Rama Sundar Ranganathan interpreted the Mahatma’s philosophy with warmth and expertise
The cool breeze and the mild rays of the morning sun welcomed music-lovers as they walked into the MCG open-air amphitheatre in Gurugram to discover the ‘Music of Charkha’.
The concert, organised by Kalagram in association with the Haryana government and the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti, featured Hindustani vocalist Rama Sundar Ranganathan alongside veteran Gandhian Vinod Kumar Handa (who turned 91 on October 2) and Kamaljeet Sangwan from Gandhi Hindustani Sahitya Sabhaon spinning the charkha.
The unique concert explored both the sound of the charkha and the beauty of morning ragas.
Rama, a Grade ‘A’ artiste of AIR and Doordarshan, initially trained in Carnatic music before pursuing Hindustani music under Shanti Sharma of the Indore Gharana. She was further trained by Pt. Tejpal Singh, a foremost disciple of Ustad Amir Khan, the founder of the gharana.
Introducing the theme of the concert, Rama explained the importance of the 11 vows that Gandhi used, like Satya, Ahimsa, Asteya, Aparigraha, etc., to guide him through life and how music and the charkha were integral to his philosophy.
The time was just perfect for Gujari Todi, when Rama created the serene atmosphere of the raag with a penetrating alap underscoring ‘Satya’, and sang ‘Satyameva Jayate’, composed as a madhya-laya bandish by her guru in Teentaal. This was followed by a Rubaidar tarana in the same raag, composed by Ustad Amir Khan with a Persian rubai (stanza) in antara (the second half of the composition) describing the essence of Sufism, quite similar to the theme of the concert.
Accompanied by Pt. Bharat Bhushan Goswami on the sarangi and on the tabla by Akhtar Hasan, Rama displayed her prowess while elaborating the bandish, ‘Satyameva Jayate’, with behelawas, bol-badhat, sargams and adorning even the tarana with sargam and aakar taans. She explored ‘Ahimsa’ and the other vows through several raags and rendered them with warmth and appeal.
During the course of the concert, she also touched upon aspects that inspired the Mahatma, for for instance, Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar. Rama then rendered ‘Maithreem bhajata’ in Ragamalika. The last line of the song, ‘Shreyo bhooyaath sakala janaanaam’, conveys the message that when one looks at others as oneself, ‘Atmavadeva paraanapi pashyata’, there will be no violence.
The Kabir bhajan, ‘Awwal Allah noor upaya, kudrat ke sab bande’ came next, composed by her guru in the sonorous swars of Hemant, and Rama reached the taar madhyam effortlessly. This was followed by Kamaljeet Sangwan talking about how the charkha not only provides occupation to many but is also a tool for meditation.
Rama took over with the Kafi of Bulle Shah with a metaphor of charkha and the original version of ‘Raghupati Raghava Rajaram’ written by Lakshmanacharya. She thoughtfully wove it with ‘Naadopasana’ composed by Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar in raag Jaijaiwanti. To mark the 75th year of Independence, Rama concluded with the Sanskrit shloka ‘Namami Dharani Mataram’ and ‘Vande mataram’ in raag Desh.
The Delhi-based author writes on classical music.