New trend on Live Preview?


Ask a Hindustani classical musician what he or she will perform at a concert and most likely, you’ll get a lot of humming and hawing or a non-commital dekhenge, kyaa mood bantaa hai…. or something equally ambivalent. Which is what leads me to wonder how and what is leading classical musicians featured in the Live Preview section of Time Out Mumbai to disclose, possibly weeks in advance, what exactly they will render in a forthcoming concert. At times, the column mentions that the featured artiste is “likely to present” ragas such as this, that and the other. But most vocalists seem to have no problems mentioning names of ragas they are likely to present or have already decided to present. And so I am led to wonder whether we are witnessing a new trend in which performers are actually planning what to sing in advance?

Oh btw, it is usually singers who seem to disclose their repertoire in advance. Check out Page 83 in the March 21 to April 3, 2008 Live Preview segment of Time Out Mumbai. It features a total of 3 previews of upcoming concerts by tabla player Suresh Talwalkar, sitar and Hawaiian guitar duo Rajiv Janardan and Kamala Shankar, and vocalist Yashasvi Sarpotdar respectively. Of these, Talwalkar does not report or perhaps was not asked which taal he is likely to play. Interestingly, we are told that he is “the only tabla soloist who engages a vocalist to provide the nagma”. But the preview makes no mention of either the name of the accompanying vocalist or the raags in which he/she will sing bandishes as nagma. Oh well ! It could have been a problem with the phone interview which we are told was conducted to get information for this event.

Next we read about the sitar -Hawaiian guitar duet between the husband-wife due Rajiv Janardan and Kamala Shankar where the artistes are reported to have said that their jugalbandi “is a meeting of souls, not a mere musical duet”. Er, umm, now what on earth is that supposed to mean? I mean, the musical duets we mortals have heard about are the famous Ali Akbar Khan-Ravi Shankar jugalbandis, or the Bismillah Khan-Vilayat Khan jugalbandi, or the Girija Devi-Shobha Gurtu jugalbandi (also available in a 2 Cd set released by Sa Re Ga Ma, I think) and several others too. I mean, were these “mere” musical duets or what? Anyhow, the soulful pair does not reveal or were not asked to reveal what listeners could expect when their souls meet at Balvikas Sangha Hall, Fri Mar21, and oooh ! yummy! once again at Rachana Sansad on Mar 24.

But 28 year old vocalist Yashasvi Sarpotdar we are told is likely to sing compositions in Shree, Kedar and Marwa at Savarkar Kendra Hall, Tue Mar 25. And in the same Live Preview segment of the January 25 to February 7, 2008 issue of Time Out Mumbai we were informed that vocalist Shubhangi Sakhalkar (ok, she is 43 years old though we didn’t ask) is likely to sing “medium-tempo compositions in ragas such as Shree Kalyan and Kedar that were popularised by Gandharva” at Paranjape Vidyalaya Hall, Sun Jan 27. And in the same issue we are informed that vocalist Suhasini Koratkar (she’s 70 years old we are informed) is “likely to sing ragas such as Hamsadhwani, Jhinjhoti and Kalavati” at Alok Hall, Sun Feb 3. Once again, veteran (75 year old) tabla player Suresh (Bhai) Gaitonde is not asked details of the repertoire he will present at Shanmukhananda Hall, Sun Feb 3. But then again, in the latest issue, we are informed that vocalist Yogesh Hunswadkar is likely to perform Puriya Dhanashri, Adi Basant and Khamaj Bahar at his concert on May 4, 2008. See an emerging trend here?

Seriously, does this pattern not suggest one or more of the following:

1. That it’s a format that Time Out Mumbai correspondent/correspondents AD and/or Amarendra Dhaneshwar is/are following for the Live preview segment to provide information about the age of each performer and the repertoire that the vocalists will present. I don’t know if the instrumentalists were also asked for repertoire details but chose not to give them, but as you can see, the 3 issues that I have referred to tend to follow a pattern re vocalists alone. But do we really need to know about every artistes age? I don’t think it really matters, unless a listener is really particular about attending a recital only by the above 70s or the under 30s and so on and so forth. Personally, I can’t see myself deciding not to attend a concert because an artist is only 35 years old, or changing my mind about attending let’s say, an Ulhas Kashalkar concert because the preview reports that he will present Miyan Malhar. So these are more or less irrelevant details in my opinion unless a specific theme or specially curated or composed repertoire is being presented.

