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Notes from Benaras

NCPA pays tribute to the centuries-old cultural traditions of Benaras, one of the seven holy cities of India

  Benaras, considered one of the oldest cities in the world, is a repository of history, art and culture. Its religious and cultural ethos has drawn several visitors from the world and the place continues to be a custodian of intrigue. One of the important parts of this draw is the several centuries-old tradition of music. In fact, the region around Benaras came to be known for its distinct style, especially in the field of vocal music, dance and tabla.

A tourist takes a boatride on the Ganga in Varanasi. Pic courtesy/ AFP
A tourist takes a boatride on the Ganga in Varanasi. Pic courtesy/ AFP

Genuflecting to this tradition, NCPA will be presenting a show, Benaras Beckons — a tribute to one of the seven Holy Cities in India, this Saturday. This first-of-its-kind tribute by NCPA will showcase classical and semi-classical vocal and instrumental music traditions of Benaras, presented by Chhannulal Mishra and Rajendra Prasanna and group respectively.

Pandit Chhannulal Mishra.  Pics courtesy/Narendra Dangiya
Pandit Chhannulal Mishra.  Pics courtesy/Narendra Dangiya

Dr Suvarnalata Rao, programming head (Indian music), NCPA, explains, “Being one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Benaras has been a symbol of religious and cultural ethos for several centuries. As an organisation committed to showcase the rich artistic legacy of India, We are proud to showcase the classical and semi-classical vocal and instrumental music traditions of Benaras.”

Rajendra Prasanna, musician
Rajendra Prasanna, musician

Among the artistes, Prasanna has had the privilege of inheriting the legacy of the Benaras style of instrumental music, especially shehnai, since he was born in a musical family. “I have been performing in Mumbai for several years but paying a tribute to the culture I inherited, is a privilege. The mainstay of my instruments is shehnai and the flute. Very few people play the shehnai any more; this instrument is what I have inherited from the Benarasi tradition,” admits Prasanna.

Mishra, acclaimed as the versatile maestro of Benaras style, is particularly known for his vast repertoire, ranging from khayalin the kirana tradition to thumri, chaiti, kajri, sawan, jhoola, dadra and other forms typical of the Ganga-Jamuna region.

On: October 17, 6 pm
At: NCPA, Nariman Point
Call: 66223737

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