Sunday, June 13, 2004


Saturday marked my first concert at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta in Riverdale, GA. The performers: Pt Ajay Pohankar (vocal), his son Abhijit Pohankar (keyboards, harmonium), Aditya Kalyanpur (tabla). The programme began with Abhijit performing three fragments on keyboard (yep, you heard that right) accompanied by vigorous tabla executions by Aditya Kalyanpur (given that he has received tutelage from both the Late Ustad Allah Rakha and Zakir Hussain, it was not surprising to see him execute crisp runs of percussive delight). The keyboard was set to a tone approximating a santoor, and this was the first time I had heard someone play the keyboard as if it were a santoor (not surprising again given that Abhijit has received training from Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma). Starting off with raag jhinjhoTii, Abhijit proceeded to a dhun in pahaa.Dii before ending with a composition in raag bihaag (related RDB song plug: zi.ndagii ke saphar me.n from AAP KI KASAM) dedicated to his mother.

Pt Ajay Pohankar came on for the second half of the programme with a swarama.nDal, but thanks to some unfortunately constrained miking, the sounds barely carried over to the audience. (shocking trivia break: Pt Pohankar delivered his first public performance at the age of 9!). There was no mistaking Pt Ajay Pohankar's mastery and experience as he began with a ba.ndish in raag jaijaiwa.ntii. (plug again: in the ICMS concerts -- this was merely an affiliation, not part of their concert schedule for the year -- I have noticed that the majority of the rasik audience has a Maharashtrian background. When the performers are non-Maharashtrian -- Bengali, for example -- the audience gets a boost from the appropriate regional clique, which vanishes for subsequent non-regional performers. The Maharashtrian audience, however, remains faithful!). Thanks to the Zee Heritage Festival and an overlapping Maharashtra Mandal meeting, there were many empty seats (and these were uncomfortable hard chairs more suited for wedding receptions and less for events of this nature), but Pt Ajay Pohankar did his best to establish a rapport with the audience (something that the rasiks didn't need to be prodded on anyways). Abhijit had to retire from the keyboard owing to a backache, leaving Pt Ajay Pohankar stranded until someone from the audience volunteered to "hold the swar" as it were on the harmonium. The next rendition, a Thumarii (kaise kaTe din rain) had Abhijit return, but on the keyboard. This is the first time I've seen the keyboard accompany the vocalist in the ICMS concerts I have attended, and despite my relative lack of depth in this matter, it definitely classified as unorthodox. Pt Pohankar had to only joke about it being "fusion", when someone in the audience screamed out that they didn't want fusion! Gah, as if just adding a keyboard (that it was being played by an exponent, who, despite his age, had garnered respect in the musical community) was going to transform the song into a remix! Pooh. Regardless, the performance was not captured on video (on Pt Ajay Pohankar's request), but it was nothing short of entrancing (as S tells me, it's on Piya Bawari, which makes that another addition to my acquisition list). And then the event closed with the hypnotic bhairavii. An evening well spent.

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