Carrying the 'gharana' tradition forward

Carrying the 'gharana' tradition forward

Musical Notes

As the winner of the recently instituted Sanskriti Madhobi Chatterji Fellowship Award 2011, Sanjukta narrated that she had first been noticed in the music circles by Sanskriti Pratishthan, a body devoted to furthering classical and folk traditions, when she
had been honoured as a winner of the

VSK Baithak thumri competition. Prior to this success, Sanjukta had won laurels at other prestigious music competitions such as the Radio Sangeet Sammelan of 2001, the ITC Sammelan at Kanpur and sundry other competitions held in Baroda and Assam.

As an independent emergent performer taking her place on the classical music stage today, this young talent had much to offer her listeners. For a start, at a time when gharana schools of music are fast losing their identities, Sanjukta has admirably carried forth the tradition of the Agra gharana.

A disciple of the famed exponents, Subhra Guha and Pandit Vijay Kichlu, Sanjukta has even propagated this form among students at the school founded by Pandit Kichlu in New York where she travels each summer to conduct an eight-week course along her gharana lines.

At her professional performance in Delhi, Sanjukta chose to elaborate on one of the popular ragas of her tradition, namely Raga Kedar. Gifted with a powerful vocal timbre and the capacity to hold a note without a hint of quaver in her voice, she set the mood for contemplation and suffused the atmosphere of the session with intense musicality.

In an unhurried, well-paced and efficient layout, she effectively manoeuvred the middle notes of this raga, thereby mapping out before her listeners the essential graph of the raga. In true Agra tradition, she then elaborated on a plethora of taans or syllabic patterns, using first the phraseology of the lyric in delightful compositional patterns.

The middle-paced number that followed had an element of surprise in the patterns she wove as she began using the sargam notes instead, to elaborate the number. All through this music, the undercurrent of rhythmic combinations alongside provided access to the strengths of this gharana which lays particular emphasis on the division of the tala or rhythm as being central to its style of exposition.

To round off her recital, she presented a couple of dadra numbers in the purab ang gayaki tradition, and that is when she came into her own. With a timbre and a style perfectly blended to carry off the romantic-erotic aura of this genre, Sanjukta gave life to each phrase as she sang of yearnings, disillusionments and recalls of earlier reunions with musical animation. This uncanny skill of choreographing a classical presentation with inputs both light and serious are what this young talent has mastered into an art.

Even her other numbers were well scripted and instead of being repetitive as a cover-up for lack of veteran improvisational skills, Sanjukta contained her art within the bounds of her level of learning. But, within those limits, Sanjukta strove to a degree of competence that makes her a joy to listen to.

Indeed her performance proved that in the performing arts there is plenty of room for the amateur who takes a graduated onward journey of mastering the basics, improving voice quality and rhythm, instead of aiming for a star status by succumbing to syrupy presentations, drowned by loud supportive orchestras and vocal gymnastics that leave both the singer and the listener breathless and confused.

Sanjukta, on the other hand, is firmly rooted to the enrichments of gharana music and stoutly declares: “It (the gharana) has changed the very nazaria (outlook) of music for me.”