EXCITING BEGINNING TO THE
RAAG-MALA 2019 SEASON
By RAJEEV GUPTA
Toronto-based harmonium player Hardeep Chana could barely contain his excitement on learning that he would be accompanying the legendary Vidushi Ashwini Bhide ji in the first concert of Raag- Mala Toronto’s 2019 season.
After being on stage with artistes such as Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Pandit Yogesh Samsi, Smt Kaushiki Chakraborty, Hardeep knows, this concert will definitely be a milestone in his musical journey. Hardeep also learned taus (or Mayoori Veena) from Professor Ranjit Singh.
Well, who wouldn’t be excited to hear the melodious voice of Ashwini Bhide, one of the most authentic representatives of the famous Atrauli Jaipur Khayal Gayaki tradition in the present generation of khayalias?
I first encountered Ashwini ji through a bhajan in raag Bhoop, Guru Saatha Paaye Guru Sataguru Pure. That piece portrays the guru (the teacher) waking up from eternal sleep and showing a path towards enlightenment. Ashwini ji’s rendition of this bhajan is particularly profound because of the clarity and truthfulness in her voice that comes from long periods of riyaaz. Since then, I have listened to countless hours of Dr Bhide’s music, including her unforgettable recital of raag Bhimpalasi in her 1992 Young Masters album. I can’t wait to hear the magic she will create at this coming concert.
Ashwini ji began her lessons at the age of five under Guru Narayan Datar, the regular music instructor to her family.
Born into a family of musicians, Ashwini ji, unsurprisingly, chose music as her first love, forsaking a career in Biochemistry but only after completing a doctorate at the esteemed Bhabha Atomic Research Centre/ University of Mumbai. Her mother, Vidushi Manik Bhide, is a well-known vocalist and a disciple of the late great vocalist Gaan Saraswati Vidushi Kishori Amonkar. It was under her strict tutelage that Ashwini ji discovered all the traditional aspects of Jaipur gayaki.
Ashwini ji’s musicianship is characterized by tonal sweetness, raga structure-architecture and sterling vitality and emotion. Her raga delineation shows an unerring grasp over the grammar of the raga, yet she maintains a soulfulness in her singing. Although a classicist by temperament and training, Ashwini ji is equally at ease with lighter varieties like thumri-dadra and bhajans/abhangs. As well, her fluency in Sanskrit enriches her repertoire as she includes stotras/stutis. Ashwini ji has deepened her repertoire by scoring the music herself to many of her devotional presentations.
Ashwini ji’s contribution to Hindustani classical vocal music has been acknowledged through many awards and citations. In June 2015, she received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from the president of India. She was the first female Hindustani vocalist to be decorated with the Rashtriya Kumar Gandharva Samman in 2005 by the government of Madhya Pradesh.
It is worthwhile to note that in 1990, Ashwini took a one-year break from her scholarly career in biochemistry to pursue music full time. Listeners are lucky indeed that she found her place in the world of music and never returned to science. Three decades later, we will enjoy her music in the opening concert of Raag-Mala Toronto 2019 season.
The tabla artiste accompanying Ashwini ji also has a science background – Pandit Ramdas Palsule’s degree is in mechanical engineering. He is one of the most senior disciples of tabla maestro Taalyogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar and has performed for Raag-Mala on numerous occasions.
When and where: Saturday, April 27, 7-9 pm, at the Aga Khan Museum. Tickets: www.agakhanmuseum.org and Manoshi (416-276-5616)
• Rajeev Gupta is a Raag-Mala team member.