The Pratahswar concert was a listener’s delight, a three-hour concert with a single artiste where you indulge yourself in sensory overload, revelling in it, the sweetness of Parveen Sultana’s voice staying with you long after, writes Suguna Sundaram
Pancham Nishad presented its 100th Pratahswar concert, the morning raga series, in the soul- awakening notes of Begum Parveen Sultana’s music. There was an 800-strong audience even at the early hour of 6.30am, who had taken the time and trouble to travel from across the suburbs to Ravindra Natya Mandir in Prabhadevi to listen to the melody queen.
Padmabhusan Begum Parveen Sultana was accompanied by the dynamic tabla player Mukundraj Deo and Shrinivas Acharya on the harmonium. Parveenji had excellent support from her accompanying artistes, who were truly complimentary to her singing. Having performed with her from their early years, they have grown with her mentoring, and their synchronicity and rapport is like that between mother and child.
In the open courtyard of the P L Deshpande Maharashtra Kala Academy (under the aegis of the Government of Maharashtra), Parveen Sultana’s notes of Gujari Todi sounded sweeter than the chirping of the early morning birds. She sang a Vilambit (long and slow-paced) Khayal– Ghar Aayo Balma, and a Drut Bandish (shorter and fastpaced composition) Ja Re Ja Re Kagava, in teen taal (a rhythmic cycle of 16 beats). She warmed up right at the beginning. And it was bliss to hear the strains of the komal ‘ga’ (soft note ‘ga’) of Gujari Todi wafting melodiously even as the dawn was just breaking.
She moved between three octaves, displaying amazing voice control, modulation and ease of movement, with Mukundraj keeping pace with her phrases with equal fluidity. There was a lot of sargam and gamak and taan (detailed exploration of the musical notes, with swar and alaap) traversing between the three octaves.
One of Parveenji’s endearing qualities is the constant communication with her listeners, beyond the music. Parveenji had a piece of advice to give to young musicians of today. She said ‘Jo Riyaaz kare, woh raaj kare’. (He who practices, will rule). Just learn from your guru and do riyaaz’, she exhorted budding musicians.
The next Raga she sang was Ahir Bhairav– a chhota khayal in teen taal – Mohe chedo na Giridhaari. When you listen to a doyenne like Parveen Sultana, you innately pick up the emphasis and the importance of clarity in enunciation, and the role of the bandish (a defining parameter), even whilst the journey of her notes seems limitless.
Her pick of morning ragas was exhilarating in their beauty and exploration. Raag Jaunpuri gave us a Madhya lay (medium-paced) bandish in teen taal, ‘Tum kahe rahe sautan dingva, bhor bhayi ghar aaye’, the angst of waiting all night for the beloved, wringing ones heart via the notes. Parveenji’s voice was in superlative form as she held 800 people spellbound for nearly three hours.
On request, she indulged the audience with a popular Marathi song in Mishra Telang- ‘Rasika, tujhach sathi mee ek gaani gaate…’ (oh listener, I sing a song for you). Apt this.
Her signature rendition of Bhawani Dayani, was prefaced by a Thumri in Bhairavi – Oh More Ram Jiya Na Mane, Balam Pardes Gaye, composed by her when she was 16, as an offering to her guru, her father, from whom she learnt all her basics of classical music.
The Pratahswar concert was a listener’s delight, a three-hour concert with a single artiste where you indulge yourself in sensory overload, revelling in it, the sweetness of Parveen Sultana’s voice staying with you long after.
Earlier, in his opening address, Shashi Vyas of Pancham Nishad said that they had begun Pratahswar 12 years ago, to bring out the beautiful morning ragas with each programme. He also thanked Tata Capital for sponsoring the event.
Suguna Sundaram belongs to the rare breed of writers in English who review Indian classical music and dance. A trained classical musician and dancer, Suguna has over three decades of experience as a writer. Interestingly, her day jobs over the years have been with all things commercial, including being editor of some of the most popular (and boldest) film fanzines. Suguna Sundaram reviews Indian classical music and dance on Xyngr.