The SRE and I had decided that the final night of the Conference was worth sitting through, although we hadn't heard of the sitarist who was playing after Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, whom we both love. Not only is she a wonderful singer, she is also very beautiful and a sheer joy to watch as she sways along with her tanpura!
So, driven by our wish to not miss a second of Ashwini's performance we reached the Manch a few minutes before the stipulated time. To our chagrin, not only did the performance start almost an hour late, members of the audience kept strolling in. Once Ashwini started singing Raga Rageshree, we were mesmerised. This was followed by Bihagda. She sang a brilliant, poignant dadra which still haunts me-'Sundar saree morey maike mein mail bhaee, kahey le jaawey gawanwa?' She ended her performance with Raga Paraj, which I am not at all familiar with, and wasn't able to really focus upon. I have attended several of her performances over the last fifteen years or so, and have seen many facets of this brilliant singer. From deeply spiritual, inward looking performances, to light-hearted, almost playful ones, Ashwini always shines.
The second performer of the night was Shubhendra Rao, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. He played Ragas Jogeshwari and Manjh Khamaj. He is a sober, introspective and brilliant player and I hope to hear more of him soon.
I am really sorry to say that I was disappointed in Rashid Khan's performance that night. The soul seemed to be missing from his singing. He sang Raga Jog and Sohini with consumnate ease, familiar compositions which he has enhanced over the years, since I first heard the recordings of his concerts given to me by a dear friend and great aficionado of Hindustani music. But that night at Dover Lane it seemed more or less mechanical, and I did not feel that burst of joy within that comes from attending a great performance. I always have great hopes of Rashid Khan, and am looking forward to some excellent music from him in the future.
The last performer of the night and of the Conference was Ustad Amjad Ali Khan on the sarod, of whom the Dalai Lama has said, " When Amjad Ali Khan performs, he carries with him a deep human spirit, a warm feeling and a sense of caring". Indeed, one felt calmness and serenity emanating from the maestro even as he addressed the audience. He played Ragas Jhinjhoti and Durga, but by the time he'd played a Pahadi dhun, it was almost impossible for us to keep our eyes open, so the SRE and I slipped out before his final piece. So, although the spirit was willing to enjoy more food for the soul, our bodies were crying out for some sleep.
In the intervals, besides feeding ourselves, we had also bought some wonderful music- CDs of the flute maestro Pannalal Ghosh playing Ragas Darbari and Basant, Shiv Kumar Sharma and Zakir Hussain playing Hansadhwani, and a recording of Kaushiki Desikan singing at Dover lane last year(Shyam Kalyan, a Tillana, and a Thumri).
Although this four night festival is fairly exhausting, being selective in our choices really helped. I do hope we manage to go next year as well!