by Mahesh White-Radhakrishnan
It was a most idyllic concert in the warm and welcoming home of the Napier-Raman’s. A haven for the rasikas and “kansens” who braved the weather for this treat. The night began with an impressively engaging solo improvisation on cello by Shri John Napier. This was characterised by a combination of well-placed simplicity and dexterity. John shifted seamlessly between al?pane, cadenza-like freetime improvisation and a range of lilting rhythmic sections mostly in 7-beat with a few dissonant chords. John’s captivating solo was followed by a rhythmically intricate tabla performance in a 15-beat cycle by Shri Niranjan Deodhar accompanied by John again on cello.
Then came the main act, vocalist Shri Mandar Gargil visiting artist from Pune accompanied by Shrimati Swapna Ranade on harmonium and Niranjan again on tabla. Beginning with the raga jog, Mandar’s sweet voice immediately captured the ear and drew us all in and under his spell. In this raga he sang the popular composition Prathama Sura Sa with vilambit in 12 beats, weaving beautiful alank?ras bringing out the scope of jog, delighting the animated audience with each return to “Sa” in the vilambit.
Swapna’s harmonium added an important and beautiful layer to the melodic canvas that was being painted, it being almost impossible to distinguish her notes from Mandar’s so closely she followed them, except for those moments when there was space for a little burst of harmonium.
Following the vilambit was a drut of 16 beats. Then after a rousing applause and a moment to sit with aftermath of the spell of jog, Mandar switched the tambura to madhyamam and sang Sakhi Ri Mana Lage Na in Bagyeshri, as the lights were dimmed to fit the night-time mood.
Again this was beautifully rendered with vilambit in 12 beats followed by drut of 16 beats. Niranjan’s tabla provided a lovely accompaniment for both pieces, adding to the rhythmic satisfaction of each return to the start of the cycle. The mesmerising concert finished with the beautiful and moving bhajan Shiv Ke Man Sharan Ho, Jab Pran tan se nikle in Bhairavi.