Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Bhavan, West Kensington, 1st August 2010


These two visiting summer school teachers from the North Indian discipline gave an end of course concert. Bhavan does not produce concert programmes and announcements from the stage of items to follow and names of supporting artists are not easy to hear and to note. The CVs of the star performers, more or less as above, were read to microphone behind curtains before the conmencement of each half. All that makes difficulties for a critic... Seen beforehand to introduce myself,

I came mainly for Esha Bandyopadhyay's hour long recital, which was attended by the usual tanpuras, tabla and harmonium. Although the audience numbered only around fifty, most of whom could have been accommodated on the stage sitting around the raised platform Indian-style, the rest of us in the front few rows, the music was heavily amplified (as is apparently now ubiquitous and inescapable in India) and I spent part of her set seeking where to escape the distortion by not-very-good amplification; even resorting to covering my ears with headphones, but that didn't work because of the loss of high frequencies and brightness...

Beforehand Bhavan's Director, Dr Nandakumara had met me and explained that for some thirty years they had been trying to encourage attendance by British music lovers with scant success. Their regular audiences are used to the music being loud, and indeed musicians on stage tend to be a little competitive; if they sense that another is louder, they ask for the volume from their own microphone to be increased... The snag is that on stage they are not well placed to judge the sound in the auditorium, so are at the mercy of the sound engineer, controlling things from the back of the (empty) circle upstairs...

During the interval refreshments were on offer in a very convivial atmosphere, and I was able to meet (and explain a little of this) to the singer, Esha Bandyopadhyay, who gave me her CD recording of four rags from a Kolkata Concert (date not supplied).

Back home I put it straight onto my iPod, and next morning (whilst picking mulberries in my local park !) listened through with immense enjoymen t. The recording was fine and it has quickly become a treasured disc in my collection. I enjoyed the support of Ahoke Mukherjee, a non-competitive tabla player, and - more than sometimes - the harmonium playing of Sanatan Goswami shadowing the vocal line. See Esha in a short excerpt of Dadra - Raga Piloo on YouTube, an increasingly indispensible resource...

I stayed to see a little of the Kathak dancing, its style quite unknown to me and a huge surprise.

Vaswati Misra, who had also been teaching at Bhavan, is a multi-skilled artist of tremendous personal charisma, and hers proved a riveting hour. Not only did she improvise with huge gestural imagination, but this was energetic dancing requiring demanding athleticism.

But, as if that were not enough, she also presented herself as an expert foot-percussionist, and a mistress of vocal percussion - amaze yourself with a short example of that...

Musically, Vaswati Misra's programme was a clear improvement on the first half. Her sequence was framed by recorded musical accompaniment, projected well and without excessive loudness or distortion. Between, a support group at the side of the stage (including Misra's older sister) accompanied her demonstrations and perofrmances of short items, with sound that was decidedly better than the set-up for Esha beforehand. The only noticeable anomaly was one loud booming resonant note emanating from the tabla, which we had experienced there previously. It was to be noted how versatile are Indian musicians, the instrumentalists' training based on singing. And here the unnamed harmoniumist presented in sonorous voice a song he had composed which Misra interpreted in dance (without any prior rehearsal). A truly inspiring hour, and I hope there will be a future opportunity to see this exciting dancer and teacher.

I do hope that Bhavan, so as not to alienate our readers from their events, will explore my published writings on the sore amplifiaction topic, expecially about Enhancement/Amplification in Why Not Amplify?

Peter Grahame Woolf