This was the first concert that I went to after the Remember Shakti one in Feb. I got in full what I got a glimpse of in the Shakti show. Vikku in full flight.
The line up was fantastic. There was Shankar Mahadevan. There was Shrinivas. There was Vikku. There was Ranjit Barot. There was Aditya Kalyanpur. There was, of course, my personal favourite – Selvaganesh. As Jeeves would put it, ‘Capital!‘
Now, I must confess that I had not really heard of Aditya Kalyanpur before. I had heard the name Ranjit Barot but had not really heard his music. The concert was scheduled to start at 7. I reached about 10 minutes before that. I took my seat. I waited. The clock struck seven. No sign of the show getting underway. It then became 7 10. Still no sign. An announcement: ‘We apologize for the delay. People are stuck in traffic and hence we are waiting for the audience to come in. We are sorry for the inconvenience but we will be starting shortly.’ The show started 15 minutes hence.
A small thing that I have noticed off late. Too many shows starting late. Not a healthy trend at all. Just a personal remark, that’s all.
So they came on stage. Shankar, Selva, Shrinivas, Aditya and Ranjit. There were 4 ghatams on stage. I was piqued. Vikku, however, abstained. I was disappointed.
My disappointment, however, did not last very long. Shankar took off in Hamsaswani and the piece was quite fantastic. I did, somehow, find the drum to be at odds with every other instrument on stage but after a while, I got used to it. The thing that took me back most about this piece was that there was a very very loud bass beat that ended every rhythm cycle. I thought that the drum kit was louder than necessary. It was only towards the end of the piece that I realized that it was not the drum but Selva on the kanjira. Mind = blown. I could’ve sworn that it was the sound of a drum. I did not really know that a kanjira was capable of sounds thus. More on that later.
The next piece was one in atTAna and was quite beautiful as well. Shankar was, as ever, in his element and the jugalbandi that he and Shrinivas did was something to behold. he, with the swarams, Shrinivas with his mandolin. Brilliant.
Then, at long last, the moment I had been waiting for. Vikku came on stage. He was accompanied by his grandson, Swaminathan, Selva’s son. Incidentally, Swami also plays the kanjira and is quite brilliant himself. I saw him perform in Pune along with Selva, Vikku and Zakir among others and even in that stellar company, he managed to hold his own; so much so that even Zakir was visibly impressed.
Anyway, Swami chanted the Ganapati tAnam and Vikku played it on the ghatam. Ghatams, I should say. There were four of them andhe went on to illustrate the difference in sounds of the four. He then went on an epic solo in which, at one point in time, he was playing all four simultaneously, that it sounded exactly like a jaltarang. Whatay!
Shankar, Selva, Vikku and Aditya then left the stage for Shrinivas and Ranjit to take over. This was, perhaps, the part of the show that I liked the least. Shrinivas was epic, as ever but somehow, I did not care too much for the drumming. Perhaps because I am not really a big fan of the huge drum kits. Perhaps because I prefer a tabla or a mridangam or a kanjira to a Western drum kit. Then again, that’s just my opinion. Judging by the applause, the audience did indeed enjoy the drum solo.
The artistes (barring Vikku) then came back on stage and Shankar sang a beautiful Krishna bhajan. As a prologue, he told the audience the story of how he learnt this bhajan. Many years ago, it was Ranjit who gave Shankar his first break in ad jingles. It was on one such occasion when Shankar was jamming with Ranjit at his house that Ranjit’s aunt, Tara Devi, called Shankar and asked him, ‘gana seekhoge?’ Shankar hesitantly said yes and this was what she taught him. He said that this one bhajan gave him material enough for ten years of performing. Such was the depth.
So we had had a ghatam solo first and then a drum solo. It was time for the tabla. Before Aditya started off, Shankar introduced him thus. ‘Do you people remember the Taj Mahal ad many years ago? The one that Zakir bhai composed? He was there in front of the Taj with a small kid and the both of them were playing the tabla? Well, this is that kid. Of course, he is no longer a kid. He almost has a kid now.’ Interesting bit of trivia there. The tabla solo was brilliant too.
So, what was left then? Of course. Selvaganesh. The kanjira solo. Good god was this epic. I have said this before and I will say it again. The range of sounds that that man produces with that small frame drum is quite unimaginable. This time, he replicated the sound of a train amongst other sounds but the highlight was when he actually mimiced the bass guitar on the kanjira. Mind = blown. Again.
Vikku then came back on stage and there was a piece in kalyani to finish the evening off. The piece was going on when, out of nowhere, it suddenly started sounding extremely familiar, and bang! Out of nowhere, Shankar started off breathless. Accompanied by the kanjira, the mandolin, the tabla, the ghatam and the drum, the superfast rendition of breathless was mesmeric. Absolute genius.
The show ended. The usual ponnAdais were pothified. Parity was restored. They called it a night. An epic night.
P.S Something that I was cribbing about before the Shakti concert, viz, the ticket pricing, these chaps got spot on. The entire balcony was priced at 200 which was very well played, I think.