The second Sunday of January and the cultural life in Mumbai is reaching it's annual crescendo. What with the Prithvi festival, the Mumbai Marathon, the Kalaghoda Art Festival and probably the most low-key of all, the Banganga festival. Low key - it doesn't have its own website!
3 years and 7 days in Mumbai today for me - and found such a serene and beautiful place as Banganga today. Going on to the Banganga festival - it is a 2 day cultural festival featuring recitals by 2 popular Indian Classical musicians on two successive nights. This year features Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute) and Shrimati Veena Sahasrabuddhe (vocal).
Reading about the festival in the morning newspaper, Akshay and I decided to go attend the flute recital today. 30 kms from home and we drove 2 hours to reach the place - shows how busy we are.
As is the usual when Akshay and I go out - we have plans of reaching a place at a specified time keeping all contingencies (such as lack of tickets for a show half of Mumbai would want to attend) whenever we leave home. But what happens on the way is - we had to complete tasks A, B and C and I have to compulsively take the route with maximum traffic. To cut a long story short, we reached the festival venue with all the tickets sold-out. Resigned to our fate and the absence of spare tickets with any spectators we decide to roam around the place, see the temples, try to figure out the look alikes of Jug Suraiya and yet no luck in getting any tickets.
Before going ahead, Banganga is a rectangular tank, probably 150m x 50m with stairs all around the perimeter. Akshay uses his charm(?) on a couple of policemen patroling the area and they allow us to get into a corner perch. All we can see from there is the rear of the stage. Whatever, any place is good to hear live classical music.
Starting with a few slower compositions / raagas (Bhupali?), Panditji slowly built the tempo of the music. As usual he is a maestro in his art and can get people mesmerised by the flute. But the best part was a few swans that were resting (it was around eight in the evening) towards a corner suddenly get into the tank, paddling with a lot of energy. Probably the first time I have ever realised and seen in real life the power of music. Could that be the best compliment they could have given the musician?
The policemen probably seeing our level of interest in the music in the meantime, help us get entry into one of the regular seating areas. Thank them for it. The music sounded so much better than from our perch. Spent the rest of the concert listening to a jugalbandi on the tabla, raag pilu and pahari (that's my addition to my Indian classical vocabulary today!).
Such is the maestry of Panditji's on the flute - across frequencies - there were so many parts that the tabla player tried real hard to live up on the jugalbandi, though quite a bit in vain.
Definitely one of the best recitals in an amazing ambience that I have seen in Mumbai.
p.s. Wonder - the above contains compliments for Mumbai police!!
p.p.s. Banganga festival is an MTDC event - no wonder the government festival has such low publicity!