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A magically memorable Sunday morning

As one ardent music lover put it: “Magic happened on Sunday morning in Auckland.”

He was referring to the unique morning concert by one of India’s foremost Hindustani classical vocalists, Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, who sang at the Green Bay High School Performing Arts Centre on Sunday 15 March.

Auckland’s discerning connoisseurs of Hindustani classical music were in raptures as Ashwini presented a bouquet of morning melodies including two full length renditions and three shorter pieces.

She began her three-hour-long performance with a 55-minute full length bada khayal in raag Miyan ki Todi, exploring its beautiful vistas with an abundance of creative flourishes. At one point she delved deep into its lower octaves, lingering there meditatively to the tantalising awe of her listeners and her accompanists.

Next came Vibhavati, a mixture of raags Ahir-Bhairav and Bairagi, which she sang in two tempos, the presentation lasting just under half-an-hour. Though its constituents Ahir-Bhairav and Bairagi are essayed by artistes far more often, their combination, Vibhavati, is rarer.

The audience reveled in its relative rarity, seeing glimpses of both its constituents, not unlike spotting features of both parents in an offspring, while appreciating its own distinct personality. In keeping with mood of the recently celebrated Holi festival, she ended the first session with a traditional hori (song based on Holi).

This was Ashwini’s second concert in Auckland, both under the aegis of the Mohan Nadkarni Foundation. The first was in 2017. This year’s event was in association with the Migrant Heritage Trust (Might-I).

A winner of a host of national and state awards, Ashwini is one of India’s most sought after vocalists. Only recently she has been conferred the prestigious Kalidas Samman, a national level award presented by the Government of the State of Madhya Pradesh.

The post-break session began with her second bada khayal in raag Madhmadh Sarang, a raag that is associated with mid-day resplendence of the sun at noon, as all raags of the Sarang family are. She sang two compositions in two tempos again, with the one in faster tempo being the celebrated holi-themed ‘Rang de, rang de, rangrezwa jaise piya ki pagariya’.

Ashwini followed it up with a well-known traditional Kabir Bhajan ‘Chaadar Ho Gayi Bahut Purani’ beautifully blending its deeply philosophical import with the melody and lilt so characteristic of a soulfully sung bhajan.

She ended the concert with another hori “in two colours,” as she put it in her introduction before singing – one was in the thumri style in Deepchandi taal and the other in the Dadra style.

She was most ably accompanied by Australia’s Bobby Singh on Tabla, gifted Sarangi player Sangeet Mishra and Auckland’s own Samvaadini artiste Samir Bhalodkar. The accompaniment was excellent and complemented the vocalist extremely well.

The memorable concert ended with a standing ovation to Ashwini and the accompanying ensemble that lasted several minutes.

Magic did happen last Sunday morning.


Photo: Mayur Tendulkar


First appeared in The Indian Weekender on March 20, 2020

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