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Autumn Barzākh – Indian classical musicians aim for heavenly plane between us and heaven…

Autumn Barzākh –  Indian classical musicians aim for heavenly plane between us and heaven…

For the first time since the pandemic, two virtuousi soloists join a tabla player of wide renown to perform for audiences and Arnab Chakrabarty from Canada talks to us about these concerts…

THREE INDIAN classical maestros of rare and considerable gifts come together for two special concerts this month.

Canada based sarod player Arnab Chakrabarty, pairs with two British-based musicians regarded as among the finest exponents too of their instruments – with Roopa Panesar on sitar and Shahbaz Hussain on tabla.

Tomorrow (October 6) in London and then again on October 14 in Birmingham, the trio will perform in what is being billed as an Autumn Barzākh, Jugalbandi and Duet Concert.

Arnab Chakrabarty (Courtesy of Sama Arts)

Brought together by Sama Arts Network, The Raga Fellowship Foundation and Canada Council for the Arts, it is a musical collaboration of rare distinction.

The three who are well-known to each other and have played before are excited about reforming for the first time since the pandemic for these two concerts.

Jay Visvadeva, director of Sama Arts, said: “These three virtuosos have all blazed their own trails, fusing the best of traditional music with a contemporary appeal.”

Inspired by the Sufi philosophy of Barzākh – a spiritual-aesthetic plane that lies between heaven and earth – these three have come together to delight Indian classical musical audiences in the UK.

Jugalbandi is a special kind of duet that almost pits two virtuoso players together.

Chakrabarty told “It is a musical performance in which two established soloists of Hindustani raga (a kind of scale inimical to Indian classical forms) music come together to create a joint narrative within a chosen set of ragas.”

Roopa Panesar pic ©AsianArtsAgency pic by Mark Allan

He told acv the two instruments – sarod and sitar- lent themselves very well to a sort of musical conversation which both compliments and contrasts against each other – at times.

“The two instruments speak the same musical language, are enabled by the deep resonance of their sympathetic strings, and yet, also contrast each other in voice and articulation.”

He said playing with Panesar was a joy and praised the “clarity of thought that informs her music”.

He felt her tutorship under one of the great names of Indian classical music, Vilayat Khan had left a profound and startling quality Chakrabarty was only too happy to share and – provoke musically on the stage.
He first played with Panesar at private soiree in 2014 in the UK and in 2017 they toured the US together.

“This was an exceedingly successful venture and cemented our musical admiration for each other. Being around Roopa one can’t help but pick up valuable lessons on stage craft, conduct and musical restraint.”

He told acv he has played more extensively with Hussain and the three are all good friends.

Shahbaz Hussain (Facebook)

Describing Hussain as a gentle giant of tabla, Chakrabarty added: “Easily among the most melodically sensitive tabla masters in the world, he is an ideal accompanist, with an uncanny ability to synthesise restraint and virtuosity in ideal measure. This is the first time the three of us are getting together in person (since covid) are we are very excited about it.”

Indian-born Chakrabarty who was based in Leeds between 2013-2018, studied in the US and spent several years back in India, honing his musical talent, before moving to Hungary where his wife Tiksha originally studied for an Economics’ doctorate.
The couple initially came to the UK much influenced by the idea that it would provide their much-loved Hungarian pet dog Arnie (now deceased) with a suitable home.

They travelled around Britain as Chakrabarty built up his reputation and told us that the couple’s love of hiking and his own personal love of swimming led them to the waters around the Isle of Skye in Scotland and one of his fondest memories here was – swimming in waters of just 4C. “Even my dog thought I was mad,” he joked.

Chakrabarty said the move to Canada was precipitated by a number of factors – the UK Indian classical music revolved around certain networks that didn’t see or appreciate Indian classical repertoire as “the music of the universe” – a quote from another legendary figure in Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. He uses the word “stifling” and intimates that the UK classical musical scene was too staid and unimaginative – focusing on the tried and tested and being satisfied with that.

Panesar spoke to acv earlier this year about the launch of her album ‘Atma’ – widely regarded as one of the finest Indian classical musicians this country has ever produced she continues to wow audiences and impress connoisseurs and critics with her abilities. She also credits her other gurus for helping her to reach this level – they are Dharambir Singh; Pandit Arvind Parekh and Ustad Vilayat Khan as to whom Chakrabarty referred earlier.

Tomorrow – October 6 7.30pm – Autumn Barzākh, Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, 161 Old Street London EC1V 9NG
Further info/tickets:

Saturday, October 14 – Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham B4 7XR
Further info/tickets:

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture