Roopa Panesar (sitar) with Sukhwinder Singh (tabla)
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar (north Indian vocalist) with Pandit Suresh Talwalkar (tabla)[pictured]
Closing Concert, Kings Place, London 24 April
This annual festival has been regularly supported and reviewed by Musical Pointers.
This year we were free to attend only the final event, a concert shared between the Leicester based sitarist Roopa Panesar and distinguished singer and renowned teacher Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, each appearing with tabla and supporting musicians. As usual at Indian classical concerts there was no printed programme, and information from the stage was not easy to absorb.
I thought the UK-resident sitarist's tone too bright and metallic, and some of her playing formulaic and relentlesly energetic, but that may have been because of the over-amplification*, which is an perennial blight on this event, as repeatedly reported. The audience was ecstatic at the end.
Both tabla players were excellent, Sukhwinder Singh notably flexible and inventive. Ulhas Kashalkar began late and with his set scheduled for 120 mins, many began leaving well before the end. He was supported by two tanpuras (one of them, pictured, a "support vocalist", presumably one of Kashalkar's pupils ?) and - why, why ? - a very loud harmonium which sounded like a foghorn through the lengthy tuning-up; why is that always done on stage??
The 3-day Darbar Festival (London branch) seemed a little diminished this year; maybe they, like so many Arts Promoters - notably the Asian Music Circle - are up against the financial squeeze that is affecting everyone.
But the concerts are sure to look and sound good on SkyArts in due course...
Peter Grahame Woolf
PS We have received several more comments about the amplification blight which tends so seriously to alienate ordinary British concertgoers from supporting Indian Classical Music events in London -
* 1. Great concerts apart from the inevitable over-amplification - - even at the back found it bordering on the pain threshold. Complained to the usher who came back with two sets of ear-plugs (not bad) - - " [from a jazz musician well used to amplification...]
2. I do understand your concern on the acoustics - - As a democratic choice every artist have their own preferences of levels - - that's the world. Things are there for us to choose what we want. There are minimal requirements for every artiste that might be the maximum for a listener - - Artistes and audience are made for each other and can never think of a life without each other [from an Indian violinist]
3. I DO NOT THINK THAT AMPLIFICATION IS A PROBLEM AT ALL - THOSE THAT DO NOT LIKE AMPLIFICATION SHOULD NOT ATTEND AMPLIFIED CONCERTS - - INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC CANNOT BE UNPLUGGED IN A 400+ SEATER. **
4. Astonishingly, a You-Tube video from Canada shows Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar singing with microphones in just such a "home concert", to a small select audience crowded into the host's basement !
5. The concern about over-amplification, a blight upon musical events, particularly (so far as MusicalPointers is concerned) with Indian Classical Music, which is generally held to be irremediable... One difficulty and an additional part-explanation is that musicians on stage cannot really judge volume for listeners from the platform.
However, before an event at Bhavan Centre recently, the problem was endorsed in conversation amongst audience members, and I was urged "to keep at it..." I try to remember to have my iPod with me for Indian music concerts and sometimes resort to its earphones to moderate the sound level...
Evening Standard has an article (18 October 2011) in which a court case is being pursued by an opera fan in respect of a private operatic-singing event at which one guest was so appalled that he had to put his fingers in his ears. "- - a disaster. It spoilt what should have been a happy occasion." Apparently the volume was turned down "but was raised again"... In mitigation it is being claimed that it "was a difficult venue and you can't please everyone". Watch this space for the litigation's progress...