Tuning into Trance

Tuning into Trance

Though he hails from a small hamlet in Ballari, he is no stranger to the elite music circles of the country. M Venkatesh Kumar has been a frequent and much-loved performer on many concert platforms at many music festivals nationwide.

His mellifluous voice quality, his traditional approach to classical presentation, which is aligned to the Kirana and Gwalior schools, is deep in devotion and dexterous in inculcating the bhava or emotional content of the raga.

Meet him behind stage prior to a concert appearance and the maestro is a picture of courtesy and calm as he takes pains to answer the queries posed to him even by starry-eyed novices in music and connoisseurs.

Stage presence

Having graced the Delhi music platform for over two decades, he strikes an immediate chord of familiarity with his audience. A no-non-nonsense performer, he gets into the act of performing right from the moment he is on stage, setting aside niceties like announcing the raga of the evening, or introducing his accompanists, or other courtesies.

Then, having warmed up and created a musical aura in the hearts and minds all around, he pauses to announce the raga details before heading to the next passage. That's why the top concert bookings of the capital, such as the Shankarlal Music Festival, Sahitya Kala Parishad Festival, or Paluskar Jayanti recital, among others, had his billing at the top of their list, much to the delight of his listeners. Also, he is a performer who is at home at varied gatherings.

A scintillating presenter of his art who can move crowds with his musical acumen, Pandit Kumar is equally at home as a baithak music performer in a chamber music setting, which too has resonated in the minds and hearts as a prayer-filled experience.

What then, one might ask, has led to his ability to remain mellifluous and vocally robust despite such heavy concert schedules? "In classical sangeet," he reiterates, "riyaaz is supreme. The early morning riyaaz from 4 to 7 is a must for every learner and performer, in my opinion."

Even his concert-packed routine, he claims, does not allow him to bypass the riyaaz regimen. "Even on a heavy day, I put in at least two hours of riyaaz before the actual concert," he says.

A versatile artiste with a plethora of raga choices of composite content to choose from, he picks on two of the well-known ones to illustrate his point. "The best choice for raga practice is bhairav raga for the morning riyaaz and raga yaman for the evening riyaaz," he lists.

Despite being a stalwart of the Kirana school that has gifted the greatest names of our tradition, and the treasury of composite raga combinations fashioned with skill, Pandit Kumar can keep audiences spellbound by the more-appealing ragas such as hamir, which did captivate his audiences at his latest concert in Delhi.

He brings harmony

The old-world bandish compositions have been enriched by several artistes from Dharward.

So Pandit Kumar's picking of such lyrics and compositions strikes a note of assurance among his avid listeners. Then in one voice, within the hushed silence of the concert premises, he infuses a gripping sonority that makes audiences forget to listen. Instead, they are drawn into a prayerful mood with the artiste leading the congregation through the music's metaphysical depths, richness and classical overtures.

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