Saptak Music Festival in its 39th edition, brings Ustad Alla Rakha Khan’s memory to light

 

To begin their new year, Ahmedabad’s classical music lovers always look forward to the Saptak music festival that begins on the first of January and continues for the next 13 consecutive days. For almost 4 decades, Saptak has been bringing diverse classical and folk artists from all over the world to perform for Ahmedabad’s discerning audience. Creative Yatra gets a look at what the next year’s presentation will entail.

Saptak School of Music, and Music Festival
Discussion of the upcoming program with Saptak trustees

Remembering late Ustad Alla Rakha Khan

Ahmedabad’s Saptak Classical Music Festival was founded by artistes Pt. Nandan Mehta and Smt. Manju Mehta in 1980, and since then, the festival organizers have managed to showcase different aspects of Indian classical music each and every year and this year is no different. The highlighted musician for this year’s conference will be Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, the decorated and well-respected tabla player of his generation, and guru to some of the best-known tabla players of the current generation. It will be a treat to listen to all three of his sons: Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Taufiq Qureshi, and Ustad Fazal Qureshi, who will each be gracing the Saptak stage this time around. In fact, members from 2 generations of this family will be present; Ustad Taufiq Qureshi’s son, Shikhar Nad Qureshi, will also be playing with his father this year.

Commemorating the 150th birth year of Mahatma Gandhi

For years, patrons can testify that the program has begun with the auspicious shehnai, but this year, since it also marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the first session will be dedicated to the beloved bapu. As Saptak Archives director, Prafull Anubhai, shared, not many people know the full extent to which Mahatma Gandhi appreciated classical music. Noted musician and musicologist, Vidyadhar Rao, whose father, Narayan Rao Vyas, worked closely with Gandhiji will be opening the show along with 12 students, with an original composition of his father’s.

The big change in daily schedule

As you enter and exit the Saptak festival premises, one always observes a curiously large whiteboard, with a pen attached to it, where the audience members and artists can offer their feedback, through which the festival has been taken to new heights in years past. The organizers value this feedback and always seem to respect the audiences and artists time and comfort. They cite these reasons for the enactment of another big change in scheduling – a decrease in the number of sessions per day. Though people are used to 4 sessions per night, from the 8:30 start time, there never seems to be enough time for artists to play for a full audience, as some people begin to leave as it hits the early hours of the morning, as it sometimes tends to. The new 3 session-per-day rule will of course come with a minor decrease in the volume of artists that will be performing, but they hope that the audience and artists will have a more relaxing time and will have the chance to enjoy each of the 13 days while keeping their health and schedule intact.

Saptak 2019
The festival has been going on for 38 years

The key performers at the 39th edition of Saptak

All will be the same in other facets, regardless of this year’s minor changes, says sitarist and co-founder Smt. Manju Mehta. All of the eminent classical artists will be present. Some of the stalwarts that audiences will have the chance to see this year are, Smt. N. Rajam, Smt. Shubha Mudgal, Smt. Manju Mehta, Smt. Malini Awasthi, Pts. Rajan and Sajan Mishra, the Gundecha brothers, Pt. Ronu Majumdar, Pt. Kumar Bose, and Shri Sanju Sahai. Even younger eminent artists like Shri Ayaan and Amaan Ali Bangash and Ms. Kaushiki Chakraborty will be present. In addition, for the folk portion, the great Marathi devotional music style, abhang, will be presented by Shri Mahesh Kale. Finally, in the classical dance portion, everyone looks forward to seeing the inimitable Pt. Birju Maharaj, and in addition to his kathak presentation, another dance, the rare Odissi, will be presented by Smt. Yogini Gandhi.

 

Saptak 2018 - 2nd Day Glimpse at World's Biggest Classical Music Festival
A glimpse of last year’s Saptak program

Showcasing the rich Saptak archives

Seeing all of these artists will be a blessing, and in addition to these live perfomances, there will be special documentaries being screened every day, as well. Apart from the Saptak festival, Saptak also possesses a great set of musical archives, which contain countless audio and video recordings of maestros. The documentaries being shown will be about the artists of the past and will be anchored by a Saptak staff member, it promises to provide invaluable insights to students and connoisseurs of classical music.

More information regarding the program can be found here and videos from past performances can be viewed on creativeyatra’s youtube channel here. The most interesting thing about this festival is that the audience consists of every age, and every walk of life. Hetal Mehta, eminent tabla player and trustee, commented on today’s generation’s perceived disinterest in classical music. She believes that today’s generation is in fact much more interested in classical music; she has seen countless young children and teenagers in the audience who patiently listen to all of the artists, no matter how late into the night the performance stretches. This confidence in their audiences is what has kept the festival going all of these 38 years, and what will ring in the new iteration in just a couple weeks.

Stay connected to #CYatSaptak2019 for regular social media updates and glimpses from the upcoming festival.

Images: Meera Desai and CY archives

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