On August 15, Carnegie Hall echoed with Eastern and Western musical notes – The Hindu

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with sons Aman and Ayaan Ali Bangash and members of Refugee Orchestra Project at ‘Samagam’ | Photo Credit: Alex Lyon
It was August 15, when India celebrated its 75th year of Independence. As the Tricolour fluttered atop almost every house across the country, far away in New York, Carnegie Hall echoed with the sounds of Eastern and Western notes. There couldn’t have been a better day to celebrate this cultural confluence as Bhairavi tihai flowed from the sarod strings of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and sons Aman and Ayaan Ali Khan Bangash to meet the vibrant Western notes at Refugee Orchestra Project’s ‘Samagam’. Conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya, it provided a fitting finale to the Festival of India@75.
Celebrating ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), and the Consulate General of India in New York, presented a ten-day festival showcasing India’s cultural heritage.
The festival opened with the singing of the Indian and American national anthems. Desh was the perfect raag for the occasion and Aman and Ayaan played with maturity and involvement. Compositions in medium tempo Jhaptaal and the faster one set to Drut Teentaal adorned with delightful musical sequences, and a variety of taans culminated in the fast-paced jhala to the crisp tabla accompaniment by Amit Kavathekar and Ojas Adhya, who also played with the Ustad in a remarkably unobtrusive way.
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan chose the majestic Darbari Kanhada, a favourite raag of his guru and father Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan. The short alaap had the profundity of his musicianship in creating the atmosphere for the sombre raag before playing the medium tempo Teentaal composition from his treasure trove. This was followed by a Drut Ektaal bandish, providing an opportunity for both the tabla players to take turns to display their skill before the Ustad switched over to a Drut Teentaal composition concluding with fast jhala. He then played one of his favourite songs, Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Ekla chalo re’, his melodious meandering over the strings with his eyes closed tugged at the audience’s heartstrings.
The third segment ‘Samagam’ conducted by Lidia Yankovskaya was performed by the Refugee Orchestra Project along with the sarod trio. It musically translated the Sanskrit word ‘Samagam’ with the confluence of the Western and Indian music traditions, even while maintaining their own identity and essence. It was thrilling to spot nearly 12 raags including Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s creation Ganesh Kalyan along with Yaman, Khamaj, Bihag, Durga, Kalawati, Basant, Madhmad Sarang, Bhupali, and Bhairavi played on Western instruments like flute, clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola, cello and bass.
There were also sawaal-jawaab sequences between the orchestra and the Indian artistes.
The festival began with Kaushiki Chakraborty’s Sakhi ensemble comprising Kaushiki (vocals), Nandini Shankar (violin), Debopriya Chatterjee Randive (flute), Sawani Talwalkar (tabla), Mahima Upadhyay (pakhawaj) and Bhakti Deshpande (Kathak). This all-female collective came up with khayal bandishes that presented the female perspective, thumri, dadra, chaiti, hori, kajri, tarana/tillana, bhajan, and folk music interspersed with solo violin, flute, tabla, pakhawaj, and Kathak.
After singing the Ganesh vandana, Kaushiki rendered a tarana in raag Shyam-Kalyan set to Drut Ektaal with the captivating touches of violin, flute, and percussions, for Kathak. ‘Aanandini’, the prayer ‘Akaar, Ukaar, Makaar Rupini Amman Aanandini’, invoking Devi was composed by N. Rajam. ‘Vageeshwari’, a prayer to the goddess of learning, in raag Bageshri came next. ‘Samanjasya’, meaning balance, was a thrilling rhythmic interaction between the tabla and pakhawaj, instruments usually played by men but handled skilfully by women artistes of Sakhi.
Four pieces were performed after the intermission, opening with ‘Kanjari – the divas of yesteryears’ about women singers of yore, presented as a baithaki bhaav abhinaya through the thumri, ‘Mohe chhedo na nand ke sunahu chhail’, composed by Bindadin Maharaj. However, one could feel the emotions more in Kaushiki’s singing rather than in Bhakti’s Kathak abhinaya.
Though ‘Chaturang’ was supposed to be a composition with four segments including words, sargam, tarana, and pakhawaj or tabla bols, they didn’t flow seamlessly. The concluding Rudrani was an impressive invocation of Kali, interspersed with kavittas.
‘Saath Saath’ featuring the brilliant quartet — Purbayan on the sitar, Rakesh Chaurasia on the flute, Ojas Adhya on the tabla, and Taufiq Qureshi on the drums was a fine blend of rhythm and melody. It drew home the significance of saath-sangat (togetherness) as well as individuality.
The reviewer specialises in classical music.

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 4:39:25 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/festival-of-india75-samagam-indo-american-arts-council-iaac-consulate-general-of-india-in-new-york-refugee-orchestra-project-sakhi-all-women-ensemble-saath-saath-ustad-amjad-ali-khan/article65783549.ece
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