A balancing act between art for popularity and art for self discovery – interweaving Dhrupad compositions of Tansen with contemporary movement inspired by his life.
Performers: Sajan Sankaran on Dhrupad Vocal, Lucile Belliveau in Contemporary dance, and Ramesh Chandra Joshi on Pakhawaj, with the direction of Akhshay Gandhi
Miyan Tansen was an extremely accomplished musician, playing in the courts of Mughal emperors in the 16th century. Many know his name, but only few realise that he was a practitioner of the Dhrupad form of Indian Classical Music. This performance brings together Dhrupad music and contemporary dance in an abstract exploration of a fictional narrative inspired by Tansen’s life.
The performance – through its 4 chapters – takes us through an experience of 4 possible inner states of an artist, drawing inspiration from various features and anecdotes of Tansen’s life. Each chapter features a Dhrupad alap (non-textual improvised exploration of the chosen Raga) followed by a composition written by Tansen himself in the 15/16th century along with contemporary movement from the 21st century.
The first stage of the making of any artist is the time spent in disciplined practice and contemplation. The impact of an artist’s work is directly proportional to the time spent in this state. What gets labelled or even dismissed as ‘talent’ is actually nothing else but extended engagement with the form in this state.
Raga Bhairav – an early morning Raga – is traditionally considered a Raga that musicians begin with, and sustain as a practice throughout their musical lives. The composition “Saghana Bana Chaayo” juxtaposes a description of the natural beauty around Akbar’s court with musical descriptions of Dhrupad and the Raga Bhairav.
Performance – Raga Gurjari Todi
Tansen is one the nine gems of Akbar’s court, widely renowned as the finest musician across all kingdoms. As the court musician of Akbar, many of his compositions are in praise of the emperor’s benevolence and might.
Raga Gurjari Todi is a late morning Raga and the composition “Tero Bala Prataapa” is one such paean to Akbar. The mood of the composition is captured through choreography drawn from the majestic form of Kalaripayattu.
Dissolution – Raga Megh
A popular anecdote narrates how Tansen was instigated by a rival musician to sing the mythical Raga Deepak. Tansen was known to light lamps by singing this melody, which could fatally heat the singer’s body as well. Tansen, overcome by his ego, was on the verge of burning himself to death. It was his daughter’s timely rendition of the monsoon Raga Megh that cooled him down and saved his life.
Raga Megh is a seasonal Raga of the monsoon time, and the composition “Prabala Dala Saaja” is Tansen’s prayerful description of the cleansing showers.
Devotion – Raga Poorvi
Another popular anecdote narrates how Akbar, on enquiring if there was any singer better than Tansen, was taken by Tansen to listen to his Guru – Swami Haridas. Though Akbar could only listen to him standing outside his hut disguised as a commoner, he was convinced that Swami Haridas was indeed a much better singer. On asking Tansen how it was possible, he replied, “I sing for you, O King! He sings for God.”
Raga Poorvi is a late evening Raga, and the composition “Mahadeva Devanapati” is a tribute to Lord Shiva.
Lucille Belliveau (France): Lucile is a dancer and choreographer, interested in sincerity, honesty and full presence to the instant. She first studied contemporary dance and ballet at Iwanson school of contemporary dance in Munich, Germany. She nourishes her movement language by introspection and contemplation as well as intense physical work that encompasses contemporary dance techniques (Gaga, contact improvisation,…), physical theater, circus and Indian classical forms such as Kalaripayattu and Kuchipudi. In 2017, she founded the Catastroflux company with experimental musician Floriane Dardard to conduct multi-artistic exploration and pedagogical projects. Their last pieces were “Absurd Journey” created in Munich and Bangalore, “A l’heure où scintille la tuile” with a group of amateurs in a historical site in France and “Mes mots sont jaunes comme la tendresse”. Lucile also draws inspiration from her previous neuroscience research and has a deep connection to music by playing Middle Eastern and Western double bass and singing Dhrupad.
Sajan Sankaran (India): Sajan discovered his interest for Indian Classical Music whilst doing his BTech from IIT Bombay, and was introduced to this world by excellent teachers like Shri Harshal Pulekar and Prof Milind Malshe – who also introduced him to the Dhrupad form of Indian music. On discovering Dhrupad, he decided to shift into a full time study of this form, and was fortunate to be accepted as a full time student by Padma Shri Gundecha Brothers – the leading Dhrupad performers and Gurus today. He has been learning at their Gurukul in Bhopal since 2013, and has won many scholarship awards for his musical merit including ICMA San Francisco’s Indian Music award, Ministry of Culture’s scholarship and the NCPA Scholarship for Dhrupad musicians. He has accompanied his Gurus as well as performed solo recitals on many platforms and is also finding newer spaces of expression and engagement for Dhrupad through his association with Naadyata Foundation and Still Space Theatre.
Ramesh Chandra Joshi (India) : Ramesh started learning Pakhawaj full time at Gurukul – Dhrupad Sansthan Bhopal from Pt. Akhilesh Gundecha in 2008, before which he used to learn and play Tabla in Varanasi. He also did his MA (Acharya) in Sanskrit. He has since evolved into one of the finest Pakhawaj players of the upcoming generation, having given solo Pakhawaj renditions as well as accompanying senior Dhrupad musicians at prestigious platforms across the country. He is associated with the Dhrupad Sankula in Bengaluru, and is an associated artist with the Sunaad group – which stages Dhrupad based musical narrative performances of various spiritual texts. Apart from travelling actively for concerts, he splits his time between Delhi and Bengaluru, where he teaches Pakhawaj and accompanies the practice of the Dhrupad Gurukul branches at both places.
Still Space Theatre – Still Space Artists creates compelling & relevant artistic work; developed through rigorous process of research, exploration & creation phases. We align our efforts to nurture artists through conducive environment, function as a theatre laboratory and bringing arts to non-artistic spaces. Led by Akhshay Gandhi, our recent works include Kaavad Katha, Burn My Diaries & Clearing the Rubble performed at Spoken Fest (Mumbai) Encate Arts (San Francisco), US universities, RangaShankara (Bangalore) & Tamaasha Studio (Mumbai), Actor’s training program and Art of Speaking masterclasses.
Catastroflux – Catastroflux is a professional performance company based in Frazé, in Eure-et-loir (28), France. Our stated goal is to create contemporary yet accessible performances, to facilitate the collaboration between artists of various backgrounds and to do cultural mediation. We foster interactions with all audiences through collaborative performance projects, meetings with the artists and public performances. We want to improve access to culture in rural areas and to continue our work in France and internationally.