Raga for healing

Classical musicians joined hands for the first time for a 45 minute concert conceived and curated by Mumbai based sitarist Purbayan Chatterji. 'Live in your room' and 'Raga for healing' are rapidly making waves in the music world.

Earlier collaborations have taken the form of a song for a cause and this was a collaboration with a difference - each musician created individually, but the set of notes was the same – 'raga Bhupali' in the North Indian tradition and 'ragam Mohanam' in the Carnatic idiom. The presence of percussionists Yogesh Samsi and Selva Ganesh and his son Swaminathan on the khanjira were as Purbayan put it "for inclusivity. I wanted musicians from North and South, male and female, wind, string and bow instruments."

Certainly the lineup was impressive as the virtual concert starting with the 'Nightingale of the South'; Bombay Jayashri singing the prayer 'Asato Ma Sad Gamaya' and ended with Ustad Rashid Khan who was accompanied by his son Armaan on the guitar.

With flautists Shashank Subramaniam and Rakesh Chaurasia, other instrumentalists were also there including mandolin expert U Rajesh, violinists Kala Ramnath and Kumaresh and Saraswati veena exponent Jayanthi Kumaresh. The other two vocalists were 'King of Abhang', California based Mahesh Kale and the ever popular Kaushiki Chakraborty. She was accompanied on the tabla by her young son Rishith.

Each artist performed separately, for around 4 minutes each, with the musical thread being picked up by the next performer.

Speaking of the initiative, Purbayan Chatterji reflected, "With the prolonged lockdown, you as a classical musician are going to lose your relevance if you don't learn to adapt to the new medium of communication which is digital. This virus is going to be a real leveller I feel, a king or a pauper, metaphorically speaking are going to be judged the same way by an online listener. If your content is not crisp and engaging, your listeners are simply going to move on. Our North Indian classical tradition of lingering 15 minutes on a set of notes, exploring every combination and permutation simply won't work in the digital space."

Purbayan added, "We used 'Facebook' as I think it is a great medium with a huge reach and which also has the facility to receive donations. There are a few registered organisations through which you can receive donations and sadly there was no one which was working only for artists welfare. This is a sad reflection of the status of artists in India. As an artist myself I would have liked to raise money for my community."

Relieved at the success of the venture, Purbayan said, "Because of the cyclone in

Kolkata, we were scared that the video recording from Ustad Rashid Khan and his

son Armaan would not happen and I am so grateful that Kaushiki Chakravorty offered

to go herself to Rashid bhai's house if necessary. But everything worked out well, and we are planning more such ventures."

(Shailaja Khanna writes on music, musicians and matters of music)

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