Vocalists Bhagyesh Marathe and Samarth Nagarakar blended tradition with an imaginative approach
U.S.-based Cadence Entertainment has been hosting online classical music concerts for a year to a select audience, mainly in the U.S. and India. They are broadcast either live or pre-recorded in studios before broadcast, and are also made available later on demand, for a nominal fee, on their website. What is noteworthy is that the concerts feature a wide cross-section of artistes, many of them young. The series has so far had Nayan Ghosh, Kala Ramnath, Shakir Khan, Satyendra Solanki, Sweekar Katti, Dr. Alka Deo Marulkar, Manjiri Asnare Kelkar, Sanjeev Chimmalgi, Gauri Pathare and Sanika Kulkarni.
A recent concert was that of the 29-year-old Mumbai-based vocalist Bhagyesh Marathe. Grandson of Pt. Ram Marathe, he is currently under the tutelage of Hubli-based Pt. Kedar Bodas at the Gangubai Hangal Gurukul, where 36 young learners are selected for training by six established gurus.
Bhagyesh sang raag Bageshwari, and it was a pleasure to see this youngster follow the old-world courtesy of taking permission from his co-artistes on stage to start the concert. He impressed with his bhava, unusual note patterns and his creative approach. Particularly pleasing were the intricate taans, which had wazan (weight) despite the speed. Mere copying, however well practised, inevitably sounds stale. The vilambit composition he sang was his own.
His next raag was Kedara, in which he rendered two traditional compositions. Perhaps his internalisation of this raag has not yet given him any esoteric insights, but he still was able to impress with his superb handling and skill. Sadly, the concert ended without a third piece due to paucity of time. On the tabla was Tejovrush Joshi and on the harmonium, Siddhesh Bicholkar.
U.S.-based Samarth Nagarkar, who trained under Aditi Upadhyay in Bengaluru, has also learnt from guru Aditi’s father, Pt. Dinkar Kaikini, and from Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar at Kolkata’s ITC SRA.
Talking about how Hindustani music has been thriving in the U.S., Samarth credited the cultural organisations that have been promoting Indian classical music there for several decades, thus making it financially viable for artistes. “We not only get a good audience, we get an well-informed one, and their number is growing. I was once asked by an American in the audience if I had any connection with the late Pt. Nivruttibua Sarnaik (rarely heard outside India) as he felt my taan patterns were similar to his!” Samarth started his concert with raag Bihag. The vilambit Tilwada taal bandish, ‘Ai ma dhan dhan re’, was a traditional Gwalior gharana piece. Interestingly, starting his presentation on the gandhar, Samarth displayed his inherent musical instinct. He was in no hurry to unfold every aspect of this romantic evening raag; choosing to slowly weave magic with his voice. Admirably, the taans were presented in judicious proportion. The concluding Tarana was in Teen taal; again Samarth handled the drut laya with ease.
His second raag was the Jaipur gharana favourite Basanti Kedar, combination of Basant and Kedar, which like all ‘jod raags’ is difficult to handle. The Teen taal composition was the traditional ‘Attar sugandh gulab’. Sensibly singing this briefly (under 30 minutes), Samarth moved on to present a hori, for which he displayed an admirable affinity. Indeed, his hori was noteworthy for its authenticity and he sang it beautifully. He later explained that his guru, Pt. Dinkar Kaikini, enjoyed thumris and horis, and had learnt this piece from the great Siddheshwari Devi herself. He was accompanied on the tabla by teenager Vivek Pandya, and on the harmonium by Rohan Prabhudesai.
Both concerts are available on TeamCadenceEntertainment.com; the next online concert will be by Aditya Modak, now famous with his success in the film, The Disciple.
The Delhi-based author writes on Hindustani music and musicians.