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So, after the Sawai left a lasting impression on the minds of music lovers in the city, it was time for SwaraZankar to replicate that in the beginning of the year. 2014 truly began with the start of this festival and it left music lovers going gaga over the performances they witnessed.

SwaraZankar was back for the 5th time in Pune and though relatively new, the festivals only keeps on getting bigger and better. This time, the list of performers was truly wonderful and something the organisers can definitely brag about. Organised by Violin Academy under the wonderful violinist Pandit Atulkumar Upadhye, the festival began on January 10 at New English School Ground, Ramanbaug (the same place where the Sawai was held at and where Vasantotsav is being held).

The festival began with the vocal performance of Smt. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande. The doyen of Jaipur-Atrauli gharana impressed like always, her soulful voice giving a wonderful start to the festival. She was accompanied by Ramdas Palsule. Though the first day also had the Grammy Award winning Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, a low response was witnessed. Comparing to the Sawai, which was always packed and crowded on all days, Swar Zankar left quite some space for the audiences to relax and move around. No tussles for space, no big lines at the food stalls (though during breaks it would be crowded, but nothing compared to the grand festival). After a 20-30 minute break, the Grammy Award winner sat down for his performance. He was accompanied by his son Salil Bhatt on the Satwik Veena while Pune’s very own Vijay Ghate accompanied the duo on Tabla. The Mohan Veena, a stringed instrument invented by the Grammy award winner himself, was the highlight of the day. The accompaniments too did a wonderful job of matching up with the master and the performance gave the audiences an all new high.

The second day had everyone talking and for a reason. It had two of the greatest performers gracing the stage on the same day. The day began with the soulful rendition of the flute by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasiya. Though age has caught up with the maestro and playing an instrument that requires one’s breath to be at the optimum and in complete sync, Panditji still has the ability to create magic. Despite his age, his greatness and mastery over the instrument is legendary, still reminding one of stories of Lord Krishna and his flute. After another big break, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma took center stage. He main act gives him the respect and admiration of the audience, that of Santoor magic. The beautiful sounds of the instrument are only amplified by Shivji’s talent. Though with a few problems with the sound system, the performance was memorable and day 2 of Swar Zankar would be the highlight of the event.

Though I doubted Sunday would even match up to the amazing levels of Day 2, but I was pleasantly surprised. What began with the beautiful voice of Begum Parveen Sultana was a wonderful start to a Sunday evening. The singer, who performed in the city during Sawai as well, recreated the magic once again. The artiste mentioned how Punekars are her favourite audience, what she missed out was how much Punekar’s love her performances too. No wonder people chose to spend their valuable Sunday evening listening to her performance.  Later, Shivamani and his thousand different instruments, Mukesh Jadhav and his tabla, Atul Raninga on the keyboard and the great violinist himself, Pandit Atulkumar Upadhye took the stage by storm. Though Shivamani would be the favourite of the audience, for her could play the beats on just about anything, water drums, suitcases and what not! However, Mukesh Jadhav wasn’t someone to lose heart and gave him a tough competition with his mastery over the tabla. It’s a shame I never heard of him, because he managed to totally impress me with a single performance. The keyboardist too played his part to perfection. Atulkumarji and his violin remained soulful in the fusion of beats and not to be outdone, he too showed his skills and caught speed with the others. Catching up to the tempo set by Shivamani and Mukesh Jadhav with a violin is like catching up to a Lamborghini with a Fiat Padmini Premire. That makes Atulkumar Upadhye the great violinist he is, for he can take on the fast beats while still retaining the soulful melody of the violin. The fusion performance was truly one of the best I ever witnessed.

SwaraZankar has come a long way in just 5 years. It has spread over various cities and comes back to Pune to enthrall its crowd. This year might have been their best till date.

Image Credits: Sana Sohoni

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