The many shades of harmony and goodwill at Basant Bahar 2023

On March 12, the Cary Art Center was filled with the warm embrace of a spring day as the mayors and councilmen of Cary, Morrisville, and Apex came together with the community for Hum Sub’s March event, Basant Bahar 2023. The aptly titled Ritu RangThe Many Shades of Spring showcased music and dance that transcends cultures and languages in a true celebration of diverse colors.

The program started with Sadbhavana (or goodwill), a unique ensemble of vocal and instrumental music. This was a musical experiment conceptualized jointly by Mridanga Vidwan Sri Sudhindra Rao and Dr. Nathan Leaf, Director of Choral activities at North Carolina State University. It started with the chanting of Shanti Mantra, the declaration of universal peace. As the voice of a hundred chorus singers of the Concert Singers of Cary began to rise and fall with the Carnatic instrumentalist melodies on Veena, Sitar, Violin and flute, it was a treat not just for the ears but a visual treat as well. The next piece was Pandit Ravi Shankar’s Tarana, a Hindustani composition by Amir Khusro that combines non-lyrical vocal music with syllables borrowed from instruments such as Sitar and Tabla. The program proceeded to entertain a spellbound audience with diverse compositions such as Rabindranath Tagore’ Gitanjali adapted for a chant-like Western musical piece by composer Craig Hella Johnson; Swaagat composed by Victor Paranjoti as a choir song of universal greeting and peace; Raghuvamsha Sudha kriti composed by Patnam Subrahmanyam Iyer in the energizing kadana kutoohala raga; and “English Notes” composed by Muthiah Bhagavatar that adapts Western notes for Carnatic music. The impromptu rhythmic dialogue among the percussionists on Mridanga, Tabla, Pakhvaj, and Kanjira showcased the energy, skills, and creativity of the artists, with its  complex time cycle. This segment, which   concluded with a calming devotional bhajan, Vaishnava Jana To , was beautifully narrated by Ajit Kallambella.

Transitioning to the dances, the first offering was, Taali se Taal tak,’ a creative piece that explored how a simple concept – clap or taali – is a language by itself. No other music was employed. Against the background of pin drop silence rose a cluster of intricate, rhythmic claps narrating a gripping story, to which moved the expressive bodies in perfect harmony.  The concept, choreography, and direction was by Seema Vishwanath with able assistance from Shraddha Krishnamurthy, Chitra Verma, Sandeep Hattangadi, Psalms White, and Celenia Macklin.

Next came Aabhooshanani Vibhooshanam, a breathtaking dance performance that showcased the four elements of abhinaya (use of body for artistic expression) as illustrated in the classic, Natya Shastra.  Bharatanatyam and Kathak were interwoven with  contemporary dance for a masterful display of technical skills and artistic expressions through the graceful movements of more than 40 dancers on stage creating a mesmerizing and unforgettable experience. The various contrasting elements of Hindu puranic Gods were beautifully brought to life highlighting the age-old Hindu philosophy of  “Many Paths, One Truth.” The dance was choregraphed by Sridevi Jagannath, Kriti Rakesh, and Vandana Ranjan. The music was directed by Ravichandra Kulur.

No celebration of spring can be complete without a Krishna Leela in it. Various stories of Krishna were beautifully told in the Kathak style. The dance was conceptualized and directed by Roopa Luktuke Godbole. Sandeep Hattangadi’s energetic tabla and Anita Kulkarni’s melodious harmonium playing complemented the performance. 

The last dance was a superb Bharatanatyam production Sivaarpanam, directed and choreographed by Govardhani Babu. It started with the telling of the story of the churning of the ocean and Shiva swallowing the poison to save the world. There were  many more exuberant tales of lord Shiva to keep the audience in thrall. The portrayal of ardhanaareeswara symbolizing the perfect union of male and female was very skillfully presented. The depiction of the subjugation of Apasmara by Shiva in his Nataraja form and the energetic dance bho shambo  were a perfect conclusion to a Basant Bahar program that was a treat to the connoisseur and uplifted every spirit.

Kudos to Hum Sub for bringing this program to our community!

Ravi Ravishankar

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