September 11 2014
There’s a huge array of talent heading to Britain…
INDIAN classical music lovers are in for special treat next week as Britain’s largest celebration of its traditional forms – Darbar in association with Sky Arts – hits the Southbank Centre in London for its 9th year.
For four days, venues by the river Thames, will reverberate to the sounds of such Indian classical instruments as the dhrupad, bansuri and tabla.
An amazing array of artists are set to perform – many with a global pedigree – and not just those from India itself.
A significant number will be making their UK debuts and there will be home-grown talents and Darbar favourites returning.
As well as the concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, there will be free music in the foyer and there are a number of sidebar attractions, including art exhibitions, Indian street food and children’s music workshops.
“It is indeed exciting to literally bring maestros and UK debut musicians from the different corners of India together on the same stages with UK musicians right here in London for audiences to immerse themselves in,” said Sandeep Virdee, artistic director Darbar.
The festival, begins officially next Thursday (September 18) and will feature the two overwhelming traditions of Indian music, Hindustani (from the north) and Carnatic (from the south).
Among the star attractions are Jyoti Hegde (on the rudra veena), Dr Prabha Atre (vocals), Debashish Bhattacharaya (on sarod), Niladri Kumar (sitar), the Mallick brothers (vocals) and Manorama Prasad, as well as a host of other top-line names.
Prasad, a Carnatic vocal specialist has spoken to www.asianculturevulture.com about her life’s work and is one of the country’s star performers and travels all over the world with her art.
Her concert “Escape into Carnatic Ragas” takes place next Friday afternoon (September 19) and she will be singing compositions from what is commonly referred to as the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Carnatic composers, Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri. (See xxx)
Darbar concerts begin with a special double bill, “London Beckons Indian ragas”, featuring Bharat Bushan Goswami, the master of the sarangi, who will be focusing on traditional temple style music, known as ‘Haveli Sangeet’. He will be accompanied on tabla by Prabhu Edouard. In the second half, Debashish Bhattacharaya returns to the festival with the sarod. Hugely versatile and nimble, Debashish opens the ears and mind to the infinite possibilities of a classical sound that in his hands, can and also does, have a powerful contemporary aesthetic. He is supported on tabla by Subhankar Banerjee.
Before Prasad begins the performances for Friday afternoon, there is “Sitar Talk” with maestro Niladri Kumar. Regarded as one of India’s finest sitar players, this is rare opportunity to engage with an artist at the very height of his prowess. From a child prodigy to a star performer, Kumar has dazzled and is also known as something of an innovator – creating the ‘zitar’, an electronic version of the sitar.
That evening, there is another grand double bill with “Bansuri and the Fast Side of the Dhrupad”. Pandit Nityanand Haldipur is a flautist of range and power, and trained under Annapurna Devi, herself a renowned figure in the classical music world. She is the daughter and student of Allauddin Khan, the founder of Maihar gharana (school) and the former wife of the late sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar. Annapurna herself is responsible for the musical education of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and the late Pandit Nikhil Banerjee. The second half of the bill is devoted to the Dhurpad vocal style with Prem Kumar Mallick (pictured above) and Prashant Mallick. They will be reprising the court music tradition of ‘Darbhanga’, from the north-east region of India. Surdashan Channa will play the jori. The concert will finish at around 11.30pm but the audience will have an opportunity to leave earlier.
For the early risers on Saturday (September 20), there is “Magical Morning Ragas”. Starting at 10am – and in no way too early for those attuned – is Pandit Vinayak Torvi, making his UK debut. He will deliver an energetic upbeat tempo of morning ragas in the ‘Khayal’ (short Hindustani songs forming the basis for improvisation) vocal style. He will be joined by Bharat Bhushan Goswami on sarangi (string-bow instrument), Ajay Joglekar on harmonium and Kousic Sen on tabla.
At the same time and for those looking for something different and representative of the Sikh musical and spiritual tradition is, “Instruments of the Gurus”. From the Punjab and the Sikh tradition are two instruments that almost fell into near obscurity but for the efforts of Kirpal Panesar,who rescued the taus and Surdarshan Chana who reprises the jori (known also as Punjabi Pakhawaj, and is a forerunner of the more modern tabla but comprises a pair).
It is the Khayal style that Dr Prabha Atre will discuss on Saturday afternoon. As one of India’s most prominent vocalists, she will share her insights and experiences as not just a vocalist, but as a thinker, composer and teacher at “Khayal Talk with Legendary Dr Prabha Atre“.
Following this comes “Tabla Rhythms Unleashed”, with tabla maestro Subankar Banerjee taking to the floor and commanding it as a largely solo performer. He will be supported by Ajay Joglekar on the harmonium nagma.
