T20 avatar of classical music opens debate

Aug 18, 2018, 10:00 IST | Hemal Ashar

As young musicians gear up for 20-minute concerts, the old school waits to see if it will be a six or a wicket off the first ball

T20 avatar of classical music opens debate
(Clockwise from above left) Kedar Kelkar, Renuka Indurkar, Neha Gurav, Yadnesh Raikar, Gandhar Deshpande and S Akash

Indian classical music is taking a leaf out of cricket's changing landscape. When T20 cricket arrived to change the way the game was played, purists screamed that it was entertainment, not cricket. Spectator reaction though blunted the outrage and the steady ticking of turnstiles at cricket grounds spoke of the fact that the quick-paced generation wanted plenty of 20:20. Indian classical music is following suit.

On August 21, six young Indian classical music artistes are to play at a concert held by Maharashtra Lalit Kala Nidhi (MLKN), at Ravindra Natya Mandir in Prabhadevi. This concert is called Gennext 20:20. Organiser Pt. Satish Vyas, santoor maestro, said, "It is an attempt to bring a new audience to Indian classical music, one that has a fast-paced lifestyle."

Renuka Indurkar and Kedar Kelkar are among the artistes who will perform solo for 20 minutes each
Renuka Indurkar and Kedar Kelkar are among the artistes who will perform solo for 20 minutes each

The artistes (most in their 20s), vocalists Renuka Indurkar, Neha Gurav, Kedar Kelkar, Gandhar Deshpande and instrumentalists Yadnesh Raikar on the violin and S Akash on the flute will perform solo for 20 minutes each. The free concert that begins at 8 pm will wrap up by 10 pm as it is 120 minutes of performance.

At the crease
Vyas explained, "Music aficionados are amenable to hearing established names play for 60 minutes and beyond. When it comes to younger, newer performers though, there is some reluctance to go to concerts, owing to the time factor. This will help bring a different demographic into the hall, one that is receptive to hearing newer artistes play for 20 minutes."

Vyas understands that the brave new world he is opening up may ignite fierce debate with purists shouting sacrilege at the thought of classical music compressed into 20 minutes. "I think there is justification for an exploration like this," said the santoor maestro, adding, "Just like the Test cricket era changed to 50:50 and then T-20, there may be place for another format on the music firmament, too. It may or may not be a smash hit from the very first attempt, but we will never know till we pad up and get to the crease," he laughed.

Pace the innings
Like Pt. Vyas, Pune's eminent vocalist Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar, invoked the example of Long Playing (LP) records of a few decades ago. "Different artistes used to present individual raags for 20 minutes," explained both Kashalkar and Vyas. "Going by that example, I do not see a problem with the format," said Kashalkar. The vocalist though did sound a note of caution saying the performers will "have to do a delicate balancing act. For instance, an alaap cannot go on for 10 minutes in this format, as they need to have time then for other things like khyaal, gaayki… so it will be very interesting to see how they are able to juggle this."

All padded up
Team Gennext is already in the pavilion, ready to walk on to the field. Gandhar Deshpande, vocalist, said, "20-20 Gennext is unique; presenting a raag in 20 minutes will be intellectually challenging."

Kedar Kelkar on the vocals, said, "It is going to be a different kind of learning experience to showcase gaayki in 20 minutes." Akash S, flautist, said, "I am happy performing with talented musicians of my age group," while Neha Gurav, vocalist said as Gen Next themselves, they have a responsibility. "This is to show our passion and put in serious effort towards music. This platform is one for exploration and presentation of our art."

The fun aspect
For legendary flautist Pt. Ronu Majumdar though, the concept "should be taken in the spirit of fun. Though my student is playing in this programme, to compress the raag to 20 minutes means the audience may not get its essence. Already, we are compressing the classical. Earlier, one artiste used to render a raag for two hours. Today, we have three playing for 1 hour, 15 minutes in concerts. So, it is already shortened. Now, we are shortening it further. Yet, it is not bad for a one-time attempt. This should be taken as light music, as if you make even the classical light, then, what will we term classical?" Majumdar asked with a laugh.

The new players
Pt. Vyas is prepared for anything, pungent criticism included. He stressed, "Let us remember this is about the future. The objective is to introduce talented, fresh and unknown faces. The format will give music lovers a glimpse of the bright future."

The pitch is prepared, the fielding is set, the team is padded up, and the line-up of experts is watching. Spectator seats should be filled in by August 21. As Indian classical music is to take its first, tentative steps to what could possibly become a new 'jhat pat' genre, it is game on.

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