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Music in the air

Flights of Fantasy, Ganjam's music festival, opened on Sunday, 14 November, with a sarod concert by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.

This year's festival featured a host of established and rising stars. It concluded on Monday, 22 November, with a concert by Dr Balamuralikrishna.

The other artistes who performed:

15 Nov: Bhargavi (Karnatak vocal)
A P Sarvothama (Karnatak flute)

16 Nov: Aditi Upadhya (Hindustani vocal)
Sunil Kant Gupta (Hindustani flute)

17 Nov: Gundecha Brothers (Dhrupad)

18 Nov: Meera Rajaram (Karnatak vocal)
T Sharada (Veena)

19 Nov: R Raghuram (Karnatak violin)
S V Ramankumar (Karnatak vocal)

20 Nov: Dhruba Ghosh (Hindustani sarangi)
Venkatesh Kumar (Hindustani vocal)

21 Nov: Rohini Manjunatha (Karnatak vocal)
Vinayak Toravi (Hindustani vocal)

The festival tradition

The Ganjam music festival is an eagerly awaited annual event in Bangalore. November is the time for Ganjam Nagappa and Sons, Karnataka's diamond jewellers, to reaffirm their commitment to good music, and present to Bangalore's music lovers some of India's best-known musicians.

Ganjam's concerts are held at Bangalore Gayana Samaja, a hall hallowed by memories of legendary musicians, and Chowdaiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore's posh, acoustically well-engineered auditorium.

Here's a brief round-up of the 1997 Ganjam festival.

N Ramani
Karnatak flute

Ramani, prime disciple of T R Mahalingam, retains a pure classical approach and combines it with extraordinary mastery over his instrument.

He began the concert with Chalamela, the popular Nattakuranji varna in adi tala. A brief alapana in raga Nattai led into Dikshitar's invocation to Ganesha, Mahaganapatim. His phrases were well etched and gimmick-free. A kalpanaswara passage ended the piece.

Raga Mohana came next, with a fast, packed alapana which covered a lot of ground in a very short time. The flute lends itself to fast ascents and descents, and they were evident throughout the concert.

Aruna Sayeeram
Karnatak vocal

Aruna's deep and warm voice is a treat. She began with a shloka, Srivighnarajam bhaje, and followed it up with a stately Mahadeva shiva shambho in raga Revati.

Raga Mohana followed with a detailed alapana. Aruna interpreted this familiar raga with intensity.

Pt Jasraj
Hindustani vocal

Pandit Jasraj's concert began with a longish sloka.

He sang at length raga Bibas. It was the Purvi thaat version, where the shuddha nishad and the madhyam are more pronounced. Jasraj's gravelly voice plumbed the depths of the lower octave as he sang the paean to Shiva: Neelakanta ujwala.

The maestro of the Mewati gharana gave a leisurely interpretation to the bhajan Govindam gokulanandam. Tiharo ghar, a romantic composition, followed.

Pt Shivkumar Sharma
Hindustani santoor

The word santoor, they say, came from shatatantri veena, or the hundred-string harp. Shivkumar Sharma raised the Kashmir's favourite folk instrument to the level of a concert instrument, and his concert showed how it expressive it could be in the hands of this master.

The highlight of the concert was his Puriya Kalyan, which he began meditatively and led through the rhythmic jod and jhala phases. The evening melody grew expansive, and turned sprightly as he played rhythm-stressed patterns.

He then played a dhun, a mountain air.