An unusual ensemble

An unusual ensemble

Exercise Book

It’s very seldom that an artiste manages to fuse two very different genres of music in a manner that’s pleasant to the ear but that is just what ‘The Exercise Book’, a performance by Sikkil Gurucharan, Anil Srinivasan and Dhritiman Chaterji, managed to do. 

Organised by the Bangalore International Centre, the occasion included music — a seamless fusion of Carnatic music and the Western classical style — accompanied by the recitation of poems written by or about Rabindranath Tagore. 

Sikkil Gurucharan and Anil Srinivasan provided the musical aspect of the performance, with Anil on the piano and Sikkil Gurucharan handling the vocals. Dhritiman Chaterji, on the other hand, enhanced the occasion with his narration of poems. The auditorium at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore was packed to full capacity and filled with an air of hushed anticipation as the artistes walked onto the stage and took their places. 

After a short introduction, in which the director of the Bangalore International Centre, Dasgupta, honoured the artistes, the performance  began.  It started off with Anil Srinivasan, who played a few soft melodies on the piano. 

Known as an artiste who can combine the intricacies of piano playing with the idiom of the Carnatic raga, he did full justice to his reputation. 

The moment Sikkil Gurucharan began to sing, the true depth of the performance was understood. The piece, which was in praise of Mahalakshmi, was given a wonderfully different avatar because of the classical backdrop of piano notes. After a few bars of the music, Dhritiman Chaterji began to recite a Bengali poem, in his deep baritone.  Translated to English, the lines of the poem ran thus — “I am here merely to sing your songs, allow me a tiny place in your court to do so.” Evidently, it was a piece addressed to a queen and included other enigmatic statements, such as, “Tunes just rattle in my ideal soul”.  The poem he recited was actually by William Radice, a scholar who studied the works of Tagore in great detail. Explaining this selection, Dhritiman Chaterji said, “With the resurgence of interest in Tagore, given his 150th birthday, there have been a lot of voices about him which we thought it would be interesting to listen to.” He referred to these voices as the ‘Third Tagore’.

Anil Srinivasan shed light on the title of the performance. 

“‘The Exercise Book’ was a novelette by Tagore. The protagonist, Uma, is a girl trapped in child marriage who starts filling out an exercise book with her hopes and dreams. It ends on an optimistic note of education,” he said.

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