An evening of vocal delight

Music Discourse

The auditorium at Alliance Française de Bangalore recently saw a music discourse by Sumathi Murthy, where the audience was introduced to the Agra gharana of Hindustani music with an evening of thumris and khayals.

Sumathi Murthy, a Hindustani classical vocalist and composer, received her training under late Pandit Ramarao Naik for 17 years, after which she started performing all over India and in major music festivals. Though the Agra gharana style is understood to be a very masculine style of singing, female vocalists like Zohra Bai Agrawali have explored this genre in a very different way. Agra gharana is known for its delineation by building structures of the khayal to help listeners understand the lyrics and the emotions.

Interestingly, Sumati’s guru learnt Hindustani classical music from the Agra gharana ustads like Ustad Atta Hussain Khan and Ustad Faiyaz Khan, which reflects in her quality of music.

“I’m excited but nervous in a good way. I’m playing a very classical strain of Hindustani after almost a year, since I’ve been into fusion of late. I’m sure it will be worth the wait,” says Sumathi before the show.

The discourse began with ‘khayals’ in raga purya kalyan and raga maru bihaag. Her clear voice which was extremely well modulated shows years of training. The listener was captivated and absorbed by it as well. Her hand movements were free flowing, just like the music, making it a pleasure to watch her sing.

“I’m listening to her and being introduced to the Agra gharana for the first time. It’s quite interesting and very nice to hear. The City normally has Carnatic concerts and such a classical Hindustani one is rare but a welcome change,” says Sumana Harish, a member of the audience.

She was accompanied on the tabla by Pandit Guru Murthy Vaidya and on the harmonium by S Ramakrishna, both of whom played very well and seemed to enjoy her presence on stage. After the beautiful hour-and-a-half long performance by the young singer, there was an interactive session between the artiste and anyone in the audience who had questions to ask. It was revelatory for many, who did not know the specific features of the gharana or who did not know its history. For those who stayed back till the end, this discourse was as appealing as the concert itself.

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