Confluence : a meeting of Indian classical dance & music

A trained vocal artist, CY contributor Meera Desai shares her experience as she goes on a musical journey with ‘Confluence’. 

The brainchild of tabla player Sapan Anjaria, ‘Confluence’ put together a meeting of kathak, Hindustani classical and Carnatic classical music. Accompanying him were Aniket Khandekar (vocals), Anuj Anjaria (santoor), Rakesh Wani (dholak), Dinesh Kumar (mridangam) and Vanraj Shastri (sarangi). The first edition of which was organised on May 2. While the second edition will be performed on May 19 (Sunday).

The beats of the tabla and dholak traded with each other in a fast-paced jugalbandi. Their hands were fluttering on their respective drums as if it was no effort at all, but the sound emitted proved otherwise. Impossibly fast, impossibly accurate, and impossibly confident. When they stopped, I looked at the phone and couldn’t believe I had been sitting completely enraptured for 30 minutes, without another wandering thought in my mind.

The language of rhythm

The dholak, tabla, and mridangam are all very different in make and use. One is more used in light classical music, one is used in Hindustani classical music, and the last is used in Carnatic music. However, this performance used all three of them, although not always at the same time. In fact, this is the most difficult obstacle with most large bands — everyone is made to play at the same time, not allowing for variation in sound and energy. This performance featured so many permutations of instruments; often it was just a mridangam solo, or a tabla-dholak jugalbandi, or the santoor and sarangi going back and forth with tabla mediation. The audience could focus on just one exchange and appreciate it before moving on to the next.

Rhythm is an intimidating thing to understand at this high level. Some of the audience may have gotten lost in the fast-paced compositions. However, this was a lesson in how classical dance and music can surpass this obstacle. Kadam Parikh, a student of Maulik and Ishira Parikh, came onto the stage for several compositions, including the Shiva Panchakshari Stotram, and a tarana at the end. Parikh presented several compositions, speaking the bols and then presenting the same composition in a choreographed dance form. His graceful gestures put everyone in a trance where they did not feel intimidated, just joyful at the beauty.

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Bringing together classical music and dance with some of the most senior artists in Ahmedabad (Credit: Aditi Anjaria)

Making melodies

Improvisation is a well-known part of the classical field. This performance was no different. However, the most interesting part of the piece was that there were sections which they would all play together, much like a chamber music ensemble. This made for a very interesting and lively interpretation of the raag. Raag Jog, with its limited notes, lends itself to creativity, but sometimes with such few notes, can get repetitive. The arrangement of the pieces with this ensemble, however, incredibly engaging and never repetitive or contrived. Right when the audience thought that an instrumentalist or the singer was going to go on with their improvisation, the entire ensemble took a well-planned and technically complex tehai, in perfect unison. Very clearly, each of the musicians had worked and rehearsed rigorously for every tehai to land with such strength.

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From left to right, all the artists: Sapan Anjaria, Vanraj Shastri, Dinesh Kumar, Kadam Parikh, Anuj Anjaria, Aniket Khandekar, Rakesh Wani. (Credit: Meera Desai)

All in all, a celebration of music

My favourite part of music ensembles is seeing how musicians interact with each other, because after all, a good band performance comes down to all of the musicians being on the same wavelength. This ensemble was so seamless and for that exact reason, each of them was paying attention to the others’ parts. All throughout the performance, there was constant keeping of the beat on someone’s hand, a tapping foot, a pointed finger when the sam came. Everyone on stage was extremely present, which somehow captured the audience’s attention just as mesmerizingly. All in all, the packed theatre and the smiling artists afterwards spoke for themselves. ‘Confluence’ was a resounding spectacle and intelligent thing of beauty.

If you missed the first edition, do not miss the second edition on Sunday, May 19th at the Bhavan College Auditorium.

Follow @anjariasapan on Instagram for information about upcoming shows.

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