Gandharva Mahavidyalaya’s move to initiate the Padma Devi Memorial concert needs to be lauded. Padma Devi was the woman behind the pioneering works of Pt. Vinay Chandra Maudgalya, who established Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Delhi in 1939. Born in Pune as Padma Deshpande in 1924, she initially trained under Pt. Vinayak Rao Patwardhan before marrying Pt. Maudgalya. Apart from teaching music at the Mahavidyalaya, she actively participated in the various creative projects even while hosting stalwart musicians.
The concert by Siddhartha Belmannu, a talented young vocalist from Bengaluru, was held at the Sannidhi Sabhagar recently. Hailing from Karkala in Udupi district, Siddhartha was initiated by his parents into Carnatic music at an early age. Later, he learnt Hindustani music from P.R. Manjunath. Presently, he is being groomed by Pt. Vinayak Torvi, the renowned exponent of Gwalior and Kirana gharanas.
The concert opened with a short recording of Padma Devi’s Shuddha Sarang. Siddhartha was accompanied by Pt. Vinod Lele on the tabla, Vinay Mishra on the harmonium, and two young students of the Mahavidyalaya played the tanpuras. Siddhartha felt honoured to share the stage with senior artistes, who had accompanied his guru.
Traversing octaves with ease
Endowed with a pleasing voice, he opened the morning concert with Bilaskhani Todi, and captured the attention of the discerning audience right from ‘auchar’ (alap). A blend of raags Asavari and Todi, this variant of Todi is said to have been created by Bilas Khan, the youngest son of Tansen, after his father’s death. The Vilambit Khayal ‘Hey Mahadeva, trishul dhara, Ganga-dhara, Parashu-dhara…’, set to slow Ektaal explored the raag from the crevices of mandra to madhya and taar saptak, delineating each and every attribute of Mahadeva described in the bandish. The vocalist’s full-throated voice reverberated till the upper pancham while rendering the composition. He moved into an elevated tempo for the ‘Laya ka kaam’ with bol and sargam combinations playing hide and seek, teasing the tabla with off-beat calculations. The patterns that followed in Bada and Chhota khayal proved Siddhartha’s rigorous riyaaz.
Hindol was his next choice. Siddhartha opened this Uttarang-Pradhan raag from the taar shadja itself, did a Nom-Tom alap with gamakas and elongated meends of dhrupad ang before opening a Hori-Dhamar bandish set to Rupak taal, describing the bounty of nature in spring (Vasant ritu) and the Abir-Gulal play of Holi. It was noon-time, perfect for the varieties of Sarang, when he presented a Bada Khayal set to Tilwada and the popular Chhota Khayal ‘Pal na lagi mori akhiyaan…’, a favourite of Padma Devi.
Till Gaud Sarang, he maintained the dignity of a classical concert. But the Kabir bhajan in Mishra Maand sounded like a Natya Sangeet. The audiences would have preferred a fullfledged Natya Sangeet instead. Kabir needs a lot of contemplation and this was the place where Pt. Kumar Gandharva had sung Kabir. To finish the concert with Bhairavi, he sang another Bhajan on Meera. May be Siddhartha wanted to offer the Delhi audiences a thal of chhappan bhog.
The Delhi-based writer specialises in Hindustani music.