New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) Youth is the buzz at the 63rd Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival that begins here later Friday. While young musicians like Shakir Khan, Rakesh Chaurasia and Shounak Abhisheki will take to the stage, they will also be joined by stalwarts like Zakir Hussain and Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.
The three-day festival at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra is promoting young artistes as part of its commitment to infuse fresh blood into Hindustani classical music, director of the Shriram Kala Kendra Shobha Deepak Singh said Thursday.
One of the oldest classical music events in India, the festival is dedicated to the memory of sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan.
It features young sitarist Shakir Khan, the son and disciple of sitar maestro Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan of the Etawah gharana, Rakesh Chaurasia, nephew of veteran flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia, vocalist Shounak Abhisheki, son and disciple of Jeetendra Abhisekhi, and Priyadarshini Kulkarni.
Apart from the young blood, the festival features established artistes like Zakir Hussain, Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Ajoy Chakrabarty and Chhannu Lal Mishra.
‘All the four young classical musicians are good. Unless they get an opportunity to perform on stage, how will people know about them?’ asked Singh.
‘We have planned the performances in such a manner that a young artiste performs before an older one to contrast styles and instil confidence. For example, Shakir Khan’s sitar concert will be followed by a vocal recital by Ashwini Bhide, while sitar exponent Ajoy Chakraborty will perform after Rakesh Chaurasia’s flute recital. Zakir Hussain will accompany vocalist Priyadarshini Kulkarni on tabla,’ Singh told IANS, explaining the ‘unusual line-up of artistes’.
For the first time, the festival will also host a woman percussionist – Anuradha Pal from Mumbai.
‘The young musicians we are showcasing are very talented. We selected them after rigorous screening. Priyadarshini Kulkarni is the most promising of the group. She is a disciple of Mallikarjun Mansur’s son Rajshekhar Mansur,’ she said.
Singh, who has been associated with the festival since 1947, said ‘classical music was not on the decline as some people thought’.
‘It is just that Delhi does not host too many concerts unlike in the eighties, when classical musicians performed at frequent intervals. It saw several musicians grow,’ she said.
‘India now has only five major Hindustani music festivals – the Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival, Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata, Hariballav Sangeet Festival in Jalandhar, the Sawai Gandharva Festival in Pune and the ITC Classical Music festival. An artiste has to perform in all these festivals to set a benchmark,’ Singh said, analysing ‘why India was not churning out a flood of new talent’.
She attributed the dearth of new musicians to the lack of sponsorship and promotion of classical music.
‘In the early eighties – when Rajiv Gandhi was alive – we used to hop from one music concert to another. Doordarshan also filled in lavishly. But private television does not spend time on classical music. How many television hours have been spent on Shah Rukh Khan interviews?’ she asked.
Singh said that the she has not ‘found any sponsor for the festival’.
‘Our trust is funding it but we cannot carry it beyond a point,’ she lamented. ‘Since the print media was relegated by the invasion of television, Indian classical music has been edged to the sidelines.’
‘As children, we were exposed to music early. My sister and I learnt to play the sitar from Ravi Shankar. Then my mother sent us to learn Dhrupad followed by sarod from Biswajeet Roy Chowdhury and Amjad Ali Khan and theatre from Ebrahim Alkazi. A child should be exposed to classical music from the age of 10,’ Singh said.
Going down memory lane, Singh said the first Shriram Shankarlal concert was held the day India became independent Aug 15, 1947.
‘We celebrated it with a night-long music soiree at our residence on Kasturba Gandhi Marg, then known as Curzon Street, at the site of the Hindustan Times building. I was five then. The concert was attended by artistes like Bismillah Khan, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and Hafiz Ali Khan. Since then, my mother organised a concert every month at the Constitution Club which later became an annual event,’ she said.