In which Musical Weekend Part 2 – Pune Wine Tasting and Bacardi NH7

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After revving up last Friday night in some Hindustani Classical Music, the line up on Saturday was even more interesting. I had been observing my twitter timeline being tagged with “#NH7” for whole of last week. It was only after I saw the advert on TV I could correlate, and it was impossible to believe that such an event is to be held in Pune!!!! That to in Koregaon Park, i mean give me a break ….! Plans were on for saturday afternoon, the girls and I were to attend the Pune Wine Tasting Festival, which was held in Koregaon Park again, yeah baby, KP was hot and happening for 11/12th December.

The line up for Wine tasting was great and who would not like to spend wintry Saturday in green lawns sipping on some of the best wines available. I usually like White wine and stuck to Sauvignon Blanc, Jacob’s Creek being one of my favorite. Though I was surprisingly addicted to Chenin from Vinsura and healthy variety Biowine which contains Ayurvedic hebs and tastes awesome, although some may think of it as typical medicine, but one has to acquire taste for wine. Poonam (_alps) as she is better known, Prutha and myself had decided to meet up for this event. It was a fine afternoon, when we reached the venue the atmosphere was in equally great spirits!!! I was meeting Poonam for first time and we had a lot of catching up to do :).

Prutha at the Grape Stomping

The grape stomping was the highlight of the evening, and organisers invited the guests to partake in this fun activity, although it was tempting I preferred to get the grape juice only in my stomach and not on my clothes. lots of chatting and sipping, _alps and I, finally called it a day as I was to go for the NH7 event later in the night. Now whoever said Pune is a laid back and boring city, was surely not at these places in December 2010!!

As the weekend approached, the buzz of NH7 was almost becoming a scream on twitter, one such was mine also which was heard by @dhempe and he managed to get me passes for both days…woooot, unexpected this was. So flushed from the wines I made it to NH7 venue, where 2 guest passes were promptly waiting for me. The highlights of this event for me were the performances by Indian Ocean and the Raghu Dixit Project. I enjoy music tremendously for them both. Indian Ocean I had watched them at Mood I in IIT Mumbai when Kandisa was just released and it was a rage. Seeing them again after almost 8 years was a resurrection. Before them was a fusion band lead by Susheela Raman, who played some kick ass numbers never heard before and although she sang in Tamil, it was superb fusion. Rise it higher and Mamavatu, I hope I got the names correct were mindblowing.

Indian Ocean
The most awaited band and aptly the close of event at the Dewarists stage were Indian Ocean, in between the change of bands after Susheela Raman finished on the Black Rock Stage we also got a slight glimpse of Raghu Dixit and what was on offer from them next day. Public demand asked for Hey Bhagwan and they did not disappoint, with a promise that closing on NH7 on Sunday will be a rocking one. Indian Ocean did not waste any time and had the crowds tapping their toes and then jumping around almost as soon as they started, Bandeh, their infamous song from Black Friday putting everyone in a trance. Going on to “Maa Reva” and some more songs from their soon to release album, the band ended on the all time favorite Kandisa, the song which plummeted them to glory.

Magic Numbers
On Sunday, I missed the band Swarathma, they are quite hot on the music scene now, and very highly recommended by a music buddy of mine. Rock bands like Midival Punditz and Asian Dub Foundation were to playing on the Eristoff Arena, but I chose to stick to Dewarist’s stage as the atmosphere was good and so was the crowd. Reached early before Raghu Dixit was to be on, to catch the closing of Magic Numbers, an alternate rock band from UK. They 2 pairs of brother sister duo and one of the sisters on the electric guitar was literally smoking it. We have often heard of Indian bands travelling abroad to phoren lands and getting appreciated there, this is what exactly happened to magic Numbers also. I was surprised to see an evolved audience and people who had hear them before. The band members announced that it was the best concerts ever at which they have played and great audience too, flattered yes but he was just being too modest.

