This wonderful excerpt is from our Director’s Cut trove – a repository of some of the most special artists that the Darbar Festival has presented. In this clip, Sahasrabuddhe performs a tarana in Raag Ahir Bhairav with uncompromising clarity and delicacy. This concert being her last one in the UK before she passed away for her heavenly abode in 2016, is very close to our hearts. The doyen had brought an entirely packed hall to tears at the King’s Place, London, with her rendition of Vande Mataram in the end.
While morning concerts are a common feature in India, audiences in the west generally remain deprived of its magic. Customary hall booking norms and timings make it impending for concerts to be scheduled in the evenings. But for a change, this concert was timed at 10am and gave Sahasrabuddhe the opportunity to give the British audiences the fresh taste of a beautiful morning Raga as Ahir Bhairav through a live performance.
Sahai and Ahmed remain congruous and supportive throughout the recital, bringing in their brilliant wizardry at befitting moments of the performance.
Raag Ahir Bhairav belongs to the Bhairav constellation although its movements in the upper octave are like Raag Kafi. The 2nd or Re and 7th or Ni are flat notes and the rest of its notes are pure. The oscillation of the flat Re is key to the Bhairav identity of the raga and the dominant and sub-dominant notes are Ma (4th) and Sa (1st) respectively. Since it is a compound raga, differences exist among performers of different schools of Indian classical music about its focal notes Ma and Sa. However, beyond its grammatical structure, this raga remains a much loved and popular melody because of the devotional mood it evokes. Many popular bhajans have been composed using this raga as its melodic framework.
Sahasrabuddhe delivers this concert with the indelible imprint of the Gwalior and Jaipur gharanas while her taankari (rapid notes) have underlying shades of Kirana gharana.
Veena Sahasrabuddhe (1948-2016) was an esteemed Hindustani classical vocalist. Her unique style drew mainly from Gwalior gharana with strong influence of Kirana and Jaipur gharanas. Her university degree in Literature and Vocal Performance too contributed to her singing style which has been showcased on over 40 albums throughout her lifetime. She found ample time to teach despite a successful performance career, demonstrating Indian music to school children and serious students alike.
Precise, powerful and intricately funky, Sanju ‘Vishnu’ Sahai embodies the Benares tabla gharana. He was born into rhythm as the sixth generation of his family’s illustrious rhythm lineage. He is mindful of diluting classical tabla styles, but this has not stopped him taking them into a breathtaking array of contexts. Alongside accompanying top Hindustani musicians, he has collaborated with artists spanning flamenco and jazz to opera and Gregorian chant. He has played in schools and prisons as well as for the Queen and tutors table at SOAS in London. Today, he lives in the UK and travels the globe as a star accompanist and soloist.
Tofail Ahmed was born in Bangladesh. He started learning music at a very early age. Eventually, he won an ICCR scholarship that took him to Delhi where he has studied under Pandit Birju Maharaj, Pandit Jaikishan Maharaj, Shobha Gurtu, Pandit Rajan – Sajan Mishra, Pandit Madhup Mudgal et al. He currently lives in London and has a busy schedule as a teacher and performer.
Veena Sahasrabuddhe (vocal)
Sanju Sahai (tabla)
Tofail Ahmed (harmonium)
Priya Parkash (tanpura)
Shobhana Patel (tanpura)