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Ravi Shankar's namaskaram to MS
February 3 brought Pandit Ravi Shankar to Chennai, where he presented a concert to help a research centre named after MS and her husband Sadasivam. Anoushka, the maestro's daughter, displayed an aggressive streak in her solo turn

Star children, whether born of musicians, artists or sportspeople, have some special advantages and some inevitable disadvantages. While their proximity to the right people may make it easier for them to succeed, they also suffer from constant comparisons with their parents.

Anoushka Shankar, the 18-year-old daughter of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, has tackled this paradox in her own way. She has made her style totally different from that of her father and guru.

Performing in Chennai for the first time on February 4, she displayed a bold, almost strident approach to her music. She did not tease the notes out of her sitar, she rather commanded them to emerge as she wished them to.

With the two tabla players (Bikram Ghosh and Tanmoy Bose) and even the two tanpuras keeping the volume loud, she give a thrilling recital which the full house at the Music Academy auditorium drank up.

She began the evening with raga Purya Dhanashri (corresponds to the Karnatak raga Pantuvarali). The short alaap was followed by a medium and then a fast paced composition in teen tal (16 beats). Then followed raga Kiravani with a gat in teen tal, striking a familiar note among the Karnatak-music conscious audience.

She concluded her solo performance with Raghuvamsasutha in raga Kathanakuthuhalam, after speaking a few words in Tamil and dedicating the piece to her mother, Sukanya, who is Tamil. The rendition was efficient rather than brilliant.

The audience, which had been requested to rise when the 81-year-old Pandit entered the stage, went into an awe-stricken silence when he began playing. The maestro, who was in a mood to please, began with Abhogi-Kanada. The gat was in jhap tal (10 beats).

The evening was organised to raise funds for Samudri, the music and dance resources institute named after M S Subbulakshmi and her late husband T S Sadasivam. Pandit Ravi Shankar not only performed free and took care of all his expenses, but also composed a special piece for the occasion at the request of N Pattabhiraman, who edits Sruti, a classical music and dance magazine.

"Samudri, Samudari, the piece in Maanj Kamas, which is a raga linked to the Carnatic Kamas but with more importance to the madhyama, goes like this", said Pandit Ravi Shankar.  Samudari sadhana dhama, with the antara being Madhura sarasa swara samana dhana danya rahe, amar yeh nama."

He also explained its meaning: "Let Samudri be a sacred place for endeavour. Let this, which has a sweet, lilting name, like a note, be prosperous, bestow prosperity and ever prevail".

As the sitarists played, the tabla artiste, Tanmoy Bose, who has an excellent voice, sang along.

Even as the clapping continued, the "eight o'clock exodus" began. It did not go unnoticed by the great artiste, who has just been conferred a knighthood by the British government. "People are already leaving, that's Madras", he said, a smile taking away the sting from the words.

They perhaps had the desired effect, as no one got up to go for the next hour, when Pandit Ravi Shankar, accompanied by Anoushka, played continuously. It was in the thumri style, a garland of different ragas and folk tunes. The Panchamsagara saw him in his element, overcoming the initial difficulties he had faced when his fingers slipped on the strings, prompting him to beat the sitar affectionately.

The listeners were spellbound by the canopy of music, and if they could not appreciate it with the "wah-wahs" of north Indian audiences, they paid homage in their own way with a standing ovation that lasted nearly 10 minutes.

Ambujam Anantharaman    

Report uploaded at 11:25 p.m., Feb 3, 2000 

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