2. Planning repertoire for a concert is not unknown in the Hindustani music tradition. It is common knowledge that the legendary Kumar Gandharva would plan the repertoire for forthcoming concerts meticulously and actually refer to beautifully penned hand written pages with repertoire details including song texts. It is also said that D.V.Paluskar maintained a diary where he also penciled in repertoire details for concerts, but I have no solid proof of this and neither have I seen the documents myself. Other luminaries like Kesarbai Kerkar too are said to have carefully planned their repertoire for each concert, so it is not surprising or out of the ordinary to note that artistes plan their presentations weeks in advance and are even willing to publish them. What is surprising is the general unwillingness of many musicians to disclose what they are going to perform even to a fellow musician slated to perform right after them at a festival. Ask a musician performing before you what raag they plan to present, and most often they will either avoid giving a definite answer or perhaps say something and perform something quite different. Or, if they have decided to give you a hard time, they could fob you off by giving the name of a raag, and then perform the same raag that you begin to warm up with in the green room :).

In fact, there is generally a fair deal of paranoia about repertoire. Some great musicians in the yesteryears are reported to have even gone so far as to refuse to disclose the name of a complex or rare raag while in concert for fear that imitators would learn their compositions and hijack them for future use! Worse, teachers are said to have taught the same rare composition to different disciples but with different raag names assigned to the same piece. So all in all, classical musicians have a tendency to be rather secretive about repertoire not just before a concert but even in concert.

3. Or are we able to shrug off the paranoia in exchange for some good publicity? So we hum and hedge and haw when asked otherwise but agree to providing details when asked by a leading magazine.

4. We provide the details when asked but don’t stick to the published repertoire when actually performing, because after all, there’s no law to prevent artistes from changing their minds, is there? In which case, the details aren’t really necessary are they?

5. These details seem to be important only for the Mumbai correspondents, because Live Preview in the Time Out Delhi issues usually filed by Arunabha Deb, (yet another AD) doesn’t disclose either the artiste’s age or repertoire thankfully. It just gives you a brief about the featured artiste.

Of course, neither Mumbai nor Delhi think its important to mention the names of accompanying musicians in previews or reviews. I guess thats a telling comment on the status of accompanying artistes when neither main artistes nor journalists think them worthy of even a one-line mention. Guess this is one trend that ain’t changing soon.

Shubha Mudgal

Shubha Mudgal

12 Comments

  •    Reply
    Indrani Talukdar June 8, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    You are so right. I have heard journos ask each other which ‘raga’ is being sung (or played) during concerts!

  •    Reply

    The write-up is excellent and informative.

  •    Reply
    Kishore Betrabet June 30, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Dear Madam,
    After listening to your album Chahat, I have fallen in love with the compositions. Especially “Itne karib”,I’m interested to know the rag that it is based on.

    All the compostion are just beautiful.

    Eversince I heard this album of your I have made it a point to buy all your albums.
    I hope you’ll let me know the Rag on which “Itne Karib” is based.

    As regards the choice of rags to be performed in a particular performances.It should be extempore and be spontaneous,depending on the mood of the singer,audience and the “Mahol”

  •    Reply

    eeks! i meant repertoire.

  •    Reply

    Namaste Shubha ji,

    Am a fan of yours. Just wanted to say Hi, something I could never do in the real World, coz I don’t go to concerts and all.

    Best wishes,

    Debashish

  •    Reply

    Journalism lost its true meaning many years back and now all that matters to the ‘writers’ is to provide enough material to stir the thinking of readers. Just enough to bring prejudice and age discrimination in this case. We the citizens of india are all trying our little best to keep traditions alive and safeguard our values to pass on to the next generation. Yet we have other citizens like ignorant journalists who think it is in the interest of common people to provide them with choices, which frankly do nothing but confuse. The question is, will these things alter our decisions? Because at the end of the day a journalist is trying to sell a story, and will use just about anything under the sun to do so. I believe Sangeet sadhna is an endless sea with unreachable depths and every ratna unique. If you have the interest, then go for a concert. 8 out of 10 times you will discover something new, very good odds, are they not? But if you’re having trouble deciding then you need to question your interest.

    Thank you Shrimati Shubha.

  •    Reply

    Even down South, classical musicians are not forthcoming with their concert plans. However, the Madras Music Academy, for its annual season of concerts in December brings out a Souvenir that has the concert plans of all the performers almost a month in advance.

    True, often musicians change plans. Some of them don’t even give their list to the Academy. But most do. And many adhere to those lists.

    Interestingly, for the Hindustani concert that is held as a part of the festival, no repertoire is ever given.

  •    Reply

    hi tappi ,
    how are you.
    you were is &will be a joy ,beauty ,anand for ever.
    asha

  •    Reply

    Mahodaya,

    I work for Shruti Mandal in Jaipur as a volunteer, well I joined it earlier due to compulsion because I was working for Shri Prakash Surana at his showroom. One day he asked me to go to Ramchandra ji’s temple, where you performed for the Viraasat foundation. I was reluctant and told him that I am a layman and won’t understand but when I reached there and sat for once, I could not standup. I was engrossed in your singing with my eyes closed no worries nothing. especially that piece” hamno to ishq mastana” Beleive me if you can after you I listened to Pt. Channu Lal Mishra, Pt. Ajay Chakraborty, Pt. Hari Prasad ji and Pt. Jasraj ji. May I pleas know where can I get that composition’ Hamno to ishq mastana’ .
    With all due respect I wanna say that you are solely responsible for making me lover of Indian Classical Music, correction The Greatest and Best Indian Classical Music.

  •    Reply

    Hi Shubhaji
    Good to see you twittering and watching journalists with or without their lists of ragas. Often with Jazz and Western music Events a singer is expected to sing their signature song that has gained the reputation and popularity they need. Publicity material and previews often mention that song which made them as no doubt you are aware. This applies to all types of music. Some orchestras play the same theme all the time…. perhaps the listing of ragas in a preview is a poor copy of this pre promo work.. yet Hindustani singers who wish to popularise some of their best repertoires should be able to do it if they want to. I see no harm done. Ultimately what ever takes to get more people through the door. In western countries putting the name of the raga in a preview is meaningless as the name of Yaman or a Kannada derives no further interest. However previews as far as organisors are concerned is not only about the music, calibre, vidvath of the musicians but also about ‘the selling of an event’. Talking of accompanists I agree that accompanying artists should be recognized. I think that singers should also promote small time musicians who play the ‘more folky or ancient instruments’ such as Ektara, Moor Singh, Sarangi, Veena, Dholak etc if this is commercially sustainable that is. I was told about the Baajaa Gaajaa festival and recieved few emails but no video clips appear on You Tube yet. Love your voice and cannot wait to see you here in Sydney sometime. Would love to record an interview with you – Truly, Sumi Krishnan

  •    Reply
    Archisman Mozumder May 5, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Thanks for this thought-provoking article. The point about Dattatreya-ji or Kesarbai being meticulous about their preparation and selection (of raag-s) is praiseworthy. It is a fair hunch to presume that Ravi Shankar also does the same. There has to a discipline in the public portrayal of skillsets that are difficult to acquire. Which is perhaps why Sunil Gavaskar & Rahul Dravid have perhaps over achieved than some of their more narurally talented peers (both have admitted this fact). In fact, the eminent musicologist, Kumarprasad Mukherjee had once remarked to me (in a private meeting) that ‘there was something “western” about the way Kesarbai practised & propagated her art’. In another context, I remember about a concert, 30 years ago in a small industrial town in West Bengal (my home town). On a chilly Sunday evening, I, as a starry-eyed 13 year old, accompanied my father for an ‘all night concert’ that was to commence with Gadag Great & conclude with the San Rafael Sorcerer. Bheemsen Joshi, at 7 pm, unleased a stunning Puriya Dhanashree for an hour & a half & then wrapped up with Tilak Kamod (his Guru’s bandish-es) & the obvious Brahmanand-ji’s Bhairavi. Just as the next dance programme started, my father & I slipped out of the gathering to come home & catch up with Bhimsen Joshi sing for one hour in the (pre-recorded) National Programme Of Music from A.I.R.. Just as we reached on time & tune in, lo & behold, there was Bheemanna using his masterly vocal chords to embellish the bandish ‘paar karo araj suno’ & then precipitate the 30 min vilambit with a scintillating 7-min ‘bahot din beete’. 🙂 While this was more by accident than design, the feeling of deja vu refused to die down. Even a Puriya Kalyan or a Marwa would have been a huge consolation. 🙂 :).

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