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2012-07-15 The Creation of a New Raga - ShrutiPriya

He being a very simple and unassuming person, who conciously stays away from limelight and avoids self promotion almost to a fault, you wouldn't have heard of Pt. Vijay Bakshi unless you were deeply into Indian classical music for a long time. I too heard of him later than I would have liked to, but now that I have, I try to attend as many of his concerts as possible. My persistence has just borne some fruit as you will read further on.

Gurupournimaa is a festival celebrated by all disciples, i.e. shishyas, irrespective of the subject they are learning, on or around the full moon day of the 'aashhaaDha' month of the India lunar calendar. Their quest may be from pottery to goddery, er, spirituality, or anything in between, like math or music. This is the day of rememberance, of grattitude, of reverance, of offerings, as also of presenting some of the knowledge learnt from the teacher, i.e. the Guru. Most teachers I know are humble and maintain that it is not them personally, that are important on this day, but that the concept of the Guru, or the 'guru tatva', which shines the light of it's grace in the form of knowledge onto the unknowing or darkness of the shishya's state of learning. But since everyone needs a more identifiable form of any nebulous concept to be able to connect to it easily, they point to their own human teachers as the receptacle of all prayers, thankfulness and adulation - the Gurupoojaa. That is also why the last piece of the program is often by the teachers themselves - they are presenting to the omnipresence of their Guru. This outpouring of student - teacher love is a yearly phenomenon.

There are innumberable such programs held by shishya's for their Guru's and hence, for practical reasons, the actual date may materialise later than the calendar date. This year, my date with my Gurujee Pt. Ram Mate coincided with the calendar date of July 3. Since it is the opportunity to listen to new talent and creativity, I also attend programmes of other students and teachers in the musical fraternity. I had the priviledge of attending the programme of disciples of Pt. Mukund Marathe, held at the S. M. Joshi Hall in Pune, last week.

This weekend, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the programme organized by disciples of Pt. Vijay Bakshi. The programme was held in two sessions. The first session was held at the Vishnu Vinayak Swarmandir at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya on Saturday evening and the second on Sunday morning (i.e. today) at a community hall in Kothrud area. The speciality of this occasion was that all disciples were given the words of a bandish written by Pt. Bakshi and they were supposed to compose music and render it as the drut - i.e. with faster tempo - bandish of their recital.

I reached somewhat late on Saturday when Rishikesh Badave was rendering raga Shubhakouns. Shubhakauns is a rare variation on Malkauns, the difference being the use of shuddha gandhar, which makes it less serious in terms of mood. He was accompanied by Rahul Gole on the harmonium. He was ably accompanied by a very young Rishikesh Jagtap - in his teens - on the tabla, his skills not giving away his age. Rishikesh Badave followed a sweet raga Shubhakauns with a natyageet 'muralidhara shyam' from popular marathi musical play 'kaTyar kaaLjaat ghusali'. He is already a popular stage artist and this was an unplanned piece rendered due to farmaaish - special audience request. This was followed by 'gurumahimaa mohata mohi' a raga Yaman composition composed and rendered collectively by disciples. Then came a 'diyo darasa tum' in raga Yaman in the theka zhaptaal - rare in concerts - by none other than famous kirtan and stage artist Charudatta Aphale. Popular as 'AphaLebuwa', he upped the delicately rendered zhaptaal with a spirited teentaal bandish, and then a natyageet 'devagharache dnyaat kuNaalaa' from the marathi musical play 'matsyagandhaa'.

