Melodic Confluence at Bhilwara Sur Sangam Charms Delhi’s Music Enthusiasts

As the cultural calendar of New Delhi unfurled, the Bhilwara Sur Sangam festival, initiated in the year 2012, celebrated its latest edition, reaffirming its status as a highly anticipated event in the city’s musical landscape. Bringing together a kaleidoscope of musical talents across varied genres, this festival has become a premier destination for music aficionados seeking to indulge in soul-stirring performances.

Year after year, the festival has featured an impressive roster of renowned musicians, making headlines with its spectacular jugalbandis which have included stellar pairings like Pt. Anindo Chatterji with Pt. Kumar Bose, the synergy of Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan with Ustad Rashid Khan, and the familial harmony of Pt. Ajoy Chakrabarty with daughter Kaushiki. The strings have been enlivened by Ustad Shujaat Khan on the sitar alongside Pt. Tejendra Narayan Mazumdar on the sarod. The thoughtful curation of the festival has ensured that audiences remain large and diverse, spellbound by the artistry on display.

In an inventive approach to scheduling, the festival organizers have reformatted the event to feature just one or two concerts per day, thereby affording listeners the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the musical experience.

The Bhilwara Sur Sangam 2024 opened to the delightful strains of Manas Kumar’s violin. Making his debut in Delhi, the SNA Yuva awardee from Assam captivated the audience without resorting to any musical gimmickry, despite not descending from a traditional musical lineage. His expertise was evident in his rendition of raag Puriya Kalyan, showcasing a mature gayaki tradition and transitioning effortlessly through vilambit ek taal to an exhilarating drut teen taal. The progression of the performance was executed seamlessly, peppered with fast and flawless taans. Accompanist Ojas Adhiya on the tabla intermittently drew attention with his vigorous interjections, at times overshadowing the mellow mood woven by the violinist. Kumar’s subsequent performances of late evening raag Jog Kauns, the radiant Nand, and the final, cheerful raag Pahari concluded his memorable debut.

The festival’s successive evening shone with the talent of veteran Hindustani vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, who opened her recital with raag Bhupali. In a moving dedication to her recently departed mother Vidushi Manik Bhide, Ashwini paid homage through the raag her mother had instructed her in. The composition ‘Pratham sur Sa’, originating from her mother’s guru Vidushi Kishori Amonkar, set the tone for an evocative tribute. Her generosity was apparent as she shared the stage with vocal supporters Swarangi Marathe and Rindana Rahasya. The rhythmic accompaniment of Vinod Lele on tabla and Vinay Mishra on harmonium complemented Ashwini’s joyful rendition of raag Basant, set to the Dhamar taal—a rhythm tastefully executed by Lele, highlighting the Benaras tabla artists’ penchant for this particular taal. The audience was further delighted by her concluding dadra, themed around the festival of Holi.

The Agra gharana was represented by Kolkata-based Ustad Waseem Ahmed Khan, who responded to an audience request with the late evening raag Jaijaiwanti. Waseem’s vocal performance was adorned with a traditional dhrupad alaap-jor-jhala, reflecting a strong aligning foundation of taalim and a composed mijaaz. His recital continued with popular Agra gharana compositions like ‘Paalana ghar laage’, in Ektaal, and ‘Naada akhiyan laage’, in Teen taal, with Vinod Lele’s tabla strokes and Vinay Mishra’s harmonium melodies providing faultless accompaniment. Recalling lessons from his grandfather Ustad Atta Hussain Khan at the age of six, Waseem’s closing hori in Pilu embodied the essence of the guru-sishya parampara (teacher-student tradition) in preserving India’s classical music heritage.

The festival finale was graced by Pt. Budhaditya Mukherji’s sitar prowess, with Soumen Nandi’s tabla accompaniment enriching the performance. Mukherji, known for his measured artistry, rendered raag Shuddha Kalyan with impeccable skill, skillfully transitioning from ‘auchaar’ to a Vilambit Teen taal gat. His recital included engaging interpretations of raags Basant and Bhairavi.

By featuring a diverse tapestry of both established and emerging artists, the Bhilwara Sur Sangam offers a two-day musical odyssey that is at once a celebration of treasured traditions and a recognition of emerging talent, ushering in the future of classical music in India.

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