Swara Sandhya: Confluence of Sunset Melodies by Shakir Khan and Srividya Sriram

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Yesterday, I caught Swara Sandhya: Confluence of Sunset Melodies by sitarist Shakir Khan and violinist Srividya Sriram and accompanied by T. Ramanan on mridangam and Nawaz Mirajkar on tabla, a brilliant performance staged as part of the Esplanade’s ongoing “Chakra” series of concerts. These performances explore the time-specific nature of the raga, or melodic frameworks of Indian classical music. “Orthodox musicians in India never play a raga at any other than its proper time,” according to the late French musicologist Alain Daniélou, “for at the wrong hour it could never be developed so perfectly nor could it so greatly move an audience.”

Swara Sandhya presented a series of ragas written for dusk, such as Hamsadhvani, a Carnatic raga which has been borrowed by the Hindustani tradition; Kalyani (Carnatic)/Yaman (Hindustani); and Keeravani, a Carnatic raga which also has been borrowed by the Hindustani tradition. These ragas are meant to evoke grace and majesty, love and bravery, and devotion and dedication, and Swara Sandhya so deftly, so beautifully, explored the intersections between these two classical music traditions.

My favorite performance, by far, of the evening was a nearly hour-long composition, written especially for this concert, in raga Keeravani. The composition opened with an improvisational Carnatic ragam thalan pallavi (roughly equivalent to alaap, jhor, and gati/khayal in Hindustani music), continued with a Hindustani sawaal jawaab, literally “question answer,” or percussive debate featuring mridangam and tabla, and closed with a Hindustani drut in teen taal, or a fast-tempo movement in a sixteen beat cycle. So, so good.

As usual, I was disappointed in the turnout to see, arguably, India’s most promising young musician, Khan, son of celebrated sitar player Shahid Parvez, and three of Singapore’s musical masters, Sriram, Mirajkar, and Ramanan, in a dazzling display. These events are hardly publicized in the mainstream press, so perhaps that’s why? The Chakra series continues in August with Prath Sangeet: Music of the Morning by Sunil Avachat on bansuri and Sarang Kulkarni on sarod. GO BUY TICKETS.