Hindustani raga sangeet

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Staying in Mumbai has afforded us the opportunity to get cultured in a way that is more difficult in the US. For one thing, the tickets for a two-night musical performance of Hindustani classical percussion and raga sangeet, cost 500 Rupees for the best seats in the house. That’s $4.57 per night. Not only that, we went to the concert hall, Tata Theatre at the National Center for Performing Arts at Nariman Point in Mumbai, about 15 minutes before the performance to pay for and pick up the tickets. No Ticketmaster, no extra fees, no hassle.

Next came the concerts. The first night, Saturday, January 12th, started with a truly amazing percussion performance. The instruments went from a simple narrow-necked, clay pot to a full, modern drum set. Of course there was a tabla. There were two other drums, a mridangam (Sridhar Parthasarathy, on the far left, playing the mridangam in US with other percussionists), and an African djembe that was held in a stand and played standing up. The ensemble was rounded out with the ever-present harmonium. There is no way to convey the amazing sounds of the night so I have included links to youtube clips of the performers.

The second night we stayed for a vocal performance called raga featuring Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, accompanied by two younger singers, tabla and harmonium.

We only made it to the intermission each night. The first pieces on both nights lasted about 50 minutes. My attention span and ability to sit for that length of time is not great. The music was mesmerizing but that is a long time. The intermissions arrived after about 90 to 110 minutes. We just did not have the stamina to stay for the second half.

The music, of course, was completely different than any western music, and our ears are not used to it. What was especially interesting to me, though, was the audience. The lights were not dimmed much on the audience so the performers could easily see us and we could see each other. Many of the concert-goers really got into the music, making hand gestures that I never saw before. Some looked like a request for louder music. There was gentle tapping and sharp, open-handed slices and jabs into the air. Heads waggled sideways, and around and about.

When we first saw the audience participation at another concert we attended, we thought it was a teacher instructing his student during the performance. Not so. There is just this much participation.

I loved the percussion. It was exciting, albeit lengthy. The singing, though, really grabbed me. I did not know the human voice could make these sounds. In fact, I am listening to it right now, and loving it. Weird!

I surreptitiously snapped this picture on my iPhone. Didn’t want to get thrown out for taking pictures.
Last Modified on March 24, 2015
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2 thoughts on “Hindustani raga sangeet

  1. This is so wonderful Barbara… we love this music and play it at home all the time. We were not there at the right time to go to these concerts… we would have loved to, as you might guess. Thanks so much for sharing this. Amazing and wonderful part of your life there. When you return we hope you will visit us and we can share more about this! smiles from Kathabela and Rick, home from Mumbai

  2. Thanks Kathabela. Yes it would be nice to get together to share stories when we return.

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