BY MADHU DESHMUKH, ANJALI NAGRANI & ARATI REDDY
Photos by ByteGraph Creations: www.bytegraph.com
Atlanta, GA: The Joe Mac Wilson Student Center Auditorium at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta was filled with applause from the audience as they enjoyed Sangeet Sangam, a unique jugalbandi concert of the two styles of Indian classical music – Hindustani (from North India) and Carnatic (from South India ) on Aug 24th.
Presented by Eshana Enterprise, LLC, this concert was the first of its kind in Atlanta, bringing together the best of musicians from both genres, with Pritam Bhattacharjee presenting Hindustani vocals and Salem Sriram presenting Carnatic vocals.
Eshana Enterprise, through its objective of organizing arts and cultural events, as well as promoting awareness of social issues, aims to support organizations or individuals, who despite facing their challenges, become role models for society and in turn help in making a difference in their situation or their surroundings. Dr. Sunitha Krishnan and her anti-trafficking organization Prajwala became the first to be recognized at Sangeet Sangam, which helps in preventing women and children from entering prostitution, the worst form of sexual slavery.
The event was inaugurated by Chief Guest Rajinder Singh, Consul and Head of Chancery, Consulate of India in Atlanta, GA and Special Guest of Honor Subash Razdan, winner of the 2013 “Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award.
The first half of the evening comprised solo performances of both styles of music: first, a solo performance by Pritam Bhattacharjee presenting Hindustani Classical music, followed by a solo performance by Salem Shriram presenting Carnatic Classical music.
Pritam Bhattacharjee is one of the most accomplished and acclaimed Indian classical vocalists of his generation, globally. A disciple of Sangeet Martand Padma Vibhushan Pandit Jasraj ji, the great maestro of Indian classical music, Bhattacharjee presented Raag Miyan Malhar beginning with a composition in slow tempo (Vilambit), “Baba Tope Barasat Karim Raheem” followed by fast tempo (Drut) bandish “Umad Gumad Ghana Garaje Barasa”. The audience was mesmerized by Pritamji’s melodious rendition of the raag including skillful taans and his rich cultivated voice. Pritamji was accompanied by Prithwiraj Bhattacharjee on Tabla (Indian Drums). Prithwiraj Bhattacharjee, a disciple of the great Tabla Maestro, Late Ustad Alla Rakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain , is one of the most talented and thus sought after Tabla Players of his generation. The audience was awestruck by Prithwiji’s skillful and flawless delivery of complex rhythm cycles and patterns presented in slow as well as fast tempo. As articulated by Razdan, “The music program was out of the world. What a treat from Pritamji for the rejuvenation of our body and soul. He is one of the best in the world– and Atlanta’s Tansen”. Pritamji was accompanied on the harmonium by Amitava Sen, and on the tanpura by Mahua Banerjee.
The second solo in the first half was presented by Salem Shriram, a disciple of Calcutta K.S. Krishnamurti, referred by many music pundits in Chennai as one of the brightest prospects among young Carnatic vocalists today. Salem presented Raag Bhairavi and Raag Nalinakanthi. The audience was blown away by his renditions and style of singing. Shriramji was accompanied by Dr. Ram Sriram on the mridangam (percussion), a talented mridangam artist, and recipient of the Kala Seva Mani award from the Cleveland Aradhana Committee for his lifetime services to arts and music. Papanasam K Gokul accompanied on the violin. Gokul has played and accompanied several well-known Carnatic musicians and is also a recipient of many prestigious awards. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the beats of the mridangam and was amazed at the new technique of playing the violin, adapted to the Carnatic style of music.
The Jugalbandi filled the second half of the evening. A jugalbandi is a duet of two solo musicians either vocal or instrumental, where the musicians perform together. What defines jugalbandi is that the two soloists be on an equal footing and be respectful of each other. Both musicians act as lead players, and a playful interaction exists between the two performers.
Pritam Bhattacharjee and Salem Sriram’s Jugalbandi consisted of Raag Ahir Bhairav (in Hindustani style) and Raag Chakravaham (equivalent of Raag Ahir Bhairav) in Carnatic style. Pritamji sang the bandish – “Aaj To Anand Anand” while the bandish/ pallavi – “Bhaj Govindam” was sung by Salem Shriramji. This was followed by a jugalbandi of the two percussion instruments – Tabla (Hindustani classical) and Mridangam (Carnatic Classical) presented by Prithwiraj Bhattacharjee and Dr. Sriram. Together, the musicians created impromptu innovative music that was extremely melodious and pleasing to the ears. The audience was amazed at the way the artists ‘talked’ to each other through their music – be it vocals, percussions or violin.
Given the awe-inspiring performance by these talented musicians, the audience broke into spontaneous applause several times in appreciation. The attendees comprised a diverse group of music lovers of both styles of Indian classical music. Some were students of music, while others were music enthusiasts from across Indian and non-Indian communities. With India being the only country in the world that has two distinct forms of classical music, it was an excellent and a unique opportunity for all to listen and enjoy such great musicians, as well as gain knowledge of the two different forms of Indian classical music. The concert ended with a standing ovation to the artists.