Rooted in tradition and philosophy, Indian classical music has a mysterious edge to it. As echoes of tranquility and righteousness breathe new life into strains of melodies, it comes as no surprise that one’s desire to attain spiritual heights with this particular art form strengthens further.
And, pulsating with melody and rhythm, Indian classical music is an abode of divinity. As the legendary virtuoso sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar once said, “To us, music can be a spiritual discipline on the path to self-realisation, for we follow the traditional teaching that sound is God — Nada Brahma. Through this process individual consciousness can be elevated to a realm of awareness where the revelation of the true meaning of the universe - its eternal and unchanging essence - can be experienced joyfully. Our ragas are the vehicles through which this essence can be perceived.”
The 92-year-old along with his daughter Anoushka Shankar captured the intellectual expression of nature with a dense maze of captivating melodies at his farewell concert held at Palace Grounds recently.
With pleasant textual sounds and fluid contours, Anoushka Shankar’s opening recital was an understated blend of precision and technique. Her rendition of Puriya Dhanashree reverberated with dynamism and colour. And, as mellow sounds gained intensity, the entire orchestra — Pirasanna Thevarajah (mridangam), Ravichandra Kulur (flute), Sanjeev Shankar (tanpura/shehnai) and Sanjay Sharma (tanpura) — explored new realms of heightened awareness with passion. This piece also saw the flautist strive to achieve perfection and harmony with complex notes. The calm tempos and warm tones of the flute resonated with emotions.
Embedded in buoyant layers, the Vachaspathi (Variant Moods) recital too experimented with various expressions of joy and anguish. Establishing a steady pulse throughout, the sparkling rhythm of this piece added a real zest to the evening. And, as the musicians gradually unfolded the melodic shape of this raga, the air was filled with soul stirring melodies. Caressing its distinctive symphonic identity, Anoushka too dabbled in a wide range of musical spheres with this piece.
Prolonged notes and extraordinary fingering techniques defined Pandit Ravi Shankar’s style as the maestro opened with his favourite raga Yamankalyan. As the traditional alap (introduction), jhod (performance with pulse), madya laya (medium tempo), drut (fast laya) and jhala (rapid pulse movements) progressed to darker symphonies, all entities soon merged with the oneness of nature.
Creating sheer poetry with strings, the sitar player delved deeper into emotions creating intricate rhythms and soulful melodies. With Tilakshyam, the musician explored greater depths of spirituality with a multi-hued palette. This raga is a tireless conversation between the mind, body and soul. Rich in subliminal tones and rapid strokes, Pandit Ravi Shankar manages to strike a balance between elegance and transcendence. Traversing through several layers of symmetry, the artiste created a wonderful ambience for the evening.
The last composition Swara Raga Chand Taal (Raag Malika set on Khamaj) was a tribute to everything that defined innovation and brilliance. “This composition has elements of folk music. For this piece, I shall gag the sitar with a piece of cloth. This will not only add a lot of bhava (emotion) to the sounds but also enable us to create sounds in rhythmic patterns and play with percussive expressions,” said the artiste. What ensued was an elaborate demonstration of soaring tones and vibrant moods. The Jugalbandi between the tabla and mridangam transported one to another dimension altogether. And, the grand finale witnessed Sanjeev Shankar weaving strings of deep melody gently with his shehnai. What a befitting end to an inspiring event!
Lost in a state of emotional trance, Pandit ji too succeeded in reminiscing the lost era of musical mastery and spiritual integrity with his sitar.