“An Unforgettable Evening with Giants” Pt. Kumar Bose and Pt. Ramesh Mishra Bring Banaras to Houston

Govinda Shetty, Suresh and Usha Shenoy and Sanjay Rao with the artistes post-concert.

Govinda Shetty, Suresh and Usha Shenoy and Sanjay Rao with the artistes post-concert.

By Sunil Pangarkar

HOUSTON: At 8.30 pm, as the audience walked out of the Jones Hall of University of St. Thomas after the Indian Music Society concert, one could see the expressions of JOY, SURPRISE, WONDERMENT and SATISFACTION. Some people were overheard saying “an impossible concert” and “a landmark concert”. As a Hindustani Music lover, I could not but have a feeling of gratefulness for being able to listen and enjoy the performance of such stalwarts  – thanks to IMS.  There was an inescapable sense of pining however; a desire for more of our Samskaar conscious Indians to witness our tradition in ACTION rather than learning it through passive media.

Describing a traditional, extremely nuanced and a high level classical concert is not only difficult, but also beyond my capacity. Without going into intricate detail, l will give you a small jhalak of the concert. The Jones Hall, is a medium sized hall incredibly well designed for the interactive nature of the Hindustani genre of music.  The audience, not by design but by admiration and love for the artistes, comprised of top performing artistes and music connoisseurs. The concert started with a documentary on Pt. Kumar Bose. The documentary covered some vintage footage of Pt. Bose’s tabla accompaniment and solo performances together with comments and explanations from many eminent musicians. This was followed by a solo tabla performance by Pt. Bose with the Sarangi accompaniment provided by Pt. Mishra. The second half of the concert commenced with Sarangi renditions of Banarasi Thumri, Tappa, Kajri,Chaiti and a moving “Vaishnavo Jan to” by Pt. Mishra with effortless accompaniment of the Banarasi Baaj Tabla, by Pt. Bose.

As a grand finale, Pt. Bose concluded the event with an electrifying solo rendition of intricate compositions, composed by Gurus of the Banaras gharana, dating back to several hundred years.

Pt. Bose and Pt. Mishra are both from the Banaras lineage where Kathak, Tabla and Sarangi have been taught at least for the past 200 years by their respective elders and passed to their next generation. In fact the Sarangi that Pt. Mishra was playing was 184 yrs old. He is the ninth generation, playing the Sarangi.

The musical genius of musicians like Pt. Bose and Pt. Mishra lies not just in their technique, style or knowledge, but in their ability to be repositories of tradition. Their single minded dedication to tradition and their own artistry in creating ornate music with virtuosity to a contemporary audience without losing the original intent of their Gurus is indeed their remarkable achievement . When I got a chance to talk the musicians after the concert and asked them how they did this, their only answer was “performing honestly and without gimmickry what was taught by their Gurus”. Obviously there was a little bit of modesty in their statement – for they have themselves been creators of music, but the fact that this intense feeling towards their Gurus is constantly in their vocabulary, gives one the confidence that the baton of tradition is in their safe hands.

In Houston, I feel it is our duty to provide a channel for this tradition so the baton is allowed to be passed to deserving artistes of the next generation. IMS is just one such channel.