What then followed was one of the rarest occasions in musical history at least as far as Indian classical music is concerned. I don't know whether Milind Pote on the tabla and Rahul Gole on the harmonium were prepared for todays finale by Pt. Vijay Bakshi. He presented a new raga 'Shruti Priya', a variation on Bhoop, with the 'dhaivat' made 'komal' and the addition of the 'shuddha madhyam' into the mix of the swaras. It matches notes with 'maalawoona taaka deepa' a marathi song composed by Pt. Hridaynath Mangeshkar and immortalised by none other than Lata Mangeshkar. Pt. Bakshi very humbly gave this reference and has immortalized that mood into raga Shruti Priya. Imagine that songs mood carried by a khayal! Shruti Priya has a peculiar chalan too - pa ma re saa, saa re ga pa ga re saa, saa re ga ma ga re saa dha saa - that's how it goes. Momentous events are made of such stuff and I hope Indian classical music is taking notice. Words failed me. I was extremely fortunate to be witness to such a moment of creativity and innovation in the presence of transparency and humility. I will remember it for life. Needless to say, he followed it up with a self composed drut bandish in the same raga. I didn't want this concert to end, but like all good things, it ended with two taranas of Us. Amir Khan and Us. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in ragas Hamsadhani and Bhoop respectively.

The second session started today with Sarangi recital by Shree Kishor Datar. He played the 'Shiv Bhairav', also known as the Basant Mukhari, and was accompanied by Mandar Bagade on the tabla. You can listen to it here. Kishor Datar is a disciple of Pt. Ram Narayan, and Shri Madhukar Khadilkar. He is a close friend of Pt. Bakshi and is typically the opening artist for this yearly concert. Then Vijay Jagtap melodiously sang the raga Lalat, Pushkar Gadgil carefully sang the raga Jaunpuri, and then came a solo presentation of Rupak tala on the tabla by the previously mentioned young artist Rishikesh Jagtap. A finely nuanced raga Marva was rendered by Chinmay Alat. He had set tune to the bandish given by Pt. Bakshi first to vilambit laya in Zhoomra and then to drut laya in Ektaal and had sandwiched a madhya laya tritaal bandish in between! Chinmay sings in an unusually high scale, at an unusually slow vilambit tempo and has good command over taans spanning higher notes.

This was followed by a Santoor recital by Pt. Bakshi's son Ajay Bakshi, who learns from Dr. Dhananjay Daithankar. He played the raga Bhinna Shadja, also called as Koushik Dhuni/Kaunshi Dhani, the two compositions being set to zhaptaal and ektaal. His fluent recital was ably accompanied on the tabla by Kishor Lele. They made the magic one gets to see typically in Santoor concerts and I always wonder how the two can live co-ordinate so well down to the last beat. Even if you have practiced together for years, how can you know whats going on in the others mind on stage, which beat to skip, which to play normal and which to emphasise ? Nothing else but the meeting of minds can allow you achieve this, when, whatever you play in every successive concert is new, different and varied from what you played earlier!

As if all this was not satiating enough, the last piece of the concert was the reading-cum-recital of a one act musical marathi play (naaTyawaachan) written, composed, directed and also read (along with others) by Pt. Bakshi! The name of the play is 'maazaach tu akheri' and is an engaging story of a musical family. It is in the league of other 'sangeet nataks' that we know of and anyone in the entertainment industry who is interested in brining a new musical to the theater should get in touch with him.

Overall, I know very little about Pt. Bakshi. He learnt music from Guruvarya Dattatraya Keshav Agashe and then from Jaltarang artist Navneetbhai Patel. He idolises Us. Amir Khan and considers him a Guru. He has written books on music, composed poetry in the hindi shayari style, and composed music to it in various ragas. Jod (combined) ragas and anwaT (rare) ragas are his speciality. He is best known for his command over these difficult ones. In fact, he is described as the king of such ragas. Ragas such as Nat Bihag, Jayat Shankara are but a sampling of a long list. He has memorised a huge collection of beautiful compositions of numerous greats from the earlier generation.

I have been attending these yearly meets for a few years now and clearly see the laudable progress his disciples have made in this span. I am eagerly looking forward to listening to these guys as accomplished artists in their own right. Being Pt. Bakshi's disciples, I have no doubt they will have something different and enriching to bring to our musical tradition. Amen.

Tags: Indian, Classical, Music, Raga, Vijay Bakshi

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