Saturday, January 22, 2005

Sarod and Saarang begin with 'S'

Sarod - a classical stringed instrument. Also a five letter word that is an anagram of 'roads'. That's all I knew about a sarod until last night. And the second point is not really of any use, knowledge-wise. Now I know that Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash (sons of maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan) play the sarod, and damn well at that.

Yup, I attended their concert at IIT last night. And it was mindblowing. The sheer beauty of the music and awesome skill of the performers held me enthralled for well over two hours. Two hours may not seem like a lot, but you can count the number of Hindustani concerts I've attended on the fingers of one hand where three fingers have been lost in a smelting accident.

The sarod itself looked pretty cool. Lots of tuning knobs and all that. (I'm sorry, I don't know any technical terms). And it shone at me from the distance of the stage, winking, as if to say, "Ha! You never knew I could create such music! Just watch! Or hear, to be more precise."

The concert started a little slowly. The first few pieces based on raag Kaanada (is that right?) were kinda mournfully slow. Not the sort of stuff that would fire up a listless crowd. In the first twenty minutes, I heard and saw several people 'packing' - a term which means 'giving up and leaving'. And just when it was beginning to get interesting, with a very nice piece involving the Ghatam, it began to rain. And in case you didn't know, it's an Open Air Theatre (OAT).

'Damn damn damn damn damn' is what I thought. Those were the precise words that flashed through my mind. Luckily the rain let up in about ten minutes, and the crowds surged back with loud roars and cheering. They came back on stage to massive applause and ear-splitting whistles, got settled, and gave me an experience of a lifetime.

The sarod itself is like a guitar in design and the way it's played, atleast from a layman's point of view. What really elevated the concert to heavenly heights were the accompaniments - Tabla and Ghatam. The performers (Sunder Das on Tabla and Umashankar on Ghatam) wove a stunning mesh of percussion delight. And both seemed to be having great fun on stage. A small note on each of them individually is in order, I think.

The Tabla guy was very good, especially in a piece where Amaan led him and he was supposed to copy Amaan's rhythm in a split second. Again, I don't now the term for that, but it was very very good. He was all concentration, and one could see he was completely immersed in his music. And when he successfully completed the piece, he gave a shy smile of pure pleasure and happiness that made me smile too.

The Ghatam guy was quite a character. I asked a friend why most Ghatam players are shaped like Ghatams themselves - big and round (though probably not hollow), and was told that's because they need to have meaty fingers to drum on the instrument, and a hell of a lot of stamina to last the concert. Well, the guy here was very round and funny. He kept shaking his head from side to side like a Chettiar Bommai. In addition, he kept dancing to the music (although he was seated) wriggling his arms, neck, shoulders and head in frenzied motions. He had a permanent pleased smile on his face (that said 'Look at me! I'm playing! Yay!), and seemed like a little kid playing with his favourite toy. And he played very very well. Especially a couple of solo pieces - very fast, with awesome variety of rhythm and pitch. He got the loudest applause at the end of the concert.

And when all four of them played together - heaven. Sheer listening pleasure. All in all a beautiful evening. A few hiccups - a delayed start (but hey, it's IIT), the rain delay and a fire in one of the stage lights. But a very very good beginning to Saarang 2005.

I'll be camping there atleast 10 hours a day over the next 5 days. Except for Monday, when our @$$^& college will conduct our $%&^ exams. Like every year.

Oh well, off to the Main Quiz prelims. See you there!

1 comment:

Jaya S said...

You write exceedingly well...I really enjoyed the parts describing the ghatam player. I could quite see him nodding to glory as I read. By the way, I think Kaanada is actually very lovely...maybe it just didn't go with the ambience.