Monday, September 02, 2013

Encounters: India Festival and tour with Dhrupad vocalist Pt Ritwik Sanyal

In May the Queensland Conservatorium of Music held the Encounters: India Festival, part of a series of biennial festivals which foster collaborations and discussions with musicians from various countries. Among the musicians they invited was Dhrupad vocal exponent Pt Ritwik Sanyal, who by lucky chance happens to be my wife Yuki's vocal guru. A lot of the festival's funding fell through which resulted in them cancelling many of the musicians they'd invited, but we offered to host Sanyal-ji and organise some extra concerts which was a boon for the festival, Yuki and myself. Dhrupad is usually accompanied by the barrel drum, pakhawaj (known as the grandfather of tabla) so I got lots of practice using pakhawaj technique and rhythms on the tabla. It was really a blessing and special opportunity for me.

Unfortunately for those of us who love Indian classical music, most of the festival turned out to be "Indian" music from a Western classical perspective - compositions by Western classical composers with some obscure Indian influence, compositions and performances by Indian musicians in the Western classical genre, a few collaborations with Indian classical musicians but still in a Western classical setting, and a very few pure Indian classical performances. There were times when Sanyal-ji was asked to perform only 5 minutes alap which is frankly ridiculous.  There were many complaints and even audience walkouts during performances. However there was still one night of pure Indian classical music which was just wonderful, including Sanyal-ji and also great khayal vocalist Shubha Mudgal with her husband Aneesh Pradhan, a brilliant tabla player, as well as the legendary Carnatic percussion group, Sruthi Laya Ensemble. It was really an honour for me to be on the stage that night. Unfortunately I don't have any photos to share from the festival as I'm yet to receive the official photos.
Impromptu fusion improvisation in the opening day "Introductions" session.
L to R: Rajesh Mehta (trumpet), Rohan de Saram (cello), Patricia Rozario (seated at back - soprano), Aneesh Pradhan (tabla), Greta Bradman (seated at back - soprano), Shubha Mudgal (khayal vocal), Ritwik Sanyal (Dhrupad vocal), Sudhir Nayak (harmonium), Ramli Ibrahim (dance), Yuki Taniguchi Flindell (seated at back)

 Yuki, Sanyal-ji and baby Saraswati with Shubha Mudgal
 Concert at Awakening Centre, Maleny

Home concert at The Lighthouse, Oxley

Home concert at Victoria's glorious house, near Mullumbimby

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