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Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan perform in Melbourne
One of the most famous names in Hindustani vocal music, as well as Indi-pop and other experimental, fusion and cross-cultural music genres such as her popular Sufiana Trance, Shubha Mudgal recently conducted a performance in Melbourne of Khayal, Thumri and Dadra.
As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, the Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music at Monash University organised more than 200 performances as well as research seminars, masterclasses and CD launches. Featuring international and local artistes, students, ex-students and staff performers in the concert series, held from late August to early October, included Ki Joko Susilo, the Javanese Dhalang puppet master, Kate Ceberano, Paul Grabowsky and Paul Dyer.
Two evenings were set aside for an Indian musical segment. On the Friday evening, Adrian McNeil, sarod player and senior lecturer in ethnomusicology at the School, presented an evening of Hindustani music with the world renowned Aneesh Pradhan on the tabla. This was followed by a tabla solo by Pradhan who was accompanied by Sudhir Nayak on the harmonium. Pradhan performed compositions from the Delhi, Arjada, Lucknow, Farrukhabad and Punjab gharanas of tabla.
The following day, Pradhan and Nayak supported Padma Sri Shubha Mudgal in concert. Born into a musical family and trained by some of the finest musicians and musicologists in India, Shubha Mudgal’s repertoire of bhakti and Sufi poetry includes rarely heard hymns from the Vaishnava Pushti-marg poets. She is also known to perform the Nirguna poetry of Kabir, Namdev, Nath-panthi poets and Amir Khusrau and other Sufiana poetry.
Her performances in Khayal and Thumri were masterful. The khayal is an improvisatory form that was cultivated in the princely courts from the mid-18th century and has been the predominant concert vocal genre since the 19th century. The thumri was kept alive in the salons of courtesans. It was highly refined and sensuous and used text and melody as a vehicle for emotive expression.
Mudgal’s performance at the Alexander Theatre at Monash University was brief but stunning. Her strong, crystal clear voice cut a swathe through the audience and filled the auditorium with her music. Her Thumri in raag Rageshri was the piece de resistance as she wove intricate patterns and charmed the audience with her vocal pyrotechnics. When the performance concluded, the audience was loathe to leave, and asked her to sing a Meera bhajan. She obliged, concluding her concert with its reverberating melody.
The mixed audience applauded Sudhir Nayak’s dexterity on the harmonium as he echoed Mudgal’s melodies; and Aneesh Pradhan’s mastery on the percussion.