The IWPC concert - A memorable evening
- Manjari Sinha

November 21, 2010

The Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC) celebrated its 16th anniversary with an ecstatic concert by the internationally acclaimed Sufi singer Begum Abida Parveen on November 13, 2010, at the lawns of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi. Organized in association with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Routes 2 Roots, the annual event was aimed at bringing together people of the subcontinent through their shared cultural and musical heritage. The cultural event also included two talented singers from the Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa talent contest-2010 and a Kathak performance choreographed by Geetanjali Lal.

Abida who defines 'Aalap' as "Allah-Aap" believes that music is a gift of God that helps in connecting and bringing people together, transcending the barrier of language, culture and creed. She shared these thoughts at a press conference held earlier at the IWPC and said, "I really like the concept of this concert where artists are invited from across the border to perform, taking forward the message of humanity and brotherhood." She reiterated, "Sufi poetry can make someone forget their surroundings and take a step towards understanding the meaning of existence…"

Her mesmerizing concert at the IGNCA proved it all true. The powerful and positive radiation of Sufi music transported the listeners to another world when she sang in her full throated voice the Sufiana Qalaams of Sultaan Bahu, Bulle Shah, Amir Khusroo, Sachal Sarmast, Kabir and Waris Shaah. Opening with the devotional Qaul "man kunto Maula.." based on raga Yaman Kalyaan, she went on to sing the Sufiana Qalaams interspersed with appropriate Qataas, Pharasi couplets, Kabir-Dohaas and Urdu Ashaars in ragas like Bhoopali, Brindavani Saarang, Bageshri to Bhairav and Bhairavi. The beauty of her classicism lies in the fact that she herself is totally immersed in the poetry and music she is presenting and this total involvement with her art makes her listeners go wild the rapture of sheer joy. Her passionate singing lifts both the artiste and the listeners to the heights of devotional ecstasy.

'Raanjha Raanjha…' on the lilting rhythm of Deepchandi Theka, 'Chhaptilak sab Chheni…' the famous composition of Amir Khusro, 'Jabse tone mujhe Deevaana bana rakha hai…'in Bhairavi, 'man laaga yaar fakeeri mein' soaked in the sonorous swaras of Yaman, or the piercing Bageshri in 'Yaartha, gulzaartha….' to the concluding crescendo of the rhythmic 'Damadam mast kalandar…' she kept the audience spellbound with the captivating charisma of her magnificent voice and devotional fervour. The audience was literally in the state of 'Haal' towards the end, dancing to her tunes.

'Aatman', the Kathak choreography by Geetanjali Lal, presented earlier this evening by the artistes of Kathak Kendra Repertory, created the ideal ambience for the Sufi music by Abida. Both her serene Sufi music and this comely Kathak performance titled 'Aatman' dealt with the subject of Self, the spirit or existence itself. The Madmadh Sarang bandish "rang de rangrejawa…" interpreted by the dancers in Kathak vocabulary was parallel to what Abida sang later in "Khusro rain suhaag ki…… dono ek hi rang". The Kathak choreography explored the spirit of adventure pushing the limits of space and time, rhythm and sound. The Kathak movements were innovatively recast into dynamic new patterns set to the time cycles of 10 beats and 16 beats in Jhap-Tala and Teen-Tala respectively. Geetanjali Lal not only choreographed the piece but also took care of the music to go with it. Sufi music also remained the theme for the two young singers who had opened the cultural evening with the Sufi songs of Kailash Kher.

Manjari Sinha has an MA in Sanskrit from Allahabad University, MA in Music from Vikram University, Ujjain; B.Ed. from Lucknow University; Sangeet Prabhakar in vocal, tabla, sitar and Kathak dance from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad; and further training in sitar from guru Arvind Parikh in the lineage of Ustad Vilayat Khan. She contributes articles in English and Hindi on Music (Hindustani & Carnatic), Dance, Art & Culture for various leading music journals and periodicals. She gives lec-dems on Indian classical music and dance in India and abroad, interviews many musicians and dancers, and is an auditioned artist of All India Radio, broadcasting programs such as talks, interviews, Sanskrit programs and travelogue on overseas broadcasting.