All that publicizing and talking about the concert for the last few months. The day was finally upon us and the suspense unbearable, the 41st Spirit of India concert was here at the City Recital Hall on 14 March 2013 in Sydney.
The unique feature of the Spirit of India concerts are that its audience are mostly non indian Australians. Their familiarity is neither with the artform nor the artist but the region of the world it belongs to and their own fine experiences over the years with attending Natraj Cultural Centre Concerts.
Natraj Cultural Centre established, managed and operated by Mohindar Dhillon, has consistently been able to obtain funding from both Indian and Australian Government bodies over the years, albiet, each time with an increasing struggle.
Mr Dhillon insists and always holds these concerts at top knotch professional performing arts venues through out Australia besides also touring with the artists to Adelaide for the WOMAD festival and then to New Zealand, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
His belief is that classical arts should be presented at some of the most prestigious Halls despite the increasing costs in a manner that is deserving of both the art, the artist and the audience experience.
Natraj has an impressive patronage of people like Michael Abbott AO QC; Carrillo Gantner AO; Anthony Steel AM. Its executive officers have been promoting Indian cultural music and dance in Australia for the last 40 or so years. One of them is Reis Flora, now retired from Melbourne University, John Love and so on.
The 41st Spirit of India concert began with Manjiri Kelkar’s voice resounding against the walls of the City Recital Hall. She was accompanied by a husband and wife team, Seema Shirodkar on the Harmonium and on the Tabla by Viswanath Shirodkar.
The first raga was a detailed presentation of Rag Lalith Gauri. Manjiri’s voice was in great condition.
The sensitive accompaniment of Seema Shirodkar on Harmonium complimenting every turn in the Raga’s exploration, in perfect unison with the tabla’s rhythmic measures.
Manjiri concluded her concerts with Raag Tilak Kamod in ‘Sura Sangatha‘ followed by the famous Tarana in “Tha nom Thanana, Tha nom thanana”; and a Kabir bhajan made famous by the legendary Kumar Ghandharva in ‘Nirbay Nirguna Guna Re Gaoonga‘.
Sudha Ragunathan enraptured her audience with her natural flourish and richness that comes so easily to her. Her natural talent and her ability to give an immaculate presentation took the evening to the next level in Carnatic Music accompanied by Skanda Subramaniam on Mridangam and Raghavendra Rao on the violin.
Albiet at times, the evening’s performance felt almost too well rehearsed, it encapsulated almost all aspects of a standard 4 hour traditional concert held in the west of Sydney to the more discerning traditional indian audience (who only want to pay $20.99 for a ticket but will settle for not less than 4 hours of listening pleasure).
Sudha Ragunathan commenced with a short varnam, the first composition usually sung in concert repertoire, in Ragam Vasantha. This was followed by a rather elaborate composition of Oothakaddu Venkatasubbiah, ‘Isai Aadum’ embossed with creative flights in the neraval on Isai Yadhum and the concluding imaginative solfage.
Her choice of raga one of my favourites was in Raga Karaharapriya, the composition of Thyagaraja’s Pakkala Nilabetti in Mishra Chapu. She concluded her concert with Bhagyadha Lakshmi Baramma and a thillana in Ragam Rageshree, a composition of Lalgudi Jayaraman.
As we bid good bye to the hurriedly leaving audience on the week night, a few stopped to pick up the CD’s of both singers, just instilling this warm feeling that the dialogue between the cultures of East and West continues still …