Samraga: A Midsummer Night’s Dream in winter

The two-day classical music concert in Ahmedabad brings together the aspiring and the seasoned artists for an open-air winter gala.

Ahmedabad is known for its culture of Indian classical music. As winter has set in, “Amdavadis”, too, have geared up for its classical concerts lined up for this season. On December 8, 2018, Samraga, a two-day concert,  kicked off the concert season at an outdoor amphitheatre. While artists of repute like Ustad Shahid Parvez and Pt. Yogesh Samsi brought grace to the stage, aspiring artists too tried to knock on the hearts of the audience with mesmerizing performances.

As audience settled in their respective places on white cushions, placed generously on the concrete seats at the open-air theatre, a light tanpura drone occupied the air and seemed to set the stage for the artists’ arrival. The venue – at Ahmedabad’s well-known Shreyas School – was augmented with a carpet of candles running along the stage, water body, and seats, making up for the absence of the moon and stars. As the ambience set the mood soaring, the audience, amid anticipation of a classical musical feast ahead, welcomed Nandini Shankar, Ashwin Srinivasan and Hiren Chate the first night.

This initiative, started by tabla player Hiren Chate, aims to bring opportunities for young upcoming artists to share the stage with eminent artists. Chate’s organization – Beat of a Drum – is based in London, and holds workshops and concerts to encourage young musicians.

Hiren Chate, Tabla, and the jugalbandi of flute and violin.
Hiren Chate, Tabla, and the jugalbandi of flute and violin.

“It’s a service (holding such concerts) to Arts,” “It’s a service in itself, the art,” shares visibly delighted Nandini Shankar, a young violinist and granddaughter of Padma Bhushan N Rajam. For Shankar, music should be simple that can instantly connect with audience. Hailing from a family where music is part of her routine, as eating, drinking, and sleeping, Shankar recalls that her musical training began at the tender age of three. “The biggest challenge for a musician today is to not get swayed by public perception. They must remember their roots,” she says. Nandini adds: “Music is the very thing that keeps me grounded. (The right kind of) riyaaz takes you within.”

Nandini Shankar
Nandini Shankar, the young violinist
Ashwin Srinivasan
Ashwin Srinivasan, bansuri player and vocalist

The performance by these young artists was amazingly mature. Nandini on violin and Ashwin on flute played an uplifting and engaging Raag Jog with a lot of tempo play and quick taankari. Their last piece, Thumak Chalat Ramachandra,  brought to mind the image of toddler, struggling with unsteady steps. The performance presented varying images of the little one. With quick notes, they created the image of the boy running quickly. Yet another interesting shift in tempo play created an impression of him stumbling about clumsily. An accidental fall was beautifully depicted by a downwards movement in pitch. Their capabilities as young artists surprised and surpassed the expectations of the audience.

Hiren Chate, founder of Samraga
Hiren Chate, founder of Samraga
Pandit Yogesh Samsi
Pandit Yogesh Samsi, attentively musical

Though the programme enthralled the music buffs to the core, vacant seats at the theatre prevented the young artists from enjoying a full experience. No matter how great the venue and ambience, vacant seats often discourage budding artists, for they look for appreciation and acceptance for their music.

Samraga Music Festival
The lights made for a beautiful ambience

Ustad Shahid Parvez, however, never plays for the entertainment of the audience. He chose to play a very reserved and musically austere exposition of Raag Bageshree. Taking immense care and time with each phrase that he played, the Ustad made full use of his typical gayaki ang, the style that imitates vocal phrasing instead of instrumental phrasing. Pt Yogesh Samsi, too, performed with such precision that the two artists appeared to be on the same wavelength, as their improvisations, though unplanned, seemed synchronised.

When his performance seemed near its end, a request from audience – 10 minutes more, please – had Ustad Shahid Parvez immediately tuning his strings out of Bageshree and into the correct tuning for the next raag. The audience was peacefully lulled into the sweet haze of Khamaj.  Amidst the gentle, sort of mechanical crackling of the candles, it sounded like one was listening to an old vinyl record, and it was with this nostalgia that the concert reached its conclusion.

Ustad Shahid Parvez, Pt Yogesh Shamshi
A moment between maestros
Ustad Shahid Parvez
The graceful and powerful playing of Ustad Shahid Parvez

Irrespective of the audience size, the artists played a wonderful concert, and those who witnessed the magic streaming from stage made for a superb audience.

Subscribing to the Creative Yatra Art Weekly or checking out this calendar are great ways to support artists and enhance one’s own cultural growth by not missing out on future events like this one.

Photographs Courtesy: Organisers


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