A celebration of rhythm and flute - 10th April 2011


The evening held out a promise - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIjaJiAcO-8

It was part of the Music Alive series and it was celebrating the magic of rhythm and the flute. It was being co-presented by Goethe Zentrum and the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation.
The evening held out a promise. But what the promise was, was something we were all guessing. Some of us thought we’d see a fusion performance; some of us thought a Jugalbandi was on the cards. But we were all in for a surprise.
The first surprise was the tabla player Florian Schiertz of Germany. If we were expecting a German who had only dabbled with the tabla we were proven to be mistaken. Here was a tabla player who had not just spent the last 12 years or so in Calcutta learning to use his fingers on the classical Indian instrument but also learnt to wrap his lips around the sounds that were the notes of grammar to play the instrument. When he played, he played as if possessed by the maestros of Indian Classical gharanas. When he slipped into the dha dhin dhin na kind of percussive speech he spoke as if he was born on the banks of the river Ganges.
He started the evening with a piece that he called quite simply ‘Tablapiece’, an adapted version of the piano-composition 'Toccata for John Roos', written by Surendran Reddy.
It was a unique sight. Alone, resplendent in a saffron Kurta, his blond hair flowing with the wind and moving with his head shakes, his solo piece set aside all doubts about his prowess.
He was then joined by Mohd. Aslam Khan, a disciple of Ustad Sabri Khan of Delhi on Saarangi and then began the true display of tabla mastery. He started his classical solo with PESHKAR, then diverse KAIDAS and one RELA, all over a rhythmical pattern of 16 beats (Teental), with the varied tempo of 40-70 per minute, which is called Vilambit. He played compositions of famous masters like: USTAD WAJID HUSSAIN KHAN, PANDIT JNAN PRAKASH GHOSH, USTAD HABIBUDDIN KHAN and USTAD AHMEDJAN THIRAKWA. He then continued with fixed compositions called GAT, TUKRA, CHAKRADAR. In the beginning he played DOPALI GAT (repeating each phrase 2 times). TRIPALI GAT (Phrases repeated 3 times). All these compositions were played over the same TEENTAL, but in DRUT Tempo ca. 200 to 300 beats per minute. He ended with a GINTI (Counting) Composition based on KATHAK DANCE. And the last composition was a CHAKRADAR with 7 Subbeats against 4 of the drut Teental.
What made the performance special was that the audience got to witness a rapport between a German Tabla player and an Indian Saarangist. The Saarangi played the docile role and the tabla went through a myriad variations with changes of beats, changes of tempo and changes of mood. But always finding common ground and meeting at the crossroads of ecstasy.
The scene changed for a while as Mrs. Maninagaraju took centre stage for a while and delivered blemishlessly two Meera Bhajans to the accompaniment of some pre-recorded, pre-composed music. Meera Bhajans which are originally written in Hindi and sung by Hindi speakers are a difficult task for South Indians who need to twist their lips around their inborn accent but Mani managed to do this quite effectively and even managed to inject the right dose of sorrow and unbridled love into the inflection of the songs.
It was then the turn of Flute Nagaraju to take centre stage with Shyamkumar on the Mrudangam and Kangeera on one side and Florian Schiertz on the tabla on the other. Nagaraju is a renowned Flautist who varies his playing styles from mellifluous to staccato with unbelievable ease.
And that evening he started off with Raag Yaman and took us on a guided tour through Alaap, Jod and Jhal. From the Hindustani to Carnatic the switchover was seamless as he painted in Karaharipriya the Annamacharya composition “Okka Pari Okka Pari’. The next item had the audience’s total attention as it was the very popular Vaishnava Janato...in Raag Khamaal.
The percussive combination of Shyamkumar on Mrudangam and Florian on Tabla had by then mesmerised the audience and one couldn’t help but marvel at the way Florian kept pace with the mrudangam and matched it nuance by nuance. But when Nagaraju decided to raise the tempo and swung into Raag Pahadi the tabla and the mrudangam went insane. It was if they had been waiting for this cheerful celebration of music.
Just as we were all thinking that there could be no more enhancements that could be made to the music on offer, Nagaraju was joined by Joe Koster on piano. Joe had been working tirelessly to try and bring to life his dream of getting an Indian Musician to sync with the Western Classical Notes and playing styles. And tonight that was on display.
When Joe started off with Giga from Sonata in F by G.F. Handel Nagaraju fluted in effortlessly and a new chapter of Handel was unforgettably etched in our minds. And when "Spain" by Chick Corea frolicked into the audience’s hearts the flute was unmistakably there.
All in all, a wonderful evening that proved that music can indeed be the language that brings us all together and it can also be the religion of a world that believes only in harmony.
    Write-up by Vijay Marur 

Workshop at Vivekananda School - 11th April 2011