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An engaging dialogue between flute & mandolin
CHENNAI, March 2: One goes there expecting fireworks but returns with a feeling of calm and peace. What do you make of this? Well, Sampranita 2010, the annual concert organised by The Shakti Foundation on February 27 at The Music Academy in Chennai, was truly lovely. It was a fund-raiser concert to support differently-abled children.

Interestingly enough, it was a coming together of sort of old and new timers of Shakti, the band, with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on the flute, U Shrinivas on the mandolin and Selvaganesh on the kanjira. The threesome got percussion support from Vijay Ghate (tabla) and V. Praveen (mridangam).

It wasn't a rehearsed and planned concert. Sampranita was more of a spontaneous and impromptu affair. Addressing Shrinivas, Chaurasia suggested that the concert should start on a Carnatic note since it was being held in "your city". The programme began with Vaatapi Ganapatim. Interpreted first by Panditji's bansuri, it was soon joined in by the Mandolin and percussion instruments. An interestingly gripping start to the evening! It was an unusual inter-play as the North Indian tabla mixed eloquently with the flautist playing in his Maihar gharana style, the European folk music instrument mandolin that was skillfully adapted to the Indian classical music by Shrinivas and the south Indian kanjira and mridangam.

Following this, Chaurasia suggested that each musician perform the same raga solo for sometime. He rendered a composition in Raga Jog, set to Roopak Tala. Shrinivas followed it up with another composition in the Carnatic equivalent of Raga Jog, the Chalanaattai, to the accompaniment of the kanjira and mridangam.

Some other songs performed included the soothing `Vaishnava janato' and the soulful `Krishna nee begane'. The audience was also treated to sawal-jawab, with one musician playing a short piece and others following him replicating the same. It reached a crescendo when all instruments came together, sending the audience into a trance.

Even as Chaurasia chose to stick to soft, melodious pieces, accompanied at most times by Ghate on the tabla, he enlivened the concert further by making just the odd remark here and there about the raga, tala and composition in question. Selvaganesh was in his usual interactive self, pointing out to the audience the versatility of his instrument.

Like the host said earlier, the "seemingly ordinary" kanjira lay transformed in his deft hands -- functioning one minute as a base drum, the other minute doing a spoof on the guitar (you read it right, a guitar!) before going back to its original nature.

Throughout the programme, Chaurasia was at his humorous best -- suddenly announcing, for example, that he and Shrinivas would each perform one half of the raga Hemavati. He would handle Hema, while the latter would manage Vati, he said with a serious expression. It took a few seconds before the audience broke out into laughter. There were tender moments too. Selvaganesh, while displaying his talent doing a guitar on his kanjira, played a little Happy Birthday for Shrinivas, whose birthday was the following day.

Also beautiful to note was the on-stage chemistry between the players, the mutual admiration and respect for each others' craft. At one point during the performance, Shrinivas, so engrossed in Chaurasia's bansuri, forgot to take on from where Panditji left. A few moments had lapsed before Shrinivas realised that it was his turn and began on the mandolin.

For the Chennai audience, which is more or less attuned to well-crafted concerts with rehearsed and co-ordinated pieces playing one after the other, it was a welcome change to relish with both eyes and the ears the coming together of seasoned musicians. Their joint creation had indeed left sweet lingering thoughts.
Janani -
Sounds awesome. I was able to imagine how great this must have been. Missed a wonderful concert.

S.Srinivasan -
Nice narration. Makes us feel as though we were at the venue ourselves.

Usha Ramachandran -
As the saying in Tamil goes, "Nirai kudam talumbadu". The great musicians have created divinity through melodious performance. Where there is divinity, there is only calm & peace. A well written article.

K.Shivakumar -
I don't quite think that Chennai is used to prepared concerts. In the traditional Carnatic music concert, while the songs may be decided upfront, there are impromptu sessions as well.

Aparna Chandra -
The article is well written. Takes us through the atmosphere created at the concert. It seems to be an interesting mix of sorts!