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The world of ‘Darbar’ hits Britain

The world of ‘Darbar’ hits Britain

Classical festival celebrating ancient musical arts gets underway…

ONE OF THE LARGEST celebrations of Indian classical music outside of its natural heartland descends on the South Bank Centre in London this weekend.

For three days from today (September 19) the centre will play host to the Darbar Festival.

Among the highlights will be several new talents from India performing in Britain for the first time, and the focus, this year, will be on women players and their role in keeping centuries-old musical traditions alive.

The late sitar maestro Ravi Shankar will be remembered in a special talk on Friday (September 20) with many previously unseen photographs, likely to be unveiled.

It is one of three discussion sessions, which all look at different aspects of Indian classical music. One of the others asks, ‘Where are the Women?’.

Darbar mixes concerts, talks, food and yoga to give visitors the full cultural experience of traditions linked to music and other associated aesthetic pleasures.

For the first time in the UK, Anupama Bhagwat will perform – she is one of the world’s leading talents on sitar, while Manjusha Kulkarni-Patil is expected to bewitch audiences here, as she has done elsewhere with her Agra and Gwalior Gharanas, a form of musical practice associated with a particular idelogy (from the place name).

Jayanthi Kumaresh (pictured) is one of the few to have mastered the art of the saraswati veena, an ancient instrument in danger of extinction.

The festival is also unique in bringing two different traditions together under one festival banner.

While most classical music outside of, and emanating from, India is in the Hindustani tradition (popular in the former courts of the Northern subcontinent),Carnatic music has quite a different structure.

It is the prevailing classical musical orthodoxy in the South of India and among those giving voice to that tradition at Darbar are Yogesh Sami on tabla, Pandit Buhdhaditya Mukerjee on sitar, and Sudha Ragunathan on vocals.

Sandeep Virdee, artistic director of the Darbar Festival, told, the ‘unplugged’ concerts would help to recreate the intimate and cloistered environments in which this music had first developed.

“Darbar refers to the audience chamber at a king’s court and with the unplugged concerts we have tried to set up a very similar environment.

“The Purcell Room will transform into a darbar where audiences will be immersed in the ageless and otherworldly sounds of Hindustani and Carnatice musical traditions, both vocal and instrumental.”

He added: “We continue to expose brilliant new musicians to UK audiences and we are free from the discrimination that most musicians face because of politics, caste and sex and religion back in India.”

There are also UK-based talents such as Harjinder Singh Matharu, who performs on Santoor, and is based in Leeds.

To add authencity to traditions, there are morning concerts beginning at 10am to perform pieces of music, known as ‘raga’, which are composed to compliment the sounds at the beginning of the day in nature. Afternoon ragas have a different tempo altogether and have a greater sense of urgency and immediacy.

There is a range of events designed to appeal all tastes and provide both the aficionado and the first-timer with music to savour and cherish.

It begins on Thursday (September 19) at 6.30pm with  a double bill, titled ‘Transposed Rhythm and the Saraswati Veena’ and opens with Bernhard Shimpelsberger on drums performed to Indian rhythms alongside Sukhad Munde on the pakhawaj, and then goes onto hear from Kumaresh on the saraswati veena, Patri Satish Kumar on mridangam and RN Prakash on ghatam.

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture