After a series of movies, it was then the turn of music to rule roost for a while…25th, 26th and 27th of December were soaked in music…but unlike what Shakespeare thought, surfeiting the appetite didn’t sicken and so die! Dr. Prabha Atre Foundation was celebrating the centenary year of legendary Hindustani vocalist Hirabai Barodekar and a series of concerts were being held at Vile Parle to commemorate the same. Sagar and me bought tickets and decided that we would attend. And what a treat to the soul and ears it was! Over 3 days we managed to witness some fine music by some of the stalwarts of the Indian classical style. Dr Prabha Atre ( she sang Raag Shyam Kalyan, Chandrakauns and Tilak Kamod), Dr L Subramaniam ( with Bahudhari and Kafi ragas), the legendary Pt. Bhimsen Joshi ( Yaman and Bhairavi), Malini Rajurkar (Madhuvanti and Kafi), Begum Parveen Sultana ( Puriyadhanashree, Maluha Maand and bhajans), Ustads Imrat Khan-Wajahad Khan (Darbari Kanada) were some of the artists we managed to hear. Couldn’t get lucky enough to hear Kishori Amonkar, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pt Birju maharaj as my own concert was at stake! It was the most unprepared rendition that I’ve ever dabbled with. But all was well that ended well…the audience seemed to like whatever I dished out- Raga Nata. Hindolam and Sindhu Bhairavi. At the end of it all, for all the tension, it went off well!
December 26th there was a rare event I intended to attend…one for which Shubha Mudgal ji had sent a personal invitation. Some of the old records of one of the greatest icons of Hindustani music Smt Kesarbai Kerkar of the 1930’s or so were recovered by Shubha ji and her husband Aneesh Pradhan. The same were digitally re-recorded and brought back for re-circulation among the public domain, under the name of ‘Living music from the past’ series. It was too tempting an invitation to turn down and so I made a trip all the way to Matunga on a Sunday morning. Shubha ji was there right at the entrance---she is always such a pleasant and wonderful person to speak to! The programme began with a talk by musicologist-historian Dr Ashok Ranade. His witty and insightful interventions on the life and times of Kesarbai and music in general, laced with some dialogues in Marathi were a veritable treat! This was followed by a listening session of the CD’s and some of the best pieces of Kesarbai’s music in a variety of Raags—glimpses atleast—was the most beautiful thing to listen to. After the event, during a discussion, I suggested to Shubha ji if she could do a similar exercise with Carnatic musicians of yore—perhaps start with someone no less than Smt Subbulakshmi. She seemed pretty inclined. I in fact mailed her a rare photograph of MS and Kesarbai—two ‘peerless divas’ of their respective styles!. It seems MS gave charity concerts to help Kesarbai set up her famed scholarship fund—something which has helped many of today’s top notch Hindustani vocalists to establish themselves under learned gurus. Pity that such camaraderie and friendship is singularly lacking in the musicians of these two great styles among today’s generation! I do hope this idea takes greater shape as also other ideas that cropped up in mind as I heard the voice of the 1930’s—in raptures!
Overall, one of the most satisfying weeks of the year---pity that I had to wait for the last week of the year for this—but then, better late than never!