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North-South: A Jugalbandi to Remember

K Kesavan (on Mridangam), Srikanth Gopalakrishnan, Pt. Suman Ghosh, Sameer Kotasthane (on Harmonium) and Prithwiraj Bhattacharjee (on Tabla).

By Sunil Pangarkar

HOUSTON: A Jugalbandi concert between Houston’s own Pt. Suman Ghosh and Chennai’s Srikanth Gopalakrishnan on August 19 in the Anjali Center, reminded the audience of main value proposition of divine music – bliss! Carnatic and Hindustani styles of classical music each have a devout following who rarely venture into each other’s world. The stylistic differences may be there, but they are both Indian and both Classical. And when they meet, they have a potential of offering a sum that is much greater than its parts. This concert arranged by Samskriti and Anjali Center for Performing Arts was like that.

The stage was full; besides the featured vocal artists there were the accompanying artists – Prithwiraj Bhattacharjee on Tabla, Sameer Kotasthane on Harmonium and N. K Kesavan on Mridangam. The Anjali center was full of audience , followers of both styles were there to enjoy the creativity. The vocal artistes had not communicated before. A jugalbandi concert is a challenge at the best of the times. In addition to showcasing ones’ technique and creating a mood that invokes a Raaga, one has not only to adjust to the other performer’s style, but embellish the overall concert.

Hindustani and Carnatic styles are sufficiently different to be unique but mood development is still the same. So unless one is so grounded and well trained in one’s art, a non-rehearsed jugalbandi is not for the faint hearted, in my opinion. But when the stage is full of performers of so high caliber, jugalbandi can be a home run. And it was.

The artistes were extremely cordial to each other throughout the performance yet daringly exploring and creating such wonderful new patterns that the most popularly sung Raag Yaman ( Raag Kalyani in Carnatic) was blooming with freshness. The accompanying artistes being accomplished in their fields took turns to innovate and create rhythmic patterns and connect back to the melody. The whole performance was like a garden of colors and scents – unique and pleasant. Creativity is such an intoxicating thing that all the artistes carried on for more than an hour and they were still in the mood to explore. In fact, at one point Pt. Ghosh nudged Srikanth-ji to remind him that there is no end to the exploration and the reality of Sunday night has to be considered. On audience demand, the Sunday ended with wonderful Bhairavi compositions and a desire that such concerts should only be planned on Saturday nights.


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One Response to North-South: A Jugalbandi to Remember

  1. Priyashree Shankar October 6, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I wish a CD released.

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