Mumbai’s infamous monsoon brings with it its share of waterlogging, potholes, muddy roads and traffic snarls. Fortunately, it also brings one of the most awaited festivals on the Indian classical music scene -- the Megh Malhar Festival at Worli’s Nehru Centre.
The three-day festival welcomes and celebrates the season of rain through a series of performances dedicated to the Malhar ragas. “Although there are six different seasons observed in our country, music lovers keenly anticipate the rainy season so that they can listen to the Malhar ragas being performed,” believes flautist Sunil Kant Gupta, who is performing on the second day of the festival.
Semi-classical vocalist Kumud Diwan, an exponent of the Poorab-Ang Thumri, and Pandit Kartick Kumar on the surbahar, kick off the festival on July 16. Kumar is considered to be one of the most senior disciples of Pt Ravi Shankar, and carries on the tradition of the Maihar Gharana.
Gupta, who will be accompanied by Ustad Siraj Anwar Khan on the second day, is excited about performing a Benarasi folk song. “I will begin with Raga Megh then move on to Sur Malhar, which is one of the rarer ragas. I enjoy playing this combination, which is something I’ve developed from my talim across Gwalior, Patiala and Agra. My performance will end with a folk song, most likely the Kajri which is from Benaras. I like to think of it as a light dessert at the end of a heavy meal,” adds Gupta.
An extremely innovative instrumentalist, Gupta prides himself on his ability to craft his own bansuri. “About 25 years ago, when I heard Ustad Amir Khan sing the Raga Malkauns, I desperately wanted to play the raga on my flute. Unfortunately, the limitations of the traditional flute didn’t allow me to achieve the lower octave. It took 15 years of research for me to create a flute that could play the lower ‘ga’,” explains Gupta, who has designed the 47-inch bansuri in such way that it can be folded up. “At the end of my performance I will reveal my innovation to the audience. It is something I always do,” reveals Gupta.
The festival will conclude on a vocal note with Devaki Pandit and the Mishra brothers, Ritesh and Rajnish. While Pandit, who performs both classical as well as popular music, the Mishra brothers are proponents of the classical forms and represent the tradition of the Benaras Gharana.