‘Music is my love. And because it is my love, music has become my religion.’
June 22nd at the Union Chapel promises to be a spectacular evening. Picture the scene: two masters of Indian classical music collaborating in a breathtaking Victorian Gothic revival style church in Islington. The Chapel, originally built in 1799 to be a ‘Friend for all’ regardless of religion or race, aims to be a liberal, inclusive and non-conformist space. With its sublime architecture and acoustics, this looks to be the perfect setting to host Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on bansuri accompanied by Sri Sanju Sahai on tabla.
In the world of classical music and beyond, the much loved Chaurasia is something of a legend. A global superstar, he has taken on iconic status for his virtuosity on the bansuri. In addition to technical brilliance, he provides a transcendent and enriching experience for the listener with his soulful, evocative melodies.
His story isn’t short on sensation either. Born into a family of professional wrestlers, he was expected to follow suit. But from a young age, music called, and he began to study it in secret. A long and illustrious career in live performance, radio, and also Bollywood followed, featuring collaborations with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin, The Beatles, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, John McLaughlin and many more.
Two decades into his career, Panditji sought musical guidance from the famously reclusive but brilliant Annapurna Devi – daughter of musical Saint Baba Allauddin Khan, sister of the great sitar maestro Ali Akbar Khan, and also the first wife of the late Pandit Ravi Shankar. Though she had taken a vow many years ago never to perform her art, she is widely thought to be the greatest living authority on instrumental music.
By his own admission, he had to work hard for three long years to convince her to become his teacher. When she eventually accepted him, Panditji had to obliterate all musical knowledge he had acquired thus far, start afresh and even switch from playing with his right to his left hand. Having been under the tutelage of Annapurna Devi or ‘Ma’, as he reverentially refers to her, for some years now, he has said that he has found in her the living incarnation of the Goddess Saraswati. Certainly, she has taken him to greater and greater musical heights, transmuting his music to celestial realms.
As with all classical music, North Indian (Hindustani) music follows a certain set of rules. It’s governed by the raga system: melodic (rather than harmonic) structures adopted for the arrangement of notes, the rise and fall of sound and the interplay of melody with rhythm. However, within the parameters of this system, not unlike jazz, almost all of Indian classical music is totally improvised. Thus the experience of a live Indian classical concert is truly a unique and transient experience.
At the Union Chapel, Panditji will be accompanied by Sri Sanju Sahai, a prodigious talent and something of a doyen in the world of tabla. Sanju ji, currently the Head of the Benares School of Tabla, represents the sixth generation in an impressive lineage. A virtuoso tabla player, he is known for his powerful and breathtaking solos and his spontaneity, sensitivity and musicality as an accompanist. An internationally sought after tabla player, Sanju ji has collaborated and performed with artistes such as Ustad Sultan Khan, Akram Khan, Michael Nyman, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Birju Maharaj ji, Pandits Rajan and Sajan Misra, and many more.
When: Thursday 22 June 2017, 7pm
Where: Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN
More info: Union Chapel
By Anjali Khanna. Anjali is an artist and designer, who is passionate about South Asian art and culture.
Posted on 17 May 2017