In the cold Pune weather , Ramanbag was warming up for 63rd Sawai and with a bang the festival began at 3pm sharp on Thursday Dec 10 , 2015.
The highlights (positives first):
1. The whole pandal is covered and it feels as if one is sitting in a huge indoor auditorium. Initially, I was apprehensive about this covered pandal, for I like the open flanks with spacious Indian seating areas directly under the sky. But even the covered flanks seem ok for now.
2. The one positive change that was seen in Sawai this year was the carpeting all the way until the food stalls. This has definitely reduced the dust.
3. The overall management of festival on Day 1 was good compared to Day 1s in previous festivals.(though the crowd did not build up until late in the evening )
4. Every entrant to the venue was tied a wrist band ( in line with rock concerts ! )
5. The sound system had some early hiccups as some areas in the huge auditorium were “soundless”, but this bug was quickly resolved.
I began my yearly Sawai sojourn, with a quick “Sabudane vada” (साबूदाणे वडे ) at Purnanna ( पूर्णान्न ) my favourite food stall. The yearly meeting of friends for a hi – hello, and a quick tour of various stalls.
Shehnaai recital of the young Namrata Gaikwad started with a melodious Madhuvanti accompanied on Tabla by Hardeep Singh. She was followed by the duo of Savani-Shilpa , belonging to the Pt Bhaskarbuwa Bakhle family. They started their duet singing with Multaani vilambit bandish Aari tero (आरी तेरो ) around 4pm and continued in drut with “Sundar Srujana matvala” ( सुंदर सृजन मतवाला ) accompanied on Tabla by Sameer Puntambekar with his soft hand and a melodious harmonium accompaniment of Chaitanya Kunte. The second raag they chose was Maarva with a bandish “ho gunijan”. For the connoisseurs who have heard Maarva of the likes of Vasantrao , this rendition would not be gradable especially with the kind of fast tempo and high pitch which could not bring out the pathos. This is off-course very subjective but I wish they had chosen something like Bhimpalas or Puriya Dhanshree !
They continued with a light semi-classical composition of Samarth Ramdas “Swar Rangavava” composed by Shridhar Phadke , who was in the audience. On occasion of completion of 100 years of the sangit natak “Swayamvar” on this day, they paid the tribute to tradition of Natya sangit with a number “Ekalaa Nayanaalaa” (एकाला नयनाला ) and its original Pahadi bandish set by Pt Bhaskarbuwa Bakhle on a Pahadi dhun heard by him from one of the beggars in Patiyaala !
The artist that followed was one that I was curious about on Day 1 of Sawai from onset. A veteran of Kirana Gharana Pt Vishwanath , a senior disciple of Pt Mishra of Kashi. He started with Pooriya Dhanaashree vilambit bandish “Kaahu ki reet” ( काहु कि रीत ) and continued with “Munijan ki sangat kar le agyaani” ( मुनिजन कि सांगत कर ले अज्ञानी ). Pt Vishwanath has a good blend of Kirana gayaki and Banaras baaj. I was particularly impressed by his taans and laykaari and the superb accompaniment on Harmonium by Milind Kulkarni and on Tabla by Pandurang Pawar. He was supported on Tanbpura-vocals by his son and disciple Manu Maharaj.
The next raag he chose was Hansdhwani with a bandish “Shivshish Chandra Viraje” ( शिवशिष चंद्र विराजे ) in medium tempo followed by a Thumri in Mishra Kafi “Laagi re manava me chot , More piyaa ke man me khot” ( लागी रे मानावा मे चोट , मोरे पिया के मन मे खोट ). He concluded with a Kabir bhajan “O saadho haribin jag andhiyaaraa” ( ओ साधो ,हरिबिन जग अंधियारा ). In a humble and emotional appeal to audience ,Pt Vishwanth asked for apologies audience for “any shortcomings that his performance may have had at this august prestigious stage”. This humility of the great artist touched audience who gave him standing ovation !
Rupak Kulkarni (Bansuri) and Pravin Sheolikar (Violins) with the ensemble arrived at the stage by 7pm. They play their instruments in two distinct styles. Bansuri in Dhrupad-tantakari and Violins in gaayaki khyaal style. The young duo mesmerized the crowd with the rendition of Raag Jog , jod – jhalaa and a drut gat. They concluded by 8.15 pm with a short rendition of Pt Bhimsen Joshi’s popular bhajan “Maze maher pandhari” to the liking of the audience. They were ably accompanied on pakhavaj by Akhilesh Gundecha and on Tabla by Rajendrasingh Solanki.
The featured artist of the day Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishra took the stage by 8.30pm accompanied by Dr Arwind Thatte on harmonium and Arvin kumar Azad on Tabla. Mohan Darekar was sitting behind on Tanpura and vocal support. The vocal duet rendition started with Raag Nand vilambit bandish “harvare re saiyyan tohe sakal bal dhundhun” (हरवारे रे सैय्याँ तोहे सकल बल ढूँढू ) followed by drut bandish “Ja ja re jaa kaagaa” ( जा जा रे जा कागा ). This was followed by an enchanting Bandish ki Thumri “E saloni saavali tu chalat chaal madamaat” ( ए सलोनी सावली तू चलत चाल मदमात )
They second raag was a short Kamod with bandish “balamaa naa maane apane des” ( बलमा ना माने अपने देस ) and “Rutu basant mohe man bhaavat” ( ऋतू बसंत मोहे मन भावत )
The conclusion of day 1 was with a Bhairavi bhajan “Ab krupa karo shri raam” ( अब कृपा करो श्री राम )
A fine start to a glorious festival of Pune , I am looking forward to this evening for Day 2 concerts with young vocalists Sushismita Das and Amajad Ali in the lineup.