Swara Samrat Festival: Classical goes digital

Outdoor music festivals have been cancelled, no one knows when they would start, but Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, Kolkata-based renowned sarod player, his wife, vocalist Dr Manasi Majumdar, their son sarod player Indrayudh Majumdar, have been organising Swara Samrat Festival for the last nine winters in Kolkata, and the pandemic is not stopping them from giving the fest a shot in a totally new avatar.

Embracing digital is the “new normal” and 100 top music legends and Indian classical music maestros are coming together to perform for the biggest digital fundraiser music and dance festival. “In COVID-19 times, musicians and dancers wouldn’t be able travel from one city to another, therefore, we have shot in five cities namely Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune and Bengaluru. I’m very happy that along with 18 topmost musicians and dancers of the country, we will also present 18 best performances of the young budding musicians,” says Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, while adding that the festival will also raise money for those musicians in the country who have been severely economically affected by the pandemic for the last seven-eight months. “These musicians don’t have any concerts and we still don’t know when things will normalise for those musicians. So we would like to also help and support them.”

The 9th season of the Swara Samrat Festival 20-21 dedicated to Sarod Legend Swara Samrat Ustad Ali Akbar Khan will feature 36 stellar performances by musicians such as Kaushiki Chakraborty, Bickram Ghosh, Kushal Das (in Kolkata), Ulhas Kashalkar (in Pune), N Rajam (in Mumbai), Rajendra Gangani (in Delhi), Mysore Manjunath and Mysore Nagaraj, Pravin Godkhindi, Jayanthi Kumaresh and Rukmini Vijayakumar (in Bengaluru).

Classical music has gone through many changes over the decades, and has successfully grabbed the attention of youngsters too. With the digital format this year, many young musicians are on the show. One of them is vocalist Anubhab Khamaru from Kolkata, the youngest to perform at the festival. He states, “It was only my guruji Pt Ajoy Chakraborty whose guidance has made me what I am today. I’d like to pay my gratitude to the organisers of SSF giving me a chance to perform with the great maestros.”

Renowned tabla player Bickram Ghosh can’t wait to perform at the digital music festival, his Drums of India which will showcase four drummers of the country. “There’s me on the tabla, V Suresh on the clay pot, B Rajshekar on the morsing and Gopal Barman on the Sri Khol. We are playing a nine beat cycle at the beginning and then a longer piece. It’s a super exciting concert, with drum jams, solos and drum tradeoffs, which is not usually seen in the North Indian concert stage. He also states that the digital avatar has gone a step ahead to reach thousands and lakhs of people across the globe. “That’s the fun of the digital medium. Even when the pandemic is over, the digital avatar will still remain.”

While many in the music industry have been in depression due to loss of work and an uncertain future, Padma Bhushan violin virtuoso Dr N Rajam appeals to budding musicians and dancers to utilise this festival as a ‘great opportunity’ to move on. “We are all aware that the entire world is facing an unprecedented situation. But have we not been taught time and again by our great traditions, sanskaars and spiritual masters to rise up to situations instead of lamenting over what is unavoidable. I would appeal, in particular, to the young, aspiring, upcoming and talented artistes of our country to utilize this great opportunity provided by nature to turn inwards, engage themselves in some in-depth thinking and emerge as a great force for the entire world to follow,” says the 82-year-old legend.

But the big question. With the lockdown being lifted gradually, would the pattern of the festival change if the lockdown is lifted? “Yes we will surely change the pattern of the festival if the lockdown is lifted. The online shows will be an add-on to the festival. We would then upload the content on our platform, for anyone to watch the shows. There is no substitute to physical concerts, all our musicians would love to have the audience back,” says Pt Majumdar.

Besides the performances by illustrious musicians, the organisers are also holding a Global Digital Competition named SSF Championship.

36 CONCERTS: 4 months – Rs 999 (valid for 1 Year)

10 CONCERTS: 1 month – Rs 299

1 CONCERT: Rs 99

TICKETS AVAILABLE AT: www.swarasamrafetival.

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Free Press Journal