Raghu Dixit
The most awaited gig of the evening was Raghu Dixit project, having seen a a dekko of them the previous evening, it was but the most appropriate close to the mind blowing weekend that NH7 had become. RDP came with their kitty full, and didnt waste any time in gearing up the audience with their most popular tracks, “Hey Bhagwan”, “Ambar”, “Mysore se Aayi”, “Gudugudiya Sedi Nodo” . They did have the new song about Mumbai too, but seems like will take some time to grow on me. My favorite among this list were Amber, Hey Bhagwan till i saw their Electronic Violin player who went like crazy when they sang “Mysore Se Aayi”. It was a fast paced 60minutes and not one boring moment throughout. Vishal Dadlani too joined in the crowd and Raghu made sure he acknowledged him in the crowd and thanked him for giving their folksy band a chance to bring out from the pandals to world stages, you will be surprised to know that RDP is 2nd most downloaded artists on ITunes in World Music Arena.

Overall the NH7 was superbly managed, the sound was world class and the stages was nothing like i have ever seen before, matching all norms of international standards. Each and every artist mentioned the hospitality and the arrangements that were made for them as awesome. We know that when going to a concert you dont want to be bogged down by lack of infrastructure and technical glitches, to keep an audience happy you simply need great music as promised and you bet this event lived up to its reputation. With a promise of being back again soon, the Dewarists arena at NH7 brought its curtains down and Pune witnessed a history in making.

In which Musical weekend part 1 – Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav

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” Music expresses that which cannot be said,and on which it is impossible to be silent – Victor Hugo “



So it was going to be a lot of action packed things to do over this particular weekend, all happening n Pune. It was hard to believe. Lots of events and programs happening all over the city, each one better than the other and none which could be missed.

First it was the coveted Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav, the mother of Indian Classical Festivals. My dream to attend one of these since a long time, and now that we had shifted to Pune, there was no point in giving any reasons for missing it. It was on from the 9th Dec – 12th Dec, and many well known artists like Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Begum Parveen Sultana, Pandit Vishwamohan Bhat, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Rajan Sajan Mishra and Prabha Atre were to perform. Although it was going to be difficult to make it for all 4  days, Friday the 10th seemed liek the best choice for us as Pt.Vishwamohan Bhat and Jasraj Ji were to perform in second half of the day.

The preps had begun a day before, with me running pillar to post to acquire tickets, having heard from friends how difficult it was to get hold of the passes and unaware of whereabouts of shops where they are sold, I was aiming in blind to get entry here. Checked with some of my Pune tweeps and confirmed from them that tickets were sold at the venue also. This was a relief. Made plans with Adi to leave for the venue after work on Friday. It was only past 6.45 but winter evenings made it seem more later and we walked into the RamanBagh Prashala at the New English High School. An open Pandal, with silken sounds of lilting music from the Mohan Veena devouring the air. Our tickets stated “भारतीय बैठक” which literally meant sit wherever there is place.

Image courtesy - E sakaal

A good look at the crowds and almost 60% of spectators, sitting on the ground, many had their own mattresses with them, some making do with the flooring mats arranged by the organisers. From where I was standing Panditji looked almost like a dwarf, although the projection arrangement was wonderful. Spread across the arena were large LCD monitors and screens where one could comfortably sit and watch almost like a home television environment. Many would argue the fact that if it has to be watched on TV then why go through so much trouble. But the high of being in the crowd and absorbing that musical bliss is what is so tempting. I could see senior members in spectators, those probably battling with aching bones and arthritis (the cold weather must have surely made it a bit worse), but still giving the much deserved “दाद ” for every scintillating high note Panditji touched with his Veena. It was even more encouraging to see many youngsters in the crowd, with the festival in its 58th year and well known among the connoisseurs of hindustani music, it is no surprise that  tickets were at discounted prices for college students. This is the ongoing effort to conserve traditional and cultural gems such as Classical music and nurture future generations. It is important for youngsters to be acquainted with all forms of Art and appreciate them.

