Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
To call the classical night at Saarang a performance or a musical concert is very mean; it was royal seduction.
Shashank and WOMEX presented Sammilan, a beautiful fusion of Hindustani, Classical and Folk with the Manganiyars. Purbayan Chatterjee weaved magic with the Sitar and sounds that I didn’t know existed came from Shashank’s flute. The guy was not playing it; he was letting his soul flow through it and spoke to us through it. Literally, the child prodigy turned artist is one HELL of a flautist!! Just a bamboo stick with holes in it in the hands of the right person can do wonders to the soul. Inidhu, inidhu, kuzhal inidhu!!
Purbayan Chatterjee was no less. The stirring sound from his Sitar captivated us. To cap it all, the Manganiyar trio were incredible in their folk vocal, Khamaycha and Tabla. Khamaycha is a 17 stringed instrument; a specialty of the Manganiyars. Wikipedia has it that it is made of Mango wood. It looks more like a banjo played with a bow. 3 of its strings are made of goat skin and the remaining 14 are made of steel. Oh, what lovely sounds it produces!! Mridangam and Dholak were played by other artists. The percussionists provided the necessary vibe and depth to the concert.
The theme for Sammilan was “The Spirit of Krishna”. It was spellbinding. The ensemble gave us an overwhelming treat to the ears and the audience responded resoundingly. We gave a standing ovation and enthused them with endless applause, whistles and shouts of praise.
Manganiyars are a community of Muslims who hail from Rajasthan. They are famous for their folk music that has been patronized by the wealthy over centuries. Most of their traditional songs sing praises of Hindu Gods. They usually start their performances with an invocation to Lord Krishna. Where else can you find this, except in India? We really are a land of mystery!!
After that, Ramli Ibrahim and his artists from The Sutra Foundation put us in a trance. Their movements were so graceful and divine that many in the audience forgot themselves and swayed in their seats. Odissi is just mind blowing. Perhaps it is so divine because it was intended to be performed for Lord Jagannatha; I do not know.
The postures were very powerful and yet had an aura of dignity about them. Odissi didn’t seem as technical as Bharatnatyam or as visually stunning as Kathakali. It has a definite elegance and style about it that makes it very appealing to the eye.
Ramli and his troupe were in their element, mesmerizing us beyond anything that I have seen so far. His crew consists of Malaysians, Thailanders, Indians and people from few more nationalities. They staged their world renowned “Vision of Forever” which according to them ‘fathoms the spiritual depths of the Shaivaite and Tantric traditions and unleashes their macabre and terrifying beauty.’ The group was just fabulous!
Muslims, Christians and Buddhists together trying to fathom Hindu spirituality! There is scope for peace in this world, still!
The Open Air Theatre (OAT) at IIT is a blessed place. It has had the greatest of the greats enthrall the audience there. Those who can watch one classical night there are just darned lucky!!
Saarang doesn’t stop there. More than the music and dance, what I loved at Saarang was the atmosphere.
The ambience at IIT Saarang exhibited all its characteristic aspects – it was multicultural, spoke in different tongues and had a minimum of 3 Subramanians and Kumars in a group of 10. What surprised me was the extraordinary number of girls that the campus held and the startlingly young audience for a classical concert. I guess it was the spirit of Saarang that drove them there.
As I came out of the OAT, I saw a few students walking past me sharing a single can of coke and a small box of popcorn. They were having a night time stroll in the moonlight and were chuckling merrily over a joke. I don’t think Chetan Bhagat’s IIT exists. 🙂 I felt very envious of them. They had not a care in the world, not a single worry. Their maximum anxiety would be of class tomorrow, some over excited professor, exam or some dud assignment. For them, every day is Saarang. What would I not give to be in their place?
Needless to say, I gave quite a lot of work to my camera. Some Snaps.