533 Souls Festival celebrates mental well-being in the post-pandemic world through serene, contemplative renditions of ragas and yoga. Filmed and recorded live at England’s premier venue - The Curve Theatre, Leicester - this performance is part of the 533 Souls Festival. Curated exclusively with UK-based musicians.
Roopa Panesar’s rendition of this raga is shorn of any showmanship. In an honest and candid delivery, she loses herself in her music, the venue reverberating only with the sound of her sitar. Every other element feels inessential, except her music, which swells and envelopes the empty space like a beautiful fragrance that cannot be contained.
Roopa Panesar has built a solid niche for herself with her neat, soulful presentations. Her interpretation of the instrumental (tantrakari) and gayaki ang (vocal style) has won her accolades. Her adherence to form and discipline and her expressiveness has won her deep respect worldwide as one of the finest sitar players of her generations.
Accompanying her on the tabla is Gurdain Rayatt, an extraordinary talent from the UK. Coming from a family steeped in music, Rayatt’s years of solid training and sadhana (immersive practice) is evident in the ease and smoothness of his execution and the rich content of his music.
Panesar performs an alap (rhythmless introduction) and plays a medium tempo (madhyalay) composition set to Teental. The second, faster tempo (drut) composition is set to the same rhythmic cycle, which she accelerates to a higher tempo and strums up a crisp jhalla (crescendo), bringing an emotionally exalted journey to a graceful end.
Harnessing a subdued yet poignant narrative, Panesar delineates taut melodic structures over a five rhythmic weave provided by Rayatt. With a serene start, the recital evolves to reveal moments of secret raptures beneath the eloquently phrased, lively and mystic notes of the raga.
Executed in collaboration with the De Montfort University and The Curve Theatre, Leicestershire – one of the worst COVID-affected areas in the UK - the 533 series covets and honors lives of the students’ communities that have been severely impacted by COVID in the UK and world over.
As the 533 seats lay empty, the musicians disappear into a world of their own in unpretentious, sublime performances, stripped of all the inessential. Their stoic eyes gleam in tender submission to the grinding impact that the pandemic has brought to human lives. Yet, embracing stark reality with an unwavering, steely placidity, they bring hope, resilience and determination through their music. Nothing, not even the empty seats could deter them to show up – an important ingredient that constitutes human resilience since ages.
Recorded at Darbar Festival in 2021, at The Curve Theatre, Leicester:
-Roopa Panesar (sitar)
-Gurdain Rayatt (tabla)