Asian Music and Dance


Aakrisht is a small-scale touring show that gives equal balance to three elements: instrumental, percussion and dance. The second performance of the tour, it took place in a tiny cultural oasis set in the predominantly military town of Aldershot, attracting a few local residents and some Asian audience who travelled from neighbouring towns. What they experienced was high-class Indian art. 

The opening notes of Raga Yaman on the sitar struck by Roopa Panesar set the mood of the evening.  She plucked softly and delicately, drawing out the nuances of the notes. Her riffs were surprising and unpredictable. The sweetness was contrasted by stronger and attacking sequences. Alas the alap felt all too short, so absorbed were we by it.   

Roopa was joined in the jod section by the now well-established tabla player Sanju Sahai. Together they eased into rhythmic play, punctuated by tehais and a wonderful sustained jhalla in conclusion that radiated energy by maintaining pace and attack but forgoing the mad racing up and down the scale as is the most popular way of executing this section of the raga. The young sitar player is quietly building a reputation as an artist to ‘look out’ for. 

It was then the turn of Sanju Sahai to introduce the ‘talking-drum’, the tabla, which he did with humour and panache. Treating his audience to some wonderful displays of ‘lekh-kari’ rhythm play, with variations on the teental, Sanju displayed his formidable training and skill. Sanju is the son of the famous tabla maestro Pandit Sharda Sahai who is the UK wing of the Benares gharana. The various tonal qualities elicited from the sharp high notes of finger, to the base of the palm on the left-handed base drum were most enjoyable. He then did some of the easily accessible crowd-pleasers as the ‘steam train’ sounds and concluded with a number of tukras and parans (short compositions). 

The second half of the programme featured kathak dancer Jaymini Chauhan with musicians augmented by vocalist Chandra Chakraborty and tabla apprentice Anil Sandhu giving bol back-up together with Sanju Sahai (his guru) and Roopa Panesar. This is Jaymini’s first solo tour following her Manch Pravesh in Leicester in 2008 under Nilima Devi. 

With her back to the audience, striking a pose with raised arm showing Krishna’s feather and with a slow revolution, Jaymini plunged into the vandana backed by just the trill notes of Chandra. The sweetness and playfulness of Krishna was conveyed well, as were the gat-bhavas that followed. Attired in a dress with a pink bodice of Benarasi zari and a cream pink-edged skirt, at her waist a diamanté belt, Jaymini was a picture of elegance. 

A long technical section consisting of amad, tukras, toras and tatkar formed the bulk of her presentation. Jaymini has a good command of technique: her arms and torso, footwork and chakkars were executed with speed, accuracy and grace.  The only points she could work on are her balance (finishes with one leg raised could be wobbly), and controlling unnecessary side-to-side movement of the upper body. To retain stillness in the midst of brisk moves is a quality to strive for. 

In the abhinaya section, Jaymini danced to a thumri describing a stormy night causing unease as a woman awaits her lover. As the night turns into day, the mood of fear is lifted and replaced by relief and rejoicing, a universal feeling with which audiences, regardless of language barriers, could empathise. The concluding tarana pushed the performance into the over-long category. 

Aakrisht offers audiences an experience that is rich in sounds, colours and textures. Slightly cutting down the second half and integrating the sitar and tabla by creating spaces within a melodic composition for both to exist side by side could make the show even stronger.



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