Kirtie-RamdasThe Darbar Festival – sold out tickets, four days filled with several concerts, the Southbank of London – a promise for a fantastic weekend for an Indian Classical music lover, such as myself.  When I booked my plane, hotel and asked a friend to book my concert tickets, way in advance, I never knew that it would fulfil my expectations and leave me wanting more.

For the ones not so known with, or for that matter of fact, keen on Indian Classical music, I can tell you, it is an art you learn to appreciate, and by learning the depth and the enormous history and even science behind this age-old musical tradition, you cannot choose otherwise than to fall in love with it.

Did you know that every moment of the day has a raga (base of a melody, simply put) that goes along with it? Did you know that in Indian Classical music, there are different kinds of classical music? Did you know that the well-know harmonium did not enter the Indian era for a long time? Did you know that some instruments, such as the Rudra Veena, are so rare, only ten musicians in the world that play these?

Come along with me on my journey at the Darbar Festival as I write this report for DesiYUP.

Saturday morning was the first day of my visit and I chose the concert Glorious Morning Raga’s Unwrapped, by Manjusha Patil, khayal singer from the Gwalior gharana, accompanied by two tanpuras, a tabla and a harmonium. The Purcell room at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank Centre was completely filled with a wide variety of audience: young art students, old English ladies, English men in their thirties, families and couples. After the necessary tuning the concert started. Manjusha Patil’s majestic voice reached into my imagination as she sang her first morning raga. The notes are sung in such a way that it fits the right mood and moment in time, a mysterious awakening. I felt blessed to have heard my first live performance of a morning raga at the right time. After the concert I interviewed Manjusha Patil on her view of the influence of modern times on Indian classical music.

Sunday evening I got to experience something completely new. Have you ever experienced something for the first time you never knew existed before? It was like seeing a whole new colour not known by this world. I listened to the live performance of the Rudra Veena by Ustad Baha’ud’din Dagar. I did not know what hit me when I heard that extraordinary sound. It seemed as if someone was singing, mixed with the sound of an electric guitar, with a resonance that goes beyond words. The Rudra Veena is a string instrument, played with both hands at the same time, like you would play a piano. After this magnificent performance I interviewed the musician Ustad Baha’ud’din Dagar and he told me all about the mythology that goes along with this captivating instrument.

The Darbar Festival is held every year and many Indian Classical musicians give marvellous concerts. Two years in on my Indian Classical musical training it gave me such an inspiration to practice more and such a better understanding in this exclusive type of music.  While listening I tried to find the Sa, the starting note, and tried to figure out of which notes the raga consisted… A battle against simply purely listening and enjoying the sound of what touches my soul.

I felt privileged that I got to hear, better yet experience, the performances by Manjusha Patil and Ustad Baha’ud’din Dagar. As I sat in the audience it made me travel without moving, to far away places, to times of beyond and I can say I feel proud to be a teeny tiny part of that ancient musical tradition.

Kirtie Ramdas
Reporting for DesiYUP
September 2013

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