In the eleventh episode of our series on music conferences and festivals from yesteryear, we continue to revisit the music of some of the artists featured in the Swami Haridas Sammelan organised by the Sur Singar Samsad in Bombay in 1962.
The festival brochure of 1962 proudly claims, “All programmes have been so arranged as to fall either on a holiday or the day prior to a holiday to avoid disturbance in your late night entertainment!” Obviously, the organisers were hoping to impress on the audience that they had taken due care to see that the latter was not inconvenienced in any which way due to the schedule and duration of the performances at the festival.
But the over-enthusiasm in impressing the audience seems to have almost equated the performances or the festival with disturbances in the patrons’ late-night entertainment.
Publicity for music festivals continues to go overboard to this day, often without a care for the music or the ethos that the performers represent. Unfortunately, certain musicians are also to blame for this situation, as they either willingly support such publicity campaigns or even ask for them.
Consequently, it is not surprising to find frequent claims of first-ever/never before concerts. In fact, I would not be surprised if the Sammelan brochure of 1962 inspires some organiser today to come up with a reworked slogan, “Hindustani music festivals disturb your late-night entertainment, but this one doesn’t!” Anything to bring in listeners to the venue. And we criticise political parties for rustling up crowds!
The first track in today’s episode features noted violinist Sisirkana Dey (spelt as Sisir Kona Dey in the brochure), more popularly known as Sisirkana Dhar Choudhury. The text accompanying this 78 rpm recording mentions that this was published by His Master’s Voice in the same year as the festival. She plays a composition set to a drut or fast-paced 16-matra Teentaal in the raag Hansasdhvani, an import from the Carnatic system.
The Swami Haridas Sammelan in 1962 included the Sangeet Sammelan, a Mushaira-Kavi Sammelan and a Film Award Nite. Of these, the Sangeet Sammelan was held at the Birla Matushri Sabhagar. Music lovers from Bombay will recollect that the Birla Matushri Sabhagar was the preferred venue for Hindustani concerts for several years. In fact, the first Hindustani concert that I heard in a large venue was held at the Sabhagar. One of the artists featured at the concert I attended was the Agra gharana maestro Latafat Hussain Khan, and coincidentally, we will be listening to him on the concluding track.
He sings two compositions in Jog, a raag popularized by the Agra gharana. The vilambit or slow composition is set to the 12-matra Ektaal and the drut composition is set to Teentaal. He is accompanied by the tabla maestro Ahmed Jan Thirakwa.
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.
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