Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival: A Magical Play Of ‘Sur’ And ‘Taal’

The 28th edition of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival got concluded on September 9, with a dance ballet presentation by the host team ‘Srjan’. The five-day festival proved its worth once again to be the most sophisticated platform for Indian classical dance and music in Bhubaneswar.

The festival itinerary of this year was a brilliant mix of young and veteran talent. The festival had four musical and three dance recitals. There was also a function of felicitation where the coveted Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award was conferred upon Odissi music veteran Pandit Ramahari Das and dance Guru Niranjan Rout.  Young Odissi dancer Gitanjali Acharya and upcoming Odissi vocalist Matruprasad Das received awards as young achievers. The focus of this article is mostly on the musical components of the festival, for the presentations were extraordinarily exciting and they overpowered the dance segment.

The festival began with an unusual Jugalbandi between the Indian flute and the western Djembe. Veteran flautist Pt Ronu Mazumdar started the show with Raag Jai Jaiwanti and moved on with nuanced playfulness by elaborating the Raaga. The mesmerising moment of the festival came from the magical hands of Ustad Tafiq Quereshi who was accompanying Ronu Mazumdar on the Djembe.

Bringing rhythmic “theraav” and maintaining perfect “layakari” of Hindustani flow in a western drum like Djambe is surely not possible, but Ustad Taufiq Quereshi not only made it possible but also brought a different dimension of deep vibration in the Djambe, an African folk drum. He completely Hindustanised it and charmingly so! His rhythmic sense is absolutely radical and his playing style is totally different from traditional drummers. The young Ishan Ghosh joined both the veterans with his magical fingers on Tabla.

The second evening was devoted to Odissi music and the flag bearer of the show was a young Odissi vocalist who is in her 20s. The future of Odissi music looks bright, beautiful and promising. Once you listen to a very young singer named Sristi Swarupa Mishra you are bound to have this optimism. The Raganga part of singing reflects her love and labour for her arts. Taalim and Riyaaz, two very important aspects of musical practice are clearly visible in her performance. The best thing about her voice is she knows where exactly her tonal range is and she played within that range with confidence and spontaneity. Her rendition of Raag Mukhari sounded like a flowing fountain with typical Odissi throws in Andolita (the wavy movements). It was a perfect harmony of Sur, Taal and Laya.

Personally, I have a typical habit of not taking any of Pt Raghunath Panigrahi”s songs in another’s voice. For me, he is the ultimate and his perfection is unattainable. But when Srishti started singing the very difficult and technically one of the most decorative “Bhabanga song” ” Nahin ke karidela kahinki go…”, I was a bit apprehensive. With the singing flow, she made me believe that she is here to stamp her own style in the song. Four taals in one song and the movement varied in every antara, were so well executed by her.

It’s heartening to see a young singer accompanied by two veteran musicians: the brilliant Guru Dhaneswar Swain on the Mardala and the charming Guru Ramesh Chandra Das on the Violin. This must be a very proud moment for the great Guru Ramhari Das for nurturing a pupil like Srishti.


The third evening was again a beautiful musical confluence of the East and the West. Two young musicians from Bhubaneswar, violinist Agnimitra Behera and Flautist Shrinibas Satpathy set up a band named “Shivagni” and brought out a few brilliant mixes of western and eastern musicals. In a scenario of fusion, there is always a possibility of confusion, but the Shivagni group made the orchestra quite a spontaneous and melodious one.

The fourth day of the festival witnessed another gifted singer from the Carnatic style of Indian classical music. Sikkil C Gurucharan is a singer who does not sing but becomes a song. He is spontaneous and effortless in his singing. How lucidly he hits the right notes and how his alaap and taan are so full of feelings that are the magic of Carnatic. Only one can feel his voice in the very core of one’s silence. He is a singer whom you can carry to your soul to understand how musically vibrant life can really be.

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