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.