The vocal and instrumental concerts were conducted in a lovely pandal , just in front of the Linga Bhairavi, the stage facing the Trimurthy panel, and innumerable lamps glittering in the background. The dance programs took place in a spacious open-air auditorium behind the Nandi, with a spectacular view of the star-studded sky, the silhouettes of the Dhyanalinga, and the mountains. With seating on neatly-arranged cushions, and the ubiquitous cell phones either silenced or switched off, the atmosphere was set for a concert experience one would cherish.
Night 1 - Aditi Mangaldas & Troupe
Aditi Mangaldas, the famous Kathak exponent and artistic director of the Drishtikon Dance Foundation, presented the Kathak program “Uncharted Seas.” Her theme, as she explained, was basically a search for the intangible; call it God, truth, beauty, love, or freedom. The regal bearing of the dancers, the lighting scheme, the graceful movements and the innumerable twirls at an incredible speed kept the onlookers spellbound. The effect was heightened by the high quality of the orchestra.
Night 2 - Pt. Shivkumar Sharma
The long array of Hindustani musicians was led by Pandit Shivkumar Sharma whose ethereal performance presented an out-of-the-world experience. Sharma’s insightful explanation about the nature of Hindustani music, the techniques used and the liberties that can be taken, allowed for a better understanding even among those unfamiliar with the genre. He elaborated Jinjooti, slowly, feeling the pulse of the raga, and then bursting into speed. Pahadi, the melody from the Himalayas, followed. Anindo Chatterjee, one of the greatest tabla performers of our times, impressed the audience with his crisp and clear bols.
Hardly any auspicious function in North India can be celebrated without the smooth notes of the shehnai . Ustad Ali Ahmed Hussein Khan, one of the veterans of the instrument, wowed all with his admirable breath control and his soft and subtle notes. His sons, Hassan Haider Khan and Ahmed Abbas Khan, accompanied him on the shehnai while tabla maestro Sandeep Bannerjee gave one of the finest samples of tabla playing.
Night 4 - Pt. Rajshekhar Mansur
In the true style of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana, Pandit Rajshekhar Mansur delighted the intimate gathering with devotional renditions in praise of Shiva. Son and disciple of the famous Hindustani vocalist Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur, Pandit Rajshekhar Mansur’s musical roots are apparent, yet flavored by his own free flowing, soft and mellifluous register.
Shubhendra Rao on the sitar, Partho Sarothy on the sarod, along with Anindo Chatterjee and his son Anubrata Chatterjee on the tabla presented a memorable jugalbandi . The evening raga , Puriya Dhanashree, seemed to depict the sadness caused by the ending of the day and the joy at the arrival of the beautiful night. While Shubhendra’s music was melodious, Partho Sarothy’s was full of speed and thrills. The father and son duo worked wonders on the tabla.
Padma Talwalkar, famous for her khayals , received training under the three Gharanas, Gwalior, Kirana and Jaipur, and evolved a unique style of her own that has characteristics of the above three, and is yet different. The songs had very few lines, at times just one, like the first one “Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari,” but the improvisation and the variety brought out the beauty of the melody and the devotion. Towards the end, the singer was as moved as the audience and declared with glistening eyes that she had actually received an inexplicable blessing that day.
Night 8 - Charishnu, The Desire to Move
“Charishnu,” conceived and directed by Leela Samson, a prominent Bharatanatyam exponent and director of Kalakshetra Foundation, was a magnificent pageant that celebrated the diversity and richness of India’s performing art forms. Manipuri, Odissi, Bharathanatyam, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Kathak, and the martial art form of Thang-Ta blended seamlessly into one another.
“Charishnu” literally means “the desire to move.” True to the title, the dancers kept moving at different speeds, in different directions, to different rhythms, establishing their freedom of expression. The spectators had the opportunity to watch and savor each style of dance individually as they appeared in their distinctive costumes and presented their characteristic styles. The individual dance styles were choreographed by Sadanam Balakrishnan (Kathakali and Mohini Attam), Aditi Mangaldas (Kathak), Priti Patel (Manipuri), Imocha Singh (Thang-Ta), Aruna Mohanty (Odissi), and Leela Samson (Bharatanatyam), all exponents in their fields. The select group of percussionists under the direction of Umamahesh Vinayakram impressed with their impeccable precision.
