The seven essences of the arts: A satrangi performance
- Shveta Arora
Photos: Anoop Arora

July 30, 2014

Last month, ‘7 essence’ was held at the IHC in Delhi. It was about seven artists sharing the stage with equal potential and complimenting each other. The evening started with felicitations of the chief guests, Sabir Ali Khan and Hashmat Ali Khan, Manjari Sahay and Satish Mehta from the ICCR.

The seven essences or the seven artists had their talents spread across different musical instruments and dance. The instruments involved blowing, bowing, plucking and strokes. Pt. Roopak Kulkarni on flute is the son and disciple of late Pt Malhar Rao Kulkarni. He has trained under Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia to become an outstanding exponent of Maihar gharana. Akram Khan on tabla has been trained under his great grandfather Ustad Mohd. Shafi Khan and continues his training under the guidance of his father Ustad Hashmat Ali Khan. The third performer, Murad Ali Khan on sarangi, is the sixth generation sarangi player from the Moradabad tradition. He trained under his grandfather and his father Ustad Ghulam Sabir Khan. Fateh Ali Khan on sitar was initiated to the instrument by Satish Kumar and later trained under Ustad Shamsuddin Faridi Desai. Fateh has been doing various contemporary and classical music albums with international musicians. Nupur Shankar on vocals and padhant has trained under Pt Birju Maharaj in thumri. Shuheb Hasan on vocals has been trained by vocal legend Ustad Siddique Ahmed Khan and Ustad Ghulam Sabir Khan. He has performed at many festivals and accompanied many Kathak stalwarts.

Akram Khan

Fateh Ali Khan

Murad Ali Khan

Roopak Kulkarni

Nupur Shankar

Shuheb Hasan

Mahua Shankar is the disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj for the past 18 years. She said, “I am still under his guidance. My first gurus were my parents Pradeep Shankar and Rekha Shankar,  then Rewa Vidyarthi and Vaswati Mishra. I have been training and travelling with Maharaj-ji for all these years. It has been a beautiful journey with him and I hope it goes on. He is an excellent human being. He has been a guru, a mentor and a father figure. He is my parents’ guru, got them married and he named me when I was born. He has a very strong bond with my family.”

Nupur Shankar, like a sutradhar in theatre, introduced each artist, their profile and their art. She even explained about the number of strings and the material used in the making of instruments. Kathak, she said, originated from the Sanskrit word katha. It has its beginning in the temples of North India as a means of worship and telling mythological tales. It went on to be performed in the havelis and royal courts of the Mughals.

The first to take the stage were Murad Ali, Fateh Ali and Akram Khan. The trio played a composition in raag Shyam Kalyan. The melody of the three instruments, with the soulful music of sarangi and the vibrancy of sitar and tabla, created a piece seeping through the soul during its ascent and descent.

Mahua Shankar
Mahua Shankar began her performance with a bhajan Mharon pranam banke Behariji, a nritya piece. Krishna is shown to wear a mormukut (a crown of peacock feathers), a tilak on his forehead and having black curls. The bhakta weaves a garland to pay his obeisance. Mormukut maathe tilak viraaje, ghunghar alka kaliji. He plays on the flute to entice the gopis– adhar madhur dhar bansi bajawa, rijhi rijhava braj naari ki ya.

Next, she did nritta in taal rupak, a throwing of the dice with the rhythm, tukda, permelu – one friend ‘sust’ or dull and one friend ‘chust’ or smart. This was an interesting piece as the parhant took two different speeds. This was followed by a paran and tihai, which was the swaying gait of a girl that matched the manner of recitation. She finished with a paran with 25 pirouettes. This was followed by a thumri, a composition of Amir Khusro, A risakhi mere piya ghar aaye. The nayika is portrayed as decking herself up and adorning her bed with flowers to welcome her beloved. Then, in the true tradition of Birju Maharaj, she performed tukdas in teen taal, imbuing each rhythm with meaning. Patang Katna (the thread of a kite being snipped), the movement of the kite flying, swaying and falling to the ground was shown with the recitation and hand movements. The mannerisms of three animals – a cow, a deer and a lion - were shown by the speed and tone of the padhant, followed by a tihai to show the suddenness of encountering somebody.

Akram khan and Mahua with the bol, footwork and beats created a conversation and coming together of two friends. She did a phool ki gat, the blooming flowers are plucked and strung together in a sting to form a gajra for the hair. She concluded with a tukda with 21 pirouettes. Mahua’s nritta and nritya were well defined, with exactitude in footwork. She exuberated confidence and beauty.

The next essence or artist to take the stage was Pt Roopak Kulkarni. He played a piece in raag Maru Behaag. It was a very melodious composition, transporting the audience to a different realm. Finally, they all came together for a jog tarana piece which I sadly missed. I wish they’d shortened the performance somewhat!

Shveta Arora is a blogger based in Delhi. She writes about cultural events in the capital.