colleagues made it an event suffused in spirituality, springing out of unrelenting life-long sadhana that becomes the last word of finesse.

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