Clockwise from top left: Sujata Mohapatra. Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty. Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan. Pandit Uday Bhawalkar. Pandit Tejendra N Majumdar. Exhibition featuring portraits and biographies of legendary musicians and dancers. Photo: ATL Aakash
The large space inside Bangladesh Army Stadium was used cleverly and efficiently -- not missing out on any vital component that would be required for a nightlong programme. Right from the outset on the opening day of Bengal ITC SRA Classical Music Festival 2012 (November 29), the arrangement was in a word, impeccable.
The seating arrangement was also very well thought out. The front was reserved for the esteemed guests, while general attendees sat not far away. There were also arrangements for seating on the sides, ample number of projectors and speakers were placed in the stadium, ensuring that everyone, no matter where they were, could see and hear the proceedings and performances on the stage.
Regal shehnai sets off the musical voyage
Ustad Ali Ahmed Hussain Khan kicked off the festival with a shehnai performance set on Raga Hansadhwani. Hansadhwani, belonging to thaat Bilawal, represents all 'shuddha swar' (pure notes). Hussain's performance produced perfect 'gamak' (profound waves of melody) coupled with 'taan'. Two shehnai artistes Hassan Haider Khan and Ahmed Abbas Khan accompanied Hussain during the performance. Renowned tabla artiste Pandit Samar Saha embellished the performance with several tabla 'lahora', 'rela' and 'laggi'.
Raga Bageshree blossoms
Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan on sitar played a melodic game of Bageshree, a raga pertaining to the thaat Khamaj. The artiste's stunning performance seemed to make the gentle dewy breeze blow over Madhabilata flowers. Shahid Parvez's 'alaap', 'gaut', 'bistaar', 'jhala' and 'tehai' seemingly made the moon smile. Yogesh Samsi accompanied the ustad on tabla.
An immaculate Dhrupad performance
Dhrupad is the oldest existing form of classical music. Khayal, thumri and tappa have been created from this form of music. Pandit Uday Bhawalkar offered a dhrupad set on Raga Jog. Pratap Awad accompanied the performance on 'tewra taal' (seven-beat) and 'sul taal' (ten-beat) on pakhawaj. Uday Bhawalkar's rendition of 'gamak' and 'gamaki alaap' were set on 'vilambit', 'madhya' and 'drut laya', and covered three octaves --'mandra', 'madhya' and 'taar saptak'.
A Juganbandi to remember
Pandit Tejendra N Majumdar on sarod, with Pandit Subhankar Banerjee on tabla, created a musical euphoria. The duo presented a 'jugalbandi' that the Dhaka music connoisseurs will remember. Showcasing the splendour of Raga Lalit, Pandit Majumdar played a composition on 'rupak taal madhyalaya' and a 'drut' composition on 'teen taal'. Mesmerising the audience, the Pandit duo suddenly paused several times amid the speedy jugalbandi.
Like rippling water
When Odissi dancer, teacher and exponent Sujata Mohapatra took the stage, the first night of the festival was at its peak. As Mohapatra made her entrance -- with delicate footsteps, initiating â€œMangalacharanâ€ [her offering to the Divinity], it looked as if one of the 'waterbending' characters from the uber-popular TV show [later adapted into a movie by M. Night Shyamalan] â€œAvatar: The Last Airbenderâ€ has come out of the screen. Mohapatra's performance was interrupted once by power cut but that couldn't break the spell she put on the audience. Her super-fluid movements, which could only be likened to rippling water, demonstrated a command and restraint that only come from years of devotion to one's craft.
Ushering the dawn
Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty ushered in the dawn through performing a khayal set on Raga Aahir Lalit. According to the Pandit, he learnt the raga from Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar, but rarely performs it. For the special performance at the Dhaka festival, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty also composed a new bandish, â€œRaatbhar gunijan gaaye bajaye, Aaj anandmay bhorâ€. He presented it on 'vilambit ektaal'. â€œWah! Kya baat!â€ -- were instant responses from the audience. Yogesh Samsi presented several 'tabla lahora' while Gourab Chatterjee on harmonium and Allarakkha Kalawant on sarangi accompanied the Pandit.
Tracing the heritage of classical music
At the back end of the stadium was a quaint open-air exhibition, with portraits and short biographies of the legendary musicians and dancers who had their roots in, or performed in what is now Bangladesh -- covering from the Mughal era to the stalwarts of the 20th century Ustad Allauddin Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ayet Ali Khan and Ustad Vilayat Khan. Music enthusiasts thronged the exhibition, walking through the rich history and legacy of classical music in Bangladesh.
Books, magazines, Cds
There was a small exhibition on another part of the stadium grounds, showcasing the various activities, exhibitions and other events of Bengal Foundation. A stall carrying Bengal Foundation's publications and CDs was also nearby, alongside stalls of the publication houses Prothoma Prokashoni and Daily Star Books.
For a programme scheduled to go on until dawn and expected to be attended in large numbers, there were ample supply of refreshments -- traditional pitha and other snacks, and full fledged dinner, all placed in order at one side. There were also seating arrangements for eating, under a canopy.
Among others, Bangladeshi artiste Ustad Shahadat Hossain Khan played Raga Jilf on his sarod. Bangladeshi tabla artiste Zakir Hussain accompanied the performance on 'vilambit' and 'drut teen-taal'. Talented vocalist Omkar Dadarkar rendered a melodious khayal set on Raga Hameer. Sanjay Adhikary on tabla, Gourab Chatterjee on harmonium and Sarwar Hossain on sarangi accompanied the performance. Waseem Ahmed Khan also rendered a khayal based on Raga Chandrakaunsh. Sanjay Adhikary on tabla, Pandit Jyoti Guha on harmonium and Sarwar Hossain on sarangi assisted the performance.
The event organisers have not only meticulously planned, but the execution was efficient too. Today's programme has been dedicated to the memory of pioneering choreographer and dancer Pandit Uday Shankar. Prothom Alo is the strategic partner and The Daily Star is partner of the festival. Maasranga Television is the telecast partner while abc radio is the broadcast partner. Ice Media Limited is the media partner of the festival.