Under the glow of a full moon, a couple of years ago, on the roof of a house in south Bangalore, we were invited to sit down to beladingala oota which translates to dinner in the moonlight. In the old days, on balmy evenings, the entire family would sit out in the courtyard and dine al fresco. It would get cosier when the matriarch of the family would dispense with plates and would make little balls of spicy rice that she would drop into the cupped hands of the children and adults. Tales would be told, songs sung, legs pulled and much gaiety would ensure until lulled by the breeze, eyes would start to droop.
Lured by nostalgia and the fact that the host was a music aficionado, we went along and were quickly drawn into the warmth of the informal gathering. Musicians , some eminent, some amateur took turns singing and playing. As the night grew young, a young man came over and mesmerised everyone with his skill on the tabla. He was enjoying what he was playing – it was obvious from his impish eyes and smile. Someone said that the lad was a maverick genius. He later came up and introduced himself as the son an eminent photographer, KG Somsekhar, with whom I had the honour of working as a cub reporter in a local newspaper.
Reconnecting with the young man recently, we found that he was a serious player of classical Hindustani music and taught people who were old enough to be his parents. One thing had not changed – he walked his own path, unafraid and with complete devotion to music that he believes is a divine gift. In a world that forces conformity, it is rare to find a free spirit. It can be mistaken for arrogance but it is actually courage of conviction and unwavering dedication.
Last Sunday, we were proud to host a mehfil showcasing this young tabla wizard, Trilochan Kampli and a vocalist with a sublime voice, Kumar Mardur, as an initiative of Under the Raintree.
With engaging manners and stage presence, Trilochan captivated the audience in an interactive session. Having earlier trained with Pandit Basavaraj Bendigeri, Kampli is presently a disciple of Pandit Anand Badamikar of Farukhabad gharana. He is a soloist and accompanies many stalwarts of Indian classical music, and plays light classical and fusion music too.
At the mehfil, he began his solo with a peshkar in teen tal – this composition allows the player to express himself through various musical phrases, unlike other compositions that have fixed phrases. Next, he played a few kaydas, traditional compositions that have fixed phrases and all the permutations and combinations are executed within the phraseology. After this, he played a couple of gaths and chakradars in drut teen tal (fast tempo).
The second session featuring vocalist Kumar Mardur transported the audience to a different world. Hailing from the rich musical tradition of Dharwad, Mardur started with Raag purya dhanasri singing a vilambit khayal and dhrut khayal followed by a taraana. Next, he sang two compositions in Megh Malhar , apt for the season, and concluded with a Basava vachana in Raag Bhairavi.
Kumar trained with his father Pandit Somanath Mardur, a renowned Hindustani Classical Vocalist of the Kirana Gharana. He currently teaches music at the ITC Sangeeth Research Academy, Kolkat
Satish Kolli who accompanied them on the harmonium was equally proficient, anchoring the musicians through the evening. Kolli trained initially with Pandit Kanakapur and presently is a discipleof Pandit Vyasamurti Katti.
The audience comprised about 70 keen music lovers. So inspired was artist Anil Kumar by the music that he drew nearly two dozen sketches, making the evening a confluence of creativity.
The brand new gallery opened by Atmaram Gangaram was the perfect venue for an evening of music. Dr Ken Gnanakan, ACTS founder and chancellor, and his son Santosh Gnanakan, ACTS CEO (better known as RJ Saggy), are steeped in Western music and support music in all forms. They were happy to help us honour the musicians, as did another old friend Sanjay Raj of Golden Gate properties.