Friday, July 31, 2009

Man who planted trees

I am going to see a one-act play today evening, despite having seen it thrice before. It is called 'Zade lavnaara manoos' by the students from Fergusson College in Pune. Earlier this year, they staged it for the Firodiya Trophy inter-collegiate competition and bagged a host of prizes.
The story is based on the French novel - Man who Planted Trees by Jean Giono (published in 1953 as the original French title L'homme qui plantait des arbres). It was translated in Marathi by Madhuri Purandare and the play is a stage adaptation of this version.
The story follows the narrative of a person who remains anonymous throughout. It traces his journeys and meeting with a lonely shepherd, Elezeard Bouffier, who single-handedly goes on planting trees in a desolate land, unmindful of the world around him, and without asking for anything in return. For many years, people believed that this was an autobiographical account by Giono, till in 1957 he declared that Bouffier was a fictional character. As per Giono, he simply wrote it because "The goal was to make trees likeable, or more specifically, make planting trees likeable."
Whether truth or fiction, it is a remarkable story indeed. And the stage adaptation does full justice to its narrative quality. The play is embellished by some superlative music and choreography, not to forget the innovative use of other art forms like painting and also origami.

I have the line of credits by heart but will refrain from giving the credit to any one person. It is truly a team-performance and no individual contribution can be compared over one other.
I hear that the tickets are sold out but if you are really keen, you could try your luck at Bhrat Natya Mandir tonight at 9.30 pm. If you aren't one of the lucky ones in the hall tonight, well, just pray that the group will stage it again very soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

No-frills music!

We live in a digital era and it is getting increasingly difficult to make out whether a medium is original or has been 'digitally reorganized'. During a recent trip to Jodhpur, we were staying at a little resort called Nirali Dhani. As is usual in Rajasthan, a cultural paegant showing local talent is on show in the evenings. There was a group of singers led by Sabir (playing the harmonium in the clip) who enthralled us for more than an hour with their superb rendering of Rajasthani folk, Sufi music, and the usual smattering of bollywood numbers. There is no microphone, no amplifier, no digital interference. (Yes, it is ironical that I have to resort to using digital means for getting this clip to readers.) The lead singer must be just about 13-14 years old - his singing left us spellbound. His voice spanned all three octaves with equal ease. But the best part was - he was enjoying his singing immensely. It was amazing how his clear sharp voice could easily carry over a long distance.
We couldn't help but fantasize what it would be like to hear this little gem of a singer out in the desert, his voice matching the beauty of the night sky and the sand dunes. Some day I hope to meet Sabir and his group again. He told me he has already toured Israel once and is off to France and other European countries later this year. All the best - Sabir! And thanks for a wonderful musical treat.
Don't miss the beauty of the initial alaap by the little fellow, his boyish enthusiasm at jumping to the first 'sam' and the climactic rhythm accompaniment on 'Khadtaal' at the end. Two days later we also were lucky enough to listen to another group - and this time in the real desert. More about that later. Sorry for the poor video quality. The clip was recorded by Prasad Bharadwaja on his cell phone. Throughout the trip, we were kicking ourselves at not having carried the handycam. That's a lesson - always carry the camera - you never know what you will get!
I have been trying to upload the video file of this (its an .avi file) for the past four days unsuccessfully. Finally managed to extract the audio track from it and posting it here. Is there any techno geek out there who can help me with this? The avi file is about 800 mB - is that too big to post on a blog? I never thought so. Anyway - listen to this.....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Music talent shows getting in-authentic

Ever since Sonu Nigam brought SaReGaMaPa to us many years ago, there has been a flood of music talent hunt shows. Some good, some average, but many terrible. The record for the most pathetic one is surely held by Sony's 'Fame Gurukul' that came on sometime in 2004-05 if I remember correctly. It should have been named FAKE Gurukul, honestly.
Recently, the episode of Marathi SRGMP - Aajcha Awaaj - concluded and am I glad it did! It was simply going from bad to worse with every passing day. The last episode of Li'l champs was a super hit and I think Zee Marathi wanted to ride on that wave of success. Unfortunately, it boomeranged completely. It was nowhere close to the Li'l Champs. (It is another matter that the five eventual winners of Li'l champs are suffering from over-exposure now and are themselves going downhill - but that's a digression. i will write more about that some other day.)
If anyone wants proof of the deterioration in quality of the program - here's ample of it. The same song - sung by Shamika Bhide of Li'l Champs and by Vibhavari Joshi of Aajcha Awaaj. See and hear for yourself. Shamika is flawless. Ok, nearly. Yes, in the last stanza she has slipped once, at the words 'mrutyunjay veera' but I don't hold it against her. Consider her age.

And now compare it with Vibhavari's rendering of the same song. Don't forget that she is supposed to be an accomplished singer who performs regularly on stage. In this performance she only quivers along throughout the song - and guess what, the judges are full of praise for her ! I am convinced (and I know there are many others too) that these shows are rigged. I never expected any authentic honest judgment by Suresh Wadkar and Hridaynath Mangeshkar anyway. They were in the show only as a mutual admiration society. (for Hridaynath, it was self-admiration society) But Ashok Patki also??? I definitely expected better from him, really.

One thing that really ticks me off in these shows is this business of sms vote. Yes - I understand the economics behind it - but does it not make the whole thing a farce eventually? The judges (and I am NOT referring to Wadkar and Mangeshkar!) toil through all the episodes to select candidates based on merit and after all this - the award goes to someone who gets most sms. Thats silly. It renders the whole purpose of these shows meaningless. Of course - maybe the purpose of these shows in the first place is only to generate revenue for the cellular operators and TV channels, and not to search and appreciate good musical talent! That way, they are doing an admirable job.....
I must acknowledge the two kind souls who have uploaded these videos on YouTube - metab25 for Shamika's and Bipolbo for Vibhavari's. I don't know who they are - but thanks!