An Enjoyable Evening of Music by the Prana School of Music


Photos: Saurabh Sen Gupta

By Sanchali Basu

HOUSTON: Prana School of Music and Arts presented its Annual Event on Nov 24, in the Sur Auditorium of Houston Durgabari Society. Prana School of Music and Arts (PSMA) has been instrumental in spreading music and fine arts for the last 7 years in Katy, Texas under Raja Banga, the Principal of the school, who has been teaching tabla for the last 10 years in Houston-Katy area. The school now offers classes on North Indian classical/semi-classical vocal music, tabla, flute, Jazz guitar, Arts and Crafts

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The evening started with an invocation by the renowned vocalist Shri Balkar Singh, who serves as the vocal faculty for the school. Balkarji and the young kids chanted Ganapati Vandana set to Raag Bhopali Todi and Rupak taal. This was followed by group tabla lehra renditions by the students of the school. The youngest group of merely 7 years of age went first, and was very poised and exquisite while presenting a short lehra on tintaal. The next item was by the intermediate group, whose presentation included introductory compositions like Uthan followed by Kaeda, Rela and various Tukras, all set in Tintaal. The final tabla presentation included students learning for 4 years and over, led by Rishabh Shah, the senior-most student of the school, who has been learning tabla for the last 10 years from Shri Raja Banga. This senior group presented a group lehra, and Peshkar, which is the well-known introductory composition of the Farukhabad Gharana, the style Rajaji is trained in with excellent poise and timing. The Peshkar was followed by a number of Tishra Jaati and Chatushra Jaati kaedas presented with compositions recited and explained by Rajaji. This rendition ended with a classic Chalan and Laggi which highlighted the nuances of rhythmic variations, while the students were being tested by the Guru on stage.

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A couple of recent graduates of the school shared with the audience their learning experience and the value of Indian heritage through music and culture. The next item of the evening was called World Percussion Ensemble, which highlighted various drums from all over the globe, such as Tabla, Pakhawaj, Dholak, Dhol, Dhaak, Kanjira, Tambourine, Djembe and Octopad producing western drum-beats. A number of local vocalists such as Shyama, Rupa, Ruchira, Shamik and Satyaki sang numbers referring to various types of percussions or taals. The drummers included young Vikram, Devanshu, Nirmalya, and veteran Shri Nani Gopal Ghosh.

The penultimate item of the evening was the drama, “Alice in Wonderland”, presented by kids aged 5-12, directed by Debleena Banerji, the Director of the School. The excellent acting supported by wonderful narration and appropriate background audio-visual effects, won the crowd over.

The Grand Finale of the evening was by the trio Balkar-Biplab-Raja. As explained by Shyama, who introduced the artists, the music took the audience from the spell of Alice’s wonderland to the wonderland of soulful music. Balkar Singh and Biplab Samadder opened the session with alaap on raag Shri, which matched the bereaved mood of the evening, followed by an instrumental-vocal jugalbandi bandish on Shankar Mahadev. Biplab on violin and Raja on tabla embellished the rendition to an exquisite level. The last item was an instrumental jugalbandi on Raag Bachaspati which started with alaap, jod accompanied by pakhawaj, and high speed tintaal jhala with a dramatic 16 beat mukhra. The audience enjoyed the occasional exchanges of Taalkari between Biplab and Raja, as this gave them the flavor of saath-sangat and also the drama of sawal-jawab. The final chakkardaar-tihai of the evening left the audience at Durgabari speechless!