Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Listening to Legends

The idea of ‘Bandish’ is essential to Indian classical music. Although,technically it means ‘to bind’,over the centuries,it has come to stand for a musical composition that is a happy marriage of literary text with melody and rhythm.

Written by Pooja Pillai |
July 6, 2011 12:13:33 am

Bandish,a music festival,seeks to bring some of India’s greatest composers and their works into the limelight

The idea of ‘Bandish’ is essential to Indian classical music. Although,technically it means ‘to bind’,over the centuries,it has come to stand for a musical composition that is a happy marriage of literary text with melody and rhythm. It’s a concept held in great reverence by the greatest singers and composers of India,across the various strands of music that form the tapestry of Indian classical music. Yet,in recent years,the spotlight has shifted from the composer to the performer’s celebrity status. In order to bring the focus back on the great composers of India and their work,the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA),Mumbai,has organised ‘Bandish: A Festival of Legendary Indian Composers’ from July 7-9.

“There have been so many brilliant composers in the country that many of us are still ignorant of,” says Dr Suvarnalata Rao,programming head of Indian music at NCPA,“Bandish,which started last year,is part of our ongoing effort to acquaint people with these works. Our programme runs the whole gamut of Indian classical music — from Hindustani to Carnatic and Sufi.” The line-up for the upcoming festival remains exciting. The compositions of Faiyaz Khan will be presented by Ghulam Husnain Khan,while Rashid Khan will perform the works of Inayat Hussain Khan on the first day. The second day will see the compositions of the great poet-saints — Kabir,Surdas and Tulsidas — performed by Shubha Mudgal and Anup Jalota. On the final day,Ashwini Bhide Deshpande will present the compositions of Alladiya Khan,while Vasundhara Komkali will perform the works of Kumar Gandharva.

It isn’t just the promise of great music that will draw aficionados to the festival. The artistes will also pepper their performance with anecdotes to bring to life the composers and their compositions. “It will help the audience to form a deeper understanding of the music that they’re listening to,” says Ghulam Husnain Khan,“Faiyaz Khan was my grandfather and I grew up listening to his compositions. It’s an honour for me to be able to present not just these compositions,but also their creator before an audience.”

For some artistes,this festival is the perfect opportunity to explore the roots and history of their gharana. Bhide Deshpande,for instance,says that she went to Kolhapur to acquaint herself better with Alladiya Khan,the founder of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana,of which she’s a descendent. “Our gharana has seen a lot of controversies with regard to the way the compositions are sung. I saw Bandish as a good opportunity to clear up some confusions I had.” The singer is of the opinion that in this day and age,the focus of music students is more on the techniques,rather than the philosophy that animates classical music. “Back in the days of the ‘guru-shishya’ tradition,it was easier for students to absorb the lifestyle,thought-processes,and philosophy that each school of music had,because they lived with their gurus.” She feels that festivals such as Bandish help in filling this gap,because artistes can use the platform to educate audiences about musical traditions.

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