A tabla, sitar, harmonium and ankle bells: their sounds are quite exotic for Western audiences who have rare opportunities to enjoy Indian classical music. For a small group of 30 people one of these opportunities came on the 17th of October in cultural centre De Serre in Amsterdam, when tabla player and composer pandit Udai Mazumdar performed together with sitarist Shri Rohan Dasgupta, vocalist Latika Chauhan and kathak dancer Namrta Rai during “An evening of Indian classical music and dance”. Organised by the foundation Sanskriti, the concert is a prelude to the tour “Red” which will take all of the musicians apart from Dasgupta throughout Switzerland, beginning on the 29th of October and concluding on the 29th of November.
The first part of the concert started with Mazumdar and Dasgupta entering the stage where Dasgupta took the lead with the Sitar on a traditional North-Indian raga, showcasing his skills by switching betweend light sitar and heavier bass in different speeds. The intriguing music was the only thing to hear in the venue as all guests were left in awe.
Dasgupta ended with his own interpretation of a composition made by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, a melodious and lighter piece of music. “I hope I can do justice to it”, he said with a soft smile before starting his rendition. Mazumdar accompanied him during the second half of the raga and the last composition with the tabla. Both of them seemed to be perfectly in tune with each other, with Mazumdars stable and distinctive handwork supporting the younger Dasgupta.
In the second half of the evening Chauhan joined the men singing several songs: a tribute to the Hindu Goddess Durga in Sanskrit, a slow version of a North-Indian bridal song and a number about lovers during Holi in Hindi before ending with a sufi song about lovers in Urdu.
Chauhan made the art of singing while playing the harmonium look very natural while laughingly saying that it’s quite difficult to sing and play at the same time.
“Intimate performances such as these have a certain beauty to them”, Muzumdar explained while relaxing after the concert. “You feel the appreciation of the people and have more contact with them”, he said. All of these artists have been honing their craft from a young age, with Dasgupta and Chauhan hailing from families with a music background. According to Mazumdar, it’s also their job to promote Indian classical music. “These days people, especially youngsters, love fast music, just like fast food. And within the competition of different music styles, it’s also important to keep promoting classical music”, said Mazumdar.
The concert ended on this very rare evening with the musicians getting a standing ovation.
By Stefanie Amirkhan
For an impression of Latika Chauhan: