A song for rivers

Soulful paean

As Sudha Raghuraman concluded her performance with the sloka “Gange-cha Yamune-chaiva, Gadavari Saraswati Narmade Sindhu Kaveri, Jale-asmin Sannidhim Kuru”, the audience at the Stein auditorium at the India Habitat Centre applauded in unison. The powerful verses seemed to have taken them on a sojourn to holy rivers across India. “If you chant this sloka, it is believed that you have taken a dip in seven holy rivers,” says Carnatic singer Raghuraman.

The Delhi-based vocalist was performing at the Lok Sangeet Sammelan whose theme was “Rivers of India” and singers from Assam, Kashmir and Kumaun revisited folklores dedicated to rivers and their journey through these songs.

“Kashmir is a place of Sufis and rishis , so there is never any dearth of poetry and poems,” Gulzar Ahmad Ganie tells Metrolife. His song was an ode to river Jhelum and its beauty. “It is important to have performances like these because the young generation will be attuned to the culture. They might want to take forward the tradition or learn the craft.”

Raghuraman, a recipient of the Ustad Bismillah Khan Award for Dance Music, sang four songs. The first one was in Telugu about Godavari, the second longest river in India followed by her own composition on Kaveri River for which she only used traditional instruments like mrindagam. The third song was dedicated to river Sharavati and the last composition in Tamil was about how all rivers have made Tamil Nadu beautiful.

Using these folk influences in Assamese and Bengali folk was Rituparna Banerjee who had blended bucolic tunes with new arrangements to make the music contemporary.

She brought in varied modes of Bangla Bhatiali or boat songs in her renditions. “As the tempo in these songs increased, it highlighted tensions of a boatman entering the sea from a river,” says Banerjee. The second song was S.D.Burman composition and celebrated nature and river Brahmaputra.

The festival brought her closer to roots as Banerjee searched for river compositions and understood their underlying meaning.   Similarly for Raghuraman these river songs spoke volumes about the relationship between the nature, river and development. “I learnt a lot from these folksongs. There is a certain richness in them that is indescribable,” she says.

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