“Charishnu” concluded appropriately with “Maitreem Bhajatha,” a song in prayer for the wellbeing of the whole world, “Shreyo bhooyaath sakala janaanaam” “let all people live in bliss.” The outstanding quality of the program itself created an atmosphere of exuberant joy amongst the audience.
The only representative of Carnatic music, Sudha Raghunathan, did full justice to her role. In spite of a severe attack of viral fever, Sudha satisfied the crowd with specifically composed songs. After “Sri Vigna rajam bhaje,” “Idathu padam thookki,” and a viruttam on Abhirami, she sang “Unnaiyallaal vere gathi” in Kalyani as the main piece. Songs such as “Bhargavi, Shambhavi, Linga Bhairavi,” “Ishaavil Ishan vandhaan,” “Bhairavi vanthaal, Bhairavi vandhaal, pathu disai athira” and the aarti song, improvised for Linga Bhairavi, were well-received by the audience.
Grammy-award winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s performance marked another highlight of the festival. Most of the audience may have been surprised seeing his trademark instrument, the 19-string “Mohan Veena,” for the first time. However, Bhatt established an immediate rapport with the audience, mesmerizing them through a surpassing musical experience. He virtuosically played this unique indianized guitar-like instrument using techniques of sitar, sarod and veena, sensitively accompanied by Ramkumar Mishra on the tabla. After giving an elaborate treatment to Maru Behag in the typical Hindustani classical style, he played a few of his own compositions, a sample of folk music from Rajasthan, and an atmospheric piece from his award-winning album, “A Meeting By The River.”
Violinist N. Rajam’s “three generations concert” featured her daughter Sangeetha Shankar as well as granddaughters Ragini and Nandini Shankar. Well-known for her Gayaki style of playing which resembles vocal music, she explained and demonstrated the differences in Carnatic and Hindustani styles with a virtuosity that clearly showed, playing violin is second nature to her.
Ustad Sayeeduddin Dagar, hailing from a family whose name is almost synonymous with dhrupad, transported the audience into a realm of beauty and mysticism. Ustadji was accompanied by Mohan Shyam Sharma on pakhavaj . With his profound, almost archaic sounding renderings, he seemed to directly connect with the origins of this oldest still practiced Hindustani vocal genre. With genuine involvement and simplicity, he took every care to guide the audience from one composition to another, leaving them totally engaged and mesmerized. As he explained himself â€“ dhrupad is not entertainment. It is spiritual music and devotional dedication. Ustadji is a living proof.
“Sivanai Patri” (About Shiva), presented by well-known journalist and theater person Gowri Ramnarayan, was a soft, yet intense exposition of bharatanatyam based on a selection of compositions renowned for their depth of devotion and lyrical richness. Priyadarshini Govind and Anjana Anand put their heart and soul into their presentation. Everything about their performance had the quiet, subdued quality of high class.
Padma Vibhushan Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia is nothing short of a legend. He has redefined the sound of the bamboo flute in classical music, creating a style that is accessible to anyone who is willing to listen to his mesmerizing soundscapes. True to his motto “The flute is the symbol of the spiritual call “The call of the divine love,” he graced the final day of the Yaksha festival with a very palpable ambience of subtlety, warmth, and purity that opened ears and hearts. Panditji was accompanied by Yogesh Samsi on tabla, and Bhavani Shankar on pakhavaj.
13 fascinating explorations into the amazingly multifaceted realm of classical music and dance left many wishing for an encore. The second edition of Yaksha is sure to follow in another 11 months.
- Aditi Mangaldas Dance
- Pt. Shivkumar Sharma
- Ustad Ali Ahmed Khan
- Pandit Rajshekar Mansur
- Anindo Chatterjee, Partho Sarothy, Shubhendra Rao & Anubrata
- Padma Talwalkar
- Sudha Raghunathan
- Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
- N. Rajam
- Ustad Sayeeduddin Dagar
- Sivanai Patri Dance Troupe
- Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia