Gandharva Choir Presented a Unique Musical Treat to Boston Audience

FTV News, Weston, By Geetha Patil: A superb melodious and tuneful Indian Classical Choir program was organized by the joint auspicious efforts of MERU Education Foundation and LEARNQUEST Academy of Music on the pleasant summer evening of Saturday, Jun 24, 2017 at Regis College, Weston, MA. Several hundreds of music lovers from the New England area dressed in beautiful Indian traditional attire gathered with their very enthusiasm to enjoy the evening with the healing and spiritual power of Indian classical music that brilliantly combines the melody, rhythm and harmony and produces soothing vibes in the mind, brain and body. A world renowned and talented vocalist Pandit Madhup Mudgal Ji presented a marvelous music program “Gandharva Choir” along with his stunning choir members as its conductor.

Pandit Madhup Mudgal from New Delhi is one of the best known Indian Hindustani classical vocalists of the present generation. He is well known for his khayal and bhajan renditions.  Pandit Madhup Ji’s initial training was under his father, and then under Shri Vasant Thakar and Pandit Jasraj, and thereafter with Guru Pandit Kumar Gandharva, which has given him a deep awareness of the fine balance between tradition and innovation.  He is also a composer, conductor, and has been the principal of the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Delhi’s leading and oldest institution for training in music and dance, founded by his late father and first guru, Professor Vinay Chandra Maudgalya since 1995. He received the prestigious Padma Shri award from the Government of India in 2006. He has performed all over the world as a solo vocalist and with the Gandharva Choir. The Gandharva Choir, the most well-known Indian Classical Music Choir was started 50 years back by his father and has extensively performed classical, folk and experimental styles of music. Their repertoire includes both Hindustani and Carnatic classical, folk, and delightful experimentation. Over the past four decades, the choir has performed all over the world including at Lincoln Center in New York and at Kennedy Center in DC.

An exciting music program started with Svasti Vaachan-a hymn from the ancient Rigveda used to sing to open a cosmic dialogue. It was followed by a praise of Devi Saraswati, the source of the arts and all learning, composed by Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya in Dhrupad – Raga Kalyan, set to Chaar Taal, a time cycle of 12 beats. Then Pandit Madhup Mudgal presented his own Pancham -an experimental composition in Raga Kafi set to Taal Keherwa. The special feature of this song was that every sequence of the song ends on the note Pancham. The choir presented a Holi song that described spring season. This composition by Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya is set in Raga Khamaj and Taal Dhamar (time cycle of 14 beats). Aayal Ho Rituraj – another spring song that depicted splendor of beauty and color. Pandit Kumar Gandharva’s this composition offered classical and folk melodies of Malwa region of India.  Later, a Marathi song written by poet Govindagraj and composed by P.L. Deshpande in praise of Vaagdevi Saraswati in raga malika where every stanza of the song is set in a different ragas like Kedar, Vasant, Deshkar, and Bheempalasi was presented.

A Bangla devotional song written and composed by Noble Laureate Poet Guru Rabindra Nath Tagore Bhenge Mor set to Dadra Taal (time cycle of six beats) that described a devotee’s prayer for release from human bondage and for enlightenment was presented beautifully by the choir.  Haman Hai –a nirgun bhajan of Saint Kabir Das, and another abstract composition Aabhas, consisting of sargam and rhythmic patterns composed by Pt. Madhup Mudgal brought pleasing experience to the audience. A south Indian popular kriti or a classical devotional composition Telisi Ram in Carnatic style composed by Tyagaraja Swami in Raga Poorna Chandrika set to Aditaal and Aj Nij Ghat Bich-a Malwa devotional composition in Raga Kafi written by Saint Dharamdas were vividly presented to the audiences.

Choir melodiously sang Pandit Madhup Mudgal’s compositions Charishnu literally means never-ending in Raga Jog, and Agnisukta a Rig Vedic hymn invokes Agni, the fire God. It was followed by Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya’s composition, Chaturang, a form which includes words of poetry, tarana, sargam and bols of Tabla in Raga Bageshri, set to Teen Taal (16 beats). The choir team brought to the audience a sweet Rajasthani folk song Beero Aayo Levan, in which a bride tries to persuade her reluctant husband to allow her to go to her father’s house. Her brother has come to fetch her and she is anxious to visit her folks.Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya’s beautiful musical compositions Rut Albeli describing the picturesque the season of Spring in Raga Pahadi and Bharati Jaya Vijaya a patriotic song written by poet Suryakant Tripathi Nirala composed in Raga Malkauns, set to Drut Ektaal described the beauty of the motherland brought the beauty glimpses of Bharta Varsha in front of them. Next came, Pandit Mallikarjun Mansoor’s composion, Akka Kedawa a Vachan of Akka Mahadevi a well-known saint of Karnataka.

A Gujarati folk song Saanware Sonanu, about the dialogue between a husband and wife, where the wife teasingly reiterates her superior position and a Bhojpuri folk song from Bihar, Saiyan Kode Khetva which is in the form of a dialogue between the men and women peasants as they work in the fields, where the women offer to help the men in their hard work while the men promise them gold bangles and fine saris in return made the audience to relish the wittiness of Indian rural community. The Choir brought another unique genre, Qawwali composed by Hazrat Amir Khusrau of the 13th century; this Qawwali is set in Raga Bhairavi. The first half of the verse is in ‘Persian’, while the second half is in ‘Awadhi’.

Everyone in the audiences enjoyed the robust and popular folk songs from Uttar Pradesh, Goa, and Punjab. Jaya Bolo Siyawar Ram Ki based on Ramayana, the Hindu epic was sung by the choir narrated the glory of the noble king Rama and the victory of good over evil.  Hau Saiba a Konkani folk song made the audience to sing along with the singers with and clap harmoniously. Vekho Ban Than Aai Vasaakhi, a folk song describing the lively atmosphere of Baisaakhi – the festival of harvest and Punjabi New Year that moved in the rhythm of Keherawa Taal and amused the audience immensely. Additionally, at the audience request, the choir presented another folk song from Bhojpuri, Bahurahava Bhangia and made the audience happy with its good night wishes.

Shekhar Shastri conducted the program very meticulously and thanked the organizers, Meru Education Foundation, and Pradeep Shukla, President, LearnQuest Academy of Music. He also thanked immensely the Regis College for providing their beautiful auditorium and volunteers for hosting the artists, and giving their valuable time and efforts for making this program a grand success. He appreciated Smt. Vanita Shastri and her team’s untiring work behind success of this program and Udupi and Little India Express restaurans for providing delicious food to the audiences.