Listening Session by Chinmayee Athale at Ahilya Devi Holkar School Aundh

Chinmayee Athale conducted a highly inspiring and captivating session on various facets of Indian Classical Music (ICM) to a very interested and absorbed audience of about 50 children from classes 8, 9 and 10 at the iTeach Ahilya Devi Holkar School in Aundh. The children had some basic understanding of ICM though earlier concerts and workshops and were all ears to know more about the art form and listen to recordings of yesteryear maestros.

 Chinmayee started by mentioning that ICM gained high popularity in the form of mehfil-s conducted in the courts of various Kingdoms, and this led to the formation of respective Gharana associated with the famous Kingdoms. The most prominent Gharana-s that are still very prevalent are Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur, and Kirana. She also named eminent musicians who sort of represented the Gharana-s in the last century.

She then proceeded to play a short clip of Raga Ahir Bhairav performed by Pt. Basavaraj Rajguru, a highly respected exponent of Kirana Gharana. She then explained this piece and explained how such short Ragas facilitated in laying a base to an entire mehfil performance. 

She elaborated on the general discipline in which the mehfil is unfolded, where an introductory Alaap would be followed by a bandish-s comprising of BadaKhayaal and Chhota Khayaal, and then ending occasionally with a Taraana, the origin of which lies in Arabic and Persian words, and syllables of pakhwaj and tabla. For explaining the Khayaal sequences, an analogy was taken to how a child learns to walk, where short steps are first tried, and then later once comfortable, proceeds to faster steps and running.

Chinmayee further elaborated on the elements of the Khayaal, which are called Sthaayi and Antaraa. As an example of how these elements are gracefully unfolded, she played a clip in Raga Bhoop vilambit Teentaal by the eminent Kishori Amonkar of Jaipur Gharana. She then elucidated how the Raga was improvised keeping the purity intact, so as to qualify as a well rendered Raga. And to achieve this purity, one has to practise the swar-s rigorously. Questioning the audience, on how they felt after listening to this clip, the response was that they felt very peaceful and calm.

She then proceeded to the topic of how different voices and styles can make the same Raga sound so different, yet so similar! And for this she played two clips of Raga Bilaawal, a morning Raga, the first one by the Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki of Agra Gharana and the second Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar of Gwalior Gharana. Dissecting these two clips, she highlighted how each singer used different styles and ornamentations without compromising on the purity of the Raga. Here students were invited to share their thoughts; to ensure they were able to understand the variations in the styles.

Next was the demonstration for Chota Khayaal, for which a piece by Pta. Malini Rajurkar of the Gwalior Gharana in Raga Bhimpalasi drut Teentaal was played. The final piece she played was of her Guru, late Dr. Veena Sahasrabuddhe, noted vocalist who was deeply rooted in the Gwalior tradition. It was a melodious Taraana in Raga Bhairavi. She also narrated the story of how the Taraana came to be invented by Amir Khusrao.

Chinmayee then opened the floor for questions and discussion, which led to a variety of questions, of which a few were –

  • How to identify Sthai and Antara?
  • Why is Bada Khayaal sung first?
  • Can an instrument play a Taraana?
  • Can an artist belong to more than one Gharana-s?
  • Which singers to listen to improve their knowledge of ICM?

Chinmayee patiently answered all these and many more doubts and questions of the students. She listed out the names of prominent vocalists like Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pta. Kishori Amonkar, Pta. Malini Rajurkar, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar, Ustad Rashid Khan, Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty etc. She suggested students to check out these names on YouTube, and listen to their music, and also highlighted the importance of the Baithak sessions, which expose students to access, interest, insights and knowledge about ICM. Overall it was a fulfilling and enriching session for all the participants, as the artist delivered the content sincerely, and was extremely appreciative of the students’ interest and their whole-hearted participation.

Contributed by Mr. Sanjeev Naik, a Baithak Volunteer


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