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East marries west at Sangeet Mela 2016
Time flies when you’re having fun! This was an apt adage to apply to Sangeet Mela 2016, which had a highly successful third edition in Brisbane at the Multicultural Centre, Kangaroo Point, in September. Organised by Ethnosuper Lounge and Sangeet Premi Club, Sangeet Mela has established itself as a must-attend event on the cultural calendar. More significantly, it has also become a forum for recognition of young talent.
This year’s Sangeet Mela started with a powerful Carnatic recital by Oavijaya Bavnendrakumar and Mathuja Bhavanendrakumar, accompanied on the mridangam by Hariharan Vaheesan. Each of the trio were presented with a Rising Star Award.
This was followed by an exceptionally evocative Hindustani vocal recital by Ananya Muralidharan. The Bhavanendrakumar sisters’ Carnatic display and Ananya’s Hindustani classical performance were two contrasting genres, but the youngsters all infused a breath of fresh air into the Indian classical music landscape. They displayed maturity and technical finesse much beyond their years.
Next came a Bharatnatyam performance by Vellantina Ravirajah, a sublime symmetry of fluid dance movements. Both Ananya and Vellantina were also awarded Rising Star Awards.
Zuheb Ahmed Khan from New Delhi performed a tabla solo and blazed the trail with his consistently brilliant beats characterised by uncanny intuition. Zuheb is decidedly the finest proponent of the Ajrada gharana and has a well justified claim to international fame. His performance featured a dazzling range of compositions from off-beat Peshkar to rapid, flowing Rela and sent the audience to the interval eagerly awaiting more unfolding layers of musical wizardry. After the break, Bindu Rajendran’s Mohiniattam performance was well-received by the audience, and her experience in abhinaya, or expression, was clearly visible, as she displayed the emotions, sentiments and relationships that Mohiniattam, a classical dance form of Kerala, is renowned for.
International artist Charulatha Mani, performed a Carnatic recital which she interspersed with humorous one liners. She targeted the audience who were not aware whether the pauses in the recital were to be applauded or not!
“A few more years of Sangeet Mela and you will definitely know when to clap,” she declared, much to the amusement of the audience.
Currently studying a PhD in music at the Griffith University Conservatorium, Charulatha is gifted with a melodious, musical voice, amazing creativity and a vast fan following all over the globe. She has also composed music for Tamil and Hindi films and is a regular on Jaya TV, a southern Indian television channel. She definitely had the finger on the audience’s pulse.
“I am going to sing Raag Sindhu Bairavi, which is as powerful as the five elements. Fire, water, earth… and two others.” She said it with such a straight face that the audience were in splits.
She spoke with Indian Link about her experience in Australia, especially within the tertiary education sector.
“Australia’s educational system grants more freedom and gives breathing space to the students whereas Indian system insists on a rigid indoctrination to some extent,” she shared. “However, there are both positive and negative points in both systems.”
Sydney’s Sayak Bhattacharya wowed the audience with a Hindustani vocal recital in his perfectly melodious voice, and impressed the audience with his humble persona. Sayak also has a penchant for using his talents for fundraising and the audience were informed that he had recently raised $6000 for Westmead Hospital.
The best parts of the show were reserved for the end, as Janani Ganapathi took over the stage and gave a scintillating performance of Bharatnatyam accompanied by a live ensemble. She also did the explanatory introductions to each of her segments, though she seemed a bit breathless towards the end. The audience were riveted by her technical finesse and postural grace and she received thunderous ovation.
The show’s finale however was the most fascinating sitar and cello jugalbandi by Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao-de Haas from New Delhi. Pt Shubhenra Rao is one of the last musicians to learn the sitar under the true Guru Shishya tradition from Pt Ravi Shankar. Distinguished as a musical bridge to many cultures, he created an excellent experience along with Saskia Rao-de Haas on the Indian cello, with the audience begging repeatedly for encores.
The show was compered by Dr Helena Joshi and Alka Jaggessar, both accomplished Kathak dancers. Joseph Abhay Nand on harmonium, Sridhar Chari on mridangam, Shen Flindell on the tabla and Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda on violin were the accompanists. Yusuf Alikhan of the Sangeet Premi Club said that Sangeet Mela has matured and grown due to the efforts of the festival director Shen Flindell.
“Indian classical music traces back its origin to 1500BC and I hope that the show refreshed and recharged you with its excellent content showcased by the local and international artists,” Yusuf said.
A vote of thanks was proposed to Councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan of the Gabba Ward, and the Brisbane City Council for the financial grant that was bestowed on this year’s edition of Sangeet Mela.
Kudos to the organiser for creating such a fantastic show!