In the three-day festival Sangeet Sammelan, held at Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts in Lahore, artistes from India performed along with local practitioners of the classical forms.
The festival was held in collaboration with Indian National Theatre and Chandigarh Sangeet Sammelan, a society that has been working for the promotion and preservation of the Indian culture for over four decades.
Formed under the leadership of Sherei Doongaji, the organisation has been carrying forward the mission of enriching the lives of the citizens for the last 30 odd years under the able guidance of Navjeevan Kholsa. It conducts two festivals every year, one in bahar (spring) and the other in sawan (monsoon), besides holding music appreciation classes, with emphasis on discovering new talent and providing a platform to showcase performances.
Navjeevan Khosla, now in his 90s, spent his formative years in Lahore. He is related to Professor Sondhi, the first Indian principal of the Government College, Lahore.
In his short but emotional speech, he recalled the days of the cultural capital of North India of the 1940s and recounted the difficulties involved in the ensuing struggle after partition in putting life back on track and rebuilding fractured lives, professions and passions.
It seems now that it has been achieved to a fair degree, the indication being the resumption of some normal activities between the two punjabs. He emphasised, and rightly so, that the artistes of the two countries should perform together; that there should be more opportunities to interact with each other. This cross pollination of the various art forms, particularly the performing art forms can only do good.
The fact that it was his first visit to Lahore since he left 67 years ago was sort of an emotional homecoming and a signal of return to the normalcy of life.
Of the three sessions, two were held in the evening while one was held in the morning. It was said that since almost all musical programmes are held in the evenings, the early and late morning or even the early afternoon raags are being sung with less frequency.
When radio provided a platform for classical music, morning and afternoon raags were heard but now most of the evening and the night raags are heard keeping in view the time consideration. Thus, holding the morning session was a successful experiment.
Many of the morning raags were sung and played by Noor Zehra Kazim on the sagar veena and by Dr Kalyani Deshmukh. The latter got her musical training from Manohar Barve and Shri Padmakar Barve and Naina Devi of the Banaras Gharana. But as was obvious from her performance, she has been eclectic, drinking deep from various sources, even from the stage drama music — marathi natya sangeet.
Amongst those performing in the two evening sessions was Pandit Vidyadhar Vyas, a veteran performer in the Paluskar tradition of the Gwalior Gharana and disciple of Pandit Narayanrao Vyas, one of the disciples of V.D Paluskar. He has also been associated with the academic side of music and has held many important positions like being principal of Rajasthan Music College, Head of Music Department at Mumbai University, Vice Chancellor of Bhatkhande Institute University, Lukhnow and Executive Director Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata.
Vinita Gupta, another performer in the evening sessions, learnt from her father Madhurima Kishore and later from Sharayu Kalekar and Sulochana Bharaspati. She also did her M.Phil in Music.
Piu Surkhel belonging to the Indore Gharana of Ustad Amir Khan, took training from her father Kamal Bandyopadhyay and has performed all over the world.
The two sisters, Debopriya and Suchismita, usually play the flute together which is rare even by Indian traditions. They learnt music from Pandit Bholanath Prasanna and then acquired musical education from a number of European schools and conservatories. They have performed all over the world. Suchistmita was not able to come due to some visa issues and so the other sister had to play alone, a role that she is unaccustomed to.
The Pakistani artistes were Rakae Jamil on the sitar and Iram Tauqir as a vocalist.
All the performances by the Indians artistes were structured. There seemed to be an obvious method to their progression in whatever raag they played or sang. Since most of the practitioners were also involved in the formal teaching of music in the various institutions, there seemed an even greater respect for the academic do’s and don’ts as laid down in the books.
The accompaniment on pakhawaj, tabla and harmonium by Vinod Lele, Avirbhav Verma and Vinay Mishra too was in accordance with granting primacy to the main vocalist or instrumentalist.
One benefit of such collaborative concerts is to be more aware, knowledgeable and informed about what is going on in other societies. Where music, particularly classical music, is concerned, talking from the standpoint of a Pakistani, one knows only of the very best in the field of vocalisation and instrumentation in India and that is about it. What is important is to know not only of the brilliant but also the second best, the groundswell so to say that often constitutes the main thrust of artistic activity.
The programmes like the one held last week was thus an exposure to the wider scale of the classical performances, the artistic concerns and problems of the artistes and how they come to terms with them through their artistic expression. This exposure of the levels apart from the very top is very beneficial for struggling artistes of our country. It can help them discover common ground and be aware of similar issues and realities that may be shared.
The quest for Sanjan Nagar, the hosts in Pakistan, is no secret — for as a public body, it has been working tirelessly in education, especially of girls from working class families. It designed and launched the four-year undergraduate musicology programme at the National College of Arts and is now fully engaged in discovering a post-Marxist theory, Evolutionary Mentology in the light of explosive progress made in science and technology.