Concert: Bolava Vitthal
Singers: Jayateerth Mevundi, Devaki Pandit, Shankar Mahadevan
Date and Venue: July 26, Shanmukhananda Hall, Mumbai
AS expected, the Shanmukhananda Hall was jampacked on Sunday evening. In fact, many were forced to walk in 15 or 20 minutes late because of the bad traffic outside and the serpentine queue at the gate. But then, this was the Bolava Vitthal concert of abhangs, which over the past 10 years has now established itself as one of the most awaited annual concerts in Mumbai.
Organised by Pancham Nishad to mark Aashadhi Ekadashi, the festival has evolved into a 12-city tour this year, with the addition of Vadodara and Ahmedabad. While the Shanmukhananda show featured Shankar Mahadevan, Jayateerth Mevundi and Devaki Pandit, the concert at Thane the following day was to have Suresh Wadkar, Ranjani-Gayatri and Mevundi.
Like is the case every year, many similar abhang concerts are held in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra around this time. On Sunday evening, Happy Lucky Entertainment hosted an evening featuring Wadkar, Manjusha Kulkarni-Patil, Mandar Apte and Amruta Kale at the Dinanath Mangeshkar Hall in Vile Parle. On Monday, Pt Bhimsen Joshi’s son Shrinivas was scheduled in a show organised by Shanmukhananda.
Sunday’s event in Sion lasted over four hours. This included the launch of the book ‘Bolava Vitthal’, and the guests of honour were minister of state Prakash Javadekar, Vidyachaspati Shankar Abhyankar and noted theatre and film personality Vijaya Mehta.
The evening began with the customary ‘Gajar’, where all the musicians got together and chanted. However, this writer was still stuck in the queue at that time, and reached his seat only when Shankar Mahadevan was about to begin.
Mahadevan’s fare did not restrict itself to abhangs, as he began with his popular ‘Gananayakaya Ganadaivataya’, dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Next up was ‘Baaje re muraliya baaje’, which had a wonderful sawaal-jawaab with extra-talented flautist Varad Kathapurkar.
Mahadevan’s last piece was a beauty. A unique composition depicting a devotee’s journey to Pandharpur, it was structured wonderfully by Mahadevan who incorporated well-known pieces like ‘Bhagyada Lakshmi baarama’ and ‘Maajhe maaher Pandhari’, before ending with a brilliant ‘Vitthal Vitthal’ climax. The inclusion of Raj Sodha on saxophone lent an interesting twist.
Devaki’s recital came after the book launch. She was technically in fine element on two pieces regularly sung by her guru, the late Pt Jitendra Abhisheki – ‘Natha ghari nache mazha sakha Pandurang’ and ‘Tati ughada Dhnaneshwar’. But the maximum applause was reserved for ‘Bolava Vitthal pahava Vitthal’, which the crowd asked her to repeat.
Mevundi, as always, was a treat to hear. Since he arrived on the scene in the early 2000s, the Kirana gharana exponent has really evolved as one of India’s leading male classical singers. The Bhimsen Joshi influence is there undoubtedly, but Mevundi has matured tremendously and developed his own style and identity. His command over the swaras and those sudden bursts of energy in the higher register are simply outstanding.
The only complaint, probably, was that Mevundi repeated last year’s set list, singing ‘Visava Vitthal’, ‘Akaar ukaar makaar’ and ‘Rajas sukumar’, before concluding with the crowd favourite ‘Bhagyada Lakshmi baarama’. Each song was stylishly and perfectly rendered, though one missed the other great song ‘Teertha Vitthal’.
In the end, it was another memorable evening that left music lovers on a high. This concert – and for that matter any evening of abhangs – has the ability to take you to another planet, another universe.