Courtesy Time of India

Jugalbandi of maestros

We decided to stand and wait till end of Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhats and Ustad Sreenivasan’s jugalbandi. This duo, with Panditji on the Mohan Veena and the young Ustad closely following him with the Mandolin was accompanied on the tabla by Pandit Vijay Ghate. It was like a musical symposium on stage. Mesmerising to watch and listen to. Soul stirring “आलाप” and hair raising melodies, I am sure it was the raag Yaman Kalyan or Shyam kalyan, but  the जुगलबंदी between the two only left the audience asking for more, which Panditji duly acknowledged and played for exactly four more minutes. This time of course he had the audience swaying to the bhajan “वैष्णव जन तो”, what a perfect close to the duel.

The crowds consisted of people from all over India, all music enthusiasts; some practioners and  some evangelists, like they say for every Tansen there also have to be some Kaansen. The elderly friend dup sitting besides us had been attending the Mahotsav for over 15 years. Now retired and originally not from Pune, they made it a point to come here annually. I met people who has come from Rajkot, Goa, Mumbai, Jaisalmer, Dharwad and the likes. I was told that most people in the audience were from out of station, some did not even have a place to stay and most of them camped at the venue itself. Monumental commitment, I respect all of these people hugely. There was a diary being passed around in the audience, someone who had been attending the festival for almost a decade now was asking the people from the audience to share their experiences. I was privileged to have written mine, it has now been recorded somewhere in history.

Darbari Kanada

Image Courtesy Times of India

Next on was Pandit Jasraj, the octogenarian duly accompanied by his disciples on the Veena, harmonium and the Tabla. In classic Pandit Jasraj style, he first began with an anecdote of his first encounter with Pt.Bhimsen Joshi. It is so humbling to hear such generous praise and humility for each other amongst these maestros. Contemporaries in their own right, but never adversaries. After addressing the audience as form of God, “ईश्वर”  and raising is hands in salutation to all with a devotional “जय हो!! “, he began to knit the Darbari Kanada with Chamundeshwari Shloka. Although the sound arrangements, especially the mike was a constant interruption with Panditji for first 10 – 15 minutes, he continued. He even tried to explain in Marathi what he wanted, but the sound guys was unable to adjust it rightly, so he blatantly decided to use only one mike. Such is the resilience of great artists, such small debacles do not stop them attempting to  their task. Panditji was well aware of how long the audience had been waiting for him and he was in no mood of disappointing them. Stating time and again of how appreciative he is of the organizers and calling the event “आपला सवाई महोत्सव”, he struck the right chord with the audience. Hitting extremely low notes in his आलाप, and the minute हर्कातेन, which is the highlight of his vocal performance, he had the audience captivated. The Darbari being a very intense raagas, one gets completely immersed into it and it was so obvious with deep devotional rendition that almost seemed like coming from straight from his heart. Panditji was so impressed with his harmonium accompanist, that in the middle of his own singing, he stopped to compliment him saying , “बेटा आज तुम्हारे हाथ में अब्बाजी आ गये!!”. Such small nuances mark the makings of a great human and an even greater artist.

Panditji is known to be deeply devotional, in last 10 minutes that  were remaining he promised to play for 20 minutes, this was another one of his bhajans, “ओम नामोह गणपतेय वासुदेवाय” the sounds of which are still echoing in my head. It was almost like he had attained his Nirvana on stage when he went into the chants of “विठ्ठला विठ्ठला”. It was difficult to hold back those tears that rolled down, his calling to the God was so overwhelming that it suddenly seemed to have cleared and purified the air around. I almost did not want him to stop, but as is customary and keeping with the police regulations, the event for that day promptly came to a close. A crowd of well over 3000 people, all huddled up in their places were captivated by the sounds of the evening. Everyone,I am sure carried a part of the magic that we all witnessed that evening.