Sawai Gandharva Music Festival


The classical music scene in the city hits an ethereal high point every December. Feverish excitement accompanies the stalwarts who descend in the city to be a part of a stage that has seen names so big that the event's title itself conjures up visions of greatness. Sawai Gandharva Mahotsav to this day holds prime position in the time-table of any music artiste in the country. The 2010 edition has embraced peripheral activities like a film festival and public interactions with the bigwigs, as an effort to enhance the connect to the audience.

The proverbial curtain-raiser on December 9 at the Sawai Gandharva Smruti Bhavan, Shivajinagar, was initiated through old documentary and interview footage of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. A rousing video of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi performing a rare rendition of raag Baageshri seemed to inject the audience with reverential glee. Heads nodded, arms suddenly shot into the air in appreciation and some eyes hugged their lids to seep in the magic. At the end of the visual presentation, demands for an encore rang out. They couldn't bear the effects to dissipate and spread thin.

On the quiet stage then walked in a familiar, boisterous smile. Clad in a sari, with that distinct bindi resonating on her face, she settled in with a humble namaskar . Begum Parveen Sulatana is delightfully approachable and hearteningly funny. "Forgive me, but I have just come in from the airport and am very tired," she starts off, her chirpy voice quite betraying her. The audience seems to bend forward in an effort to scoop up every word she utters. "I believe an artiste is born with the gift. It's all in God's grace. One could be under the tutelage of any guru, but the voice needs to be inborn," says she. Acknowledging the presence of numerous students, a renewed focus of the festival this year, she broke down her musical lineage into bite-sized chewables replete with jolly metaphors and song samples. "Gharanas could clog every corner of our country. But this art is a karni vidya - you have to work on it to grow in it. My firm belief is that if you are a student of classical music, you are capable of adopting any gharana , any school of thought. Performance is a different art, riyaaz is a different effort. It's like an actor donning his make-up. An artiste needs to work and squeeze in immense commitment. It's like grounding henna into a paste," she eulogised.

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