Thursday, February 25, 2021

Songs of the season

Reading Time: 3 minutesVocalist Meeta Pandit wins the audience over at WOMADelaide

Meeta Pandit is a star of Indian classical music. Descended from a family steeped in music for 200 years she has music in her blood. She has the distinction of being the first female singer in an unbroken line of six generations of singers. Through seven generations Meeta’s family has preserved and promoted the Gwalior gharana founded by Ustad Nathu Khan Sahib in the 16th century. Blessed with a clear voice and a deep understanding of the raagas and styles, her WOMADelaide debut was something to look forward to.

- Advertisement -

As she acknowledged later, the unique setting in the Botanic Gardens beside magnificent trees, in deep shade and with the audience sitting on the ground, reminded her of performing in India. Of great help to the audience were Meeta’s clear explanations and interpretations of the items she was to perform.

Her first item drew from the 13th century mystic poet and devotee of Lord Krishna Meera Bai. One of few female saints, it was fitting that Meeta should start with her song on this the International Women’s Day 2015. With the devotional song Ram naam ras peeja manwa sung in a semi-classical style, we had a pointer to what lay ahead. As the movement of her hands picked out the intricacies of the music, the sheer range and tone of her voice were on show for all to marvel at.

Perhaps the best season of the year is spring and in India it is celebrated in many ways. In music there is the much loved Raag Basant based on which Meeta sang a delightful number. In the introduction she explained that the song described the omnipresent Lord Shiva, the prime ascetic, who lives in Mt Kailash with his wife Parvati. The power of the music washed over the audience in the early evening light.

The tarana, as Meeta explained, is a genre that has been in existence for hundreds of years. Part of the reason must be the fact that it uses syllables or sounds rather than language so is not affected by evolution as language is. Her tarana in teen taal was based on Raag Bihag. It has the beautiful language of bol, is complex but very easy to listen to. The item included a savaal/javaab with the tabla player Shubh Maharaj. It was at this point that his virtuosity shone through as he was able to slide, skim and flutter notes on his tablas and display his excellence. Audiences always enjoy the tabla so, needless to say, his skill was acknowledged with much cheering.

Also accompanying Meeta was Paromita Mukherjee on the harmonium. Paromita’s harmonium resonated in perfect sympathy with the vocals until later in the show when it became a little more prominent as demanded by the music. Being a reed instrument gives its notes a haunting, plaintive quality as they meld into each other.

Next we had a tappa which, being in Punjabi, is always close to my heart. Meeta explained that this particular piece was not easy to perform as it has an unusual rhythmic cycle. Sung in Raag Kafi it was a lovely, enticing piece and with the words Dil le janda ve mian – how could it not be.

In closing we had a dadra with a fantastic description of the monsoons and peacocks. In Sawan jhar lage dhire dhire Meeta played with this refrain teasing out the nuances till the end.

It is no surprise that Meeta Pandit is the recipient of so many awards and much recognition. Still at a young age, we were surely witnessing someone bound for the very top in the great tradition of Indian classical music.

- Advertisement -
Previous articleCruising with dolphins
Next article'Holi' daze
Avi Chandiok
Mountain-fit 70 year old whose greatest achievement is trekking to Everest Base Camp.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...

Latest News

former liberal staffer dhanya mani (1)

Dhanya Mani on speaking out: “It felt like a moral imperative”

  Trigger warning – sexual harassment The disparity between women and men in every workplace across Australia is well understood, but less understood is the disparity...

Rowing champ Gauri Kotera

  With a streak of wins behind her, 14-year-old Gauri Kotera is now among the top five rowers under 16, in the state of NSW. The...

Raising guide dogs – at home

  As the clock struck midnight this past New Year’s Eve, the Bhandari family in Sydney celebrated in a rather unique way: taking care of...
driving school instructor, sexual harassment

“Hard kisser or soft kisser?”, my driving instructor asked me

  Trigger warning - sexual harassment I needed to pass my driver's test because my learner's license expires in April. As someone who is employed full...

Review: The Big Day (Netflix)

  Reality shows about weddings are nothing new if you consider the success of productions like Say Yes to the Dress, Say I Do, and...