Monday, 24 June 2019

Borgeet makes the evening of Assamese classical music/dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Time seemed to have little consideration for the organizers of Pratishruti Foundation in collaboration with Assam Peoples' Welfare Association, mounting an evening dedicated to Music and Dance of Assam at the Sai Shankar Auditorium, Delhi. Not a soul could be seen in the compound when one reached at 6.15pm for a program scheduled to start at 6.30pm. About to turn back feeling one had perhaps come to the wrong place, I saw the poster after walking up to the lobby and entered the auditorium to find about half a dozen people seated with sound and light being tested with singers seated before microphones, with bizarre shifts of light rays from right to left which made one feel unsettled creating a headache. Expecting the pitiful lack of audience to improve, the organizers seemed inclined to wait beyond half an hour. Realizing that more delay would discourage even those present from remaining, the evening finally started.

For an evening devoted to Assamese culture, Sri Krishna Goswami and his party provided the perfect start with Borgeet (also spelt as bargita or borgit), the neo-Vaishnav music of Assam, comprising compositions of Sankaradeva (1449-1568), the founder of the Sattriya tradition and his disciple Madhavadeva. From the Prabandha Gana tradition and Prasangia style practiced in the Sattras, (individual Sattras have their own singing conventions of the same Borgeet) this composition set to raga Aheer, in the totally devotional tone of this music, was sung in perfect sruti by Sri Krishna Goswami accompanied by two female singers. The reposeful singing was like a meditation, accompanied by the melodious flute and the percussion of the kohl. The composition was in a set of talas - each statement of the lyric in a different rhythmic metre of multiples of 3, of 5, of 7 etc. Starting with the Haribol "Ramo more Ramo, Krishna, Sankara Guru..." the slow moving music, totally devoid of virtuosity, derives its power from the emotive throb of bhakti and complete adherence to sruti. The group sang one more composition, this time of Madhavadeva. The raga announcement by the compere was so muffled over the mike that one could not hear it clearly. Altogether, this evening's singing was for me one of the finest experiences of Borgeet singing.

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