Best of 2018: Indian Classical Music

Best of Indian Classical Music in 2018

Gone are the days when individual singers serenaded one through evenings or nights with three-hour concerts, where audiences reluctantly staggered out, loathe to leave the cocoon of creative ecstasy that these concerts effected. Today, three-hour concerts usually feature three artistes or at least two, and they are generally thematic events curated to allure diverse sponsors (God bless them all!). Whatever the purpose, the listeners are left richer for sure, even if the satisfaction is of a shorter duration, simply because one listens to a lot more singers and players in the same amount of time. If you are not willing to consider that as a conciliatory factor, you might as well sit home and listen to your private collection. On the public stage, it’s a whole gamut of performers.

The year 2018 saw some amazing concerts play out in Mumbai auditoria, the length and breadth of the city. We bring you a listing of some of the artistes that brought joy to the city- some legends, some rising talents, sometimes part of the same event and sometimes, individual standouts from a cluster of performers.

  • Zakir Hussain remains one of the most loved percussionists across generations. Needless to say his concerts see swelling crowds every single time. They come close to the crowds that rock stars draw in audiences. So when he teamed up with the versatile Niladri Kumar on the sitar (and the zitar), and Selvaganesh on the kanjira, it was yet another new menu of delectable fare for die-hard fans at the NCPA. It was a landmark concert at the start of a new year – 2018.
  • Among bright young talents, Rahul Deshpande is making a name for himself with his gayaki. (he is the sole current day singer adopting the style of Kumar Gandharva, under guidance from Kumarji’s son Mukul Shivputra). His Ghan Garaje concert featuring Monsoon Melodies, heralding the rains, was music for the soul, even if the rains played hooky this past year.
  • Bandish was a notable concert that paid tribute to legendary composers, featuring stellar artistes Raghunandan Panshikar and Jayateerth Mevundi. Raghunandan’s tribute was to his mentor, the late Kishori Amonkar and her mother, Mogubai Kurdikar, while Jayateerth paid homage to Amir Khan Sahab and the lesser know Ramashreya Jha.
  • Another standout performance was a concert featuring the increasingly popular Kaushiki Chakraborty along with (Rajasthani) Folk singer Mame Khan, that explored the relationship between semi-classical music of the Hindustani thaat (leanings or families), and folk music. The concert was also a showcase of the incredible indigenous instruments that Rajasthan boasts of, that are both, rare, and not easy to master. For Mame Khan, it was a breeze.
  • TM Krishna, who performed at the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir, at the Crossroads Festival (a confluence of Hindustani and Carnatic Music) held audiences spellbound, and provoked three encores in a morning concert of Carnatic Classical music.
  • At The Voices of Dharwad concert at the Nehru Centre, a two-day event, all four of the featured artistes were of 24 carat calibre- Kaivalya Kumar Gurav, Dr M Venkatesh, Jayateerth Mevundi and Ganapati Bhatt, all reminding us of the wealth of talent and culture steeped in the soil of Dharwad. These are the singers who are well on the way to becoming national legends, worthy successors to their six renowned predecessors also from Dharwad (Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Sawai Gandharva, Dhondutai Kulkarni, Basavaraj Rajguru, and Mallikarjun Mansur).
  • The Dhrupad festival at the NCPA, featuring UmaKant and Ramakant Gundecha, was compelling in its gravitas, with the sonorous expert gayaki by the eminent brothers. What also rang loud and clear was the brilliant tabla playing by Anuja Borade, an apt accompanist to these senior living legends. Miss Lightning Fingers only enhanced an already content-heavy evening.
  • Parveen Sultana and Ustad Dilshad Khan at the Indian Music Festival at the Nehru Centre, made for a divine closing of the festival, taking the listeners through their trademark extraordinary gamut of five octave pitches. In the same festival, young percussionist Ojas Adhia stood out for his extremely dynamic and skilled tabla playing, matching the artistry of the unmatched vocalists, with his own technical wizardry.
  • In the path-breaking Women Of Rhythm Concert at the St Andrew’s Auditorium in Bandra, which featured a host of supremely talented women, one standout performance was Sukkanya Ramgopal who played the ghatam (six of them actually), to the melodious accompaniment of a handpan, played by her student Sumana Chandrashekar. It was a proud evening for all women artistes.
  • The Women Of Rhythm Concert also had magical moments created by the Dholki, played by Neesha Mokal, and the Tabla, played by Mukta Raste. The WOR also featured amongst the brightest performances, the uniquely skilled daughters of the eminent Chenda Master Kalamandalam Krishna Das, from Kerala, Shobita and Rahita. Hardy out of their teens, the girls, accompanied by two younger students, gave an outstanding performance that earned them a standing ovation. Such extreme youth and so much dedication and versatile application! One never imagined pure rhythm could be so engaging or attractive. These women took it to another plane altogether. They were unforgettable!
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