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Auckland was treated to an unforgettable experience, as two of Hindustani music’s contemporary greats, Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar and Jayateerth Mevundi, performed back-to-back concerts earlier this month. This was a rare opportunity for music lovers in Auckland to witness two of the most accomplished classical vocalists of our time performing live.

Both Ankalikar-Tikekar and Mevundi are considered among the most outstanding exponents of Hindustani classical music, known for their exceptional vocal abilities, impeccable musicianship, and deep understanding of the genre’s intricacies. Their performances were a true celebration of the richness and diversity of Hindustani classical music, showcasing the depth and range of this magnificent art form.

Ankalikar-Tikekar’s performance on 17 March was marked by her clear and powerful vocals, which conveyed a wide range of emotions with great depth and nuance. Her renditions of classic Hindustani raags were imbued with a rare sensitivity and an ability to evoke the true essence of each raag.

However, there were some issues with the sound system, which occasionally made it difficult to fully appreciate the nuances of Tikekar’s performance, with also a few interruptions having to tune up the accompanist’s tabla a tad too often mid-concert.

Jayateerth Mevundi’s performance (18 March) was equally impressive, as he effortlessly demonstrated his virtuosic command over a range of raags and compositions based on them. His soulful renditions marked by his mastery over the gamut of Hindustani classical music’s melodic and rhythmic nuances. Once again, the acoustics of the auditorium did not always do justice to Mevundi’s exceptional vocals, as some parts of his performance were muddled due to the hall’s suboptimal sound quality.

One of the notable aspects of the performances by both the stalwarts in Auckland was that they both seemed to tailor their repertoire to suit the local audience. Rather than presenting long-form classical pieces that can be challenging for audiences unfamiliar with Hindustani classical music, both artistes opted for shorter, pacy pieces that were more accessible, save for one longish piece each to begin with.

It was evident that both Ankalikar-Tikekar and Mevundi understood the need to adapt their performances to the audience they were performing for. They recognised that many in the audience may not have been familiar with the intricacies of Hindustani classical music and may have found longer pieces challenging to appreciate fully.

Ankalikar-Tikekar presented lighter pieces from a several genres, her selections ranging from playful compositions to more contemplative and introspective pieces, showcasing the wide range of emotions and moods.

Mevundi regaled and impressed the largely bilingual Marathi-Kannada audience with soulful devotionals in both languages with a couple of well-known traditional bhajans in Hindi.

While some purists may argue that this approach may dilute the essence of Hindustani classical music, it is essential to recognise that artistes must adapt to the context they are performing in. By presenting a more accessible repertoire, Ankalikar-Tikekar and Mevundi were able to introduce the audience to the beauty and complexity of Hindustani classical music without overwhelming them.

Ankalikar-Tikekar was accompanied by Wellington’s Sanjay Dixit on tabla and Aucklander Samir Bhalodkar on samvadini with her Auckland-based student Kishori Telang lending vocal support along with playing the tanpura. Mrunal Niphadkar played the other tanpura. Auckland percussionist Basant Madhur accompanied Mevundi on tabla with Bhalodkar on the samvadini.

The Migrant Heritage Charitable Trust (MigHT-I) hosted Ankalikar-Tikekar and the New Zealand Kannada Koota hosted Mevundi. Arati-Ankalikar was recently awarded the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award by the President of India. Both concerts were supported by the Centre for Indian Performing Arts (CIPA) and the Mohan Nadkarni Foundation.

While in New Zealand she also performed in Christchurch and at the Indian High Commission auditorium in Wellington. Both artistes performed in Melbourne as well.

First appeared in the Indian Weekender of April 3, 2023