Spirit of India Concert at Sydney Opera House

Returning from India and without having a moment to breathe, life once again threw me at the doorsteps of the Sydney Opera House in what turned out to be quite a hectic weekend helping with the Spirit of India Concert.

Organised by Natraj Cultural Centre, I heard Rajendra Prasanna, an accomplished flautist and Shehnai player, a descendant from a family of Shehnai players. He was accompanied by his son Rishab on the Flute; on the tabla by grandson of the legendary Kishan Maharaj, Shubh Maharaj; and Vikas Babu on supporting Shehnai.

The concert was held at the Drama Theatre of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney and the group toured around Australia performing at Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide supported by Playking Foundation, ICCR, Aust-India Council and the Margaret Dhillon Estate.

The first section of the evening commenced with a flute recital where Rajendra Prasanna established a soulful Raag Pooriya Kalyan playing it in the gayaki ang after singing the words of the song and explaining it. He was supported by his son Rishab on the flute competantly. The tabla accompaniment of Shubh Maharaj was notable. This was to me the highlight of the evening.

The concert was followed by the Shehnai Vadhan. An ancient instrument, it would have been exalting to enjoy the sounds of this instrument but for the sudden bursts of volume which had an almost piercing effect.  The shehnai at its best is an outdoor instrument and it is difficult to get sound engineers abroad to understand the requirements of an instrument such as this. Mr Prasanna was accompanied by Mr Vikas Babu rather hesitantly. I later learnt that Mr Babu’s Gharana and style of playing the Shehnai is different.

Mr Prasanna concluded his Shehnai recital with a Hori explaining the meaning of the song. His introduction of  touches of  tappa through the Hori was innovative. All in all an enjoyable evening at the Sydney Opera House.

L to R, Vikas Babu, Sumathi Krishnan, Shibh Maharaj, Rajendra Prasanna, Chris Field, Pandit Suman, Adrian McNiel and Rishab Prasanna