The first of the “Yogabliss” sessions begins on Saturday at 3pm. The one-hour sessions draw from a range of styles and it is all done to music. Mats are provided but you will need to fill a medical questionnaire before starting and you are advised to arrive in good time to complete these formalities. The sessions are conducted by Kanwal Ahluwalia from yogabliss.org.uk.
On the first part of Saturday evening comes “Curious Carnatic Notes”, with violinist Akkarai Subhalaksmi making her UK debut and playing her full repertoire with support of VV Ramanamurthy of mridangam (two sided hand drum) and G Guruprasanna on kanjira (frame drum).
Just a little later, “Dhurpad and Shock of the New” sees Jyoti Hegde, one of the foremost exponents of the rudra veena (stringed instrument) and the Hindustani style of music hit the Southbank centre. She makes her UK debut and is supported by Surdarshan Channa on the jori. The second half has Abhishek Raghuram, one of the rising names in Carnatic music, play in the UK for the first time. A vocalist of great power, he will be supported in no equal measure by three musicians of very considerable pedigree: Akkarai Subhalakshmi (violin), VV Ramanamurthy (mridangam) and G Guruprasanna (kanjira).
By popular demand, there’s an early start on Sunday (September 21) as “Facing the Modern – Timeless Bansuri” gets under way at 8am. Flute master Nityanand Haldipur in plays in Britain for the first time and, reprises the ‘Maihar Gharana’ style. Tabla maestro Edouard supports.
Familiar to readers of www.asianculturevulture.com is Chandra Chakraborty, who has been prominent in establishing Saudha, society of poetry and Indian music. In “Morning Raga Addiction”, she makes her debut performance at Darbar, singing both in Khayal and yet more popular light classical tunes. She is supported by Joglekar on harmonium, and rising UK name Sanju Sahai on tabla.
Another session of ‘Yogabliss’ starts at 10am on Sunday, and is followed by “Carnatic Music Demystified talk”. In this, celebrated Carnatic vocalist specialist Abhishek Raguram gets down to the basics and talks about the tradition and the presentation of Carnatic concerts in a way that will both excite and inspire the curious, as well as those of a more advanced disposition.
The unusually titled, “Unreported Ragas”, hits Darbar that evening, with Pandit Vinayak Torvi presenting Khayal vocals, alongside Goswami (sarangi), Joglekar (harmonium), and Kousic Sen (tabla).
A special double bill comes to Sunday afternoon, featuring Shashank Subramanyam on flute and Niladri Kumar on the sitar.
The festival ends with a final flourish and “Best Then, Better Now: The Legendary Dr Prabha Atre”. Now in her 80s but still as influential as she was in days gone by, Dr Prabha Atre gives a maestro masterclass in Khayal vocals, and it’s a rare opportunity to hear one of the most decorated and celebrated classical music artists of the last six
decades. In support is Goswami (sarangi), Joglekar (harmonium), and Sahai (tabla).
The festival starts with the ‘Indian Music Course’ that runs from September 17 to October 22, and covers the range of Indian classical music. Aimed at the beginner and those looking to delve a bit further, there are five sessions in as many weeks. Some sessions will feature live musicians and the course is run by award-winning broadcaster, journalist, novelist
and critic is Jameela Siddiqui.
Darbar was created in memory of Bhai Gurmit Singh Ji Virdee, a tabla teacher of considerable repute and who was one of the revolutionary pioneers of the Indian classical music scene in its early years. His legacy has been preserved and further enhanced by Sandeep, his son, founder of Darbar and its present artistic director. Darbar refers to the chamber within a Maharajah’s court.
Other attractions include:
- Foyer (free) concert: “Beats of India” – three instruments get a workout under the direction of Edouard on tabla, VV Ramanamurthy on mridangam and Guruprasanna on kanjira, Sunday, September 21, 6pm at the front of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
- Art – “Heaven and Earth” video installation mounted underneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which mixes video footage from aprevious Darbar, as conceived by artist Hetain Patel. In the Members Section on the top floor at the Royal Festival Hall (RFH), artist Natasha Kumar’s solo exhibition, “Rasa:Essence of India”, draws to a close. Her ‘Ram Leela’ paintings feature Lord Krishna and his flute enchanting the gopis (cowherd girls) is very relevant to some of the music that will feature at Darbar
- Children’s Indian Singing (free) instruction of ragas with Tofail Ahmed in the foyer space at 2pm, Sunday, September 21. Must book, please see http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/childrens-indian-singing-85183
- Children’s Sitar is currently sold out. At 12.30pm and 1.15pm on Sunday, September 21, it introduces children to the instrument. St Paul’s roof pavilion (RFH).
- Indian street food with Roti Chai Chaat shack and bar at the festival village
For more details and full listings http://www.darbar.org/darbar-festival-2013
About the Indian classical music scence: www.darbar.org