Utpal Borpujari

April 7, 2009

Listening to the ‘khanak’ of dance and music

Filed under: Deccan Herald,Indian Classical,Media,Music — Utpal Borpujari @ 7:12 pm
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By Utpal Borpujari


Even as a child, Bageshree Vaze would try to compose dance steps based on any song she would hear, and as she grew up, her love for both the arts sort of merged, leading to her emergence as a trained classical dancer and singer. Now, taking this double love one more step ahead, Canada-based Vaze has come up with Khanak, an album comprising musical pieces that can be used by classical dancers to perform with.


Primarily a Kathak exponent, Vaze has a pop album to her credit and is also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer, making her eminently qualified to try out her hand at an album like “Khanak” which seeks to be a help to dancers who, more often than not due to financial constraints, cannot have live musicians travel with them for performances. With compositions created by stalwarts like Pandit Birju Maharaj, Panditt Kishan Maharaj, Pandit C R Vyas, Pandit Balwantrai Bhatt and Veena Sahasrabuddhe as its strength, the album comprises ten pieces ranging from an invocation of Lord Ganesh, a bhajan, shlokas from the Bhagwad Geeta, taranas, thillana, bandish and rhythmic passages of Kathak.



For Vaze, who recently toured Delhi and a few other places in India, this album of “visual music”, released under the Times Music label, was only a natural thing to do. As she says, “Having learnt a number of taranas and other songs suited for dance, it had been my idea for a long time to record a CD of songs used in dance. I chose a variety of selections and adapted them with rhythmic passages. It was also my idea to have more ‘modern/ contemporary’ sounds such as piano and guitar for the instrumentation.”


Vaze, who a few years ago was declared an MTV Youth icon, went through an elaborate creative process while conceiving the album. “The purpose was to adapt and develop new compositions that had not previously been used for dance choreography, and to make such a recording available to the public, as recordings are otherwise generally the property of dancers,” says the artiste who counts her father Damodar Vaze among her several gurus. In fact, as a performer, she herself found people enquiring with her where to get such recordings. “Pandit Birju Maharaj had released a recording years ago with a tarana that is still used by dancers around the world in performances,” says Vaze, pointing to the demand for such recordings.


Of course, like any dancer, Vaze too says live music is always the “best scenario” for Indian dance presentation. “But budget constraints and logistics often prevent dancers from using live music. For years myself and other dancers have struggled with finding music for dance without going through considerable expense to get recordings made,” she says. Some of the taranas from the album, she says, will be easy for many kathak dancers to choreograph and use, as will the South Indian thillana. Also, in each song, the instrumental variety used is not often possible to be used in a live setting, especially in places such as Canada and even the United States where there is a dearth of instrumentalists such as sarangi players. “The CD provides a number of short pieces which dancers can use in short presentations, and dancers in such remote places as Hawaii, where one of my colleagues works, are using the recording for performances,” says Vaze.


In a sense, the album is also an introduction for global listeners to various forms of music used in Indian dance forms, though Vaze has also got very positive response from various Indian musicians and dancers. At a personal level, the pieces “Vinayaka” and “Yoga” are Vaze’s favourites. “In case of the first piece, it was Ganesh Chaturthi, and I was thinking of composing a song set in the Hamsadhwani raag. It happened very spontaneously, and I love dancing to it. I also love the Ganesh Paran by Pandit Kishan Maharaj that is included in it. The other piece is a personal favourite of virtually every tabla player who has heard the album, including my husband Vineet Vyas, which is interesting since it features no tabla. It has personal significance because my father taught me the Bhagavad Geeta verses in that composition and they hold such relevance for how to approach life. I also like that piece because its use with piano was also a very spontaneous creation and highly improvised, which is the greatest feature of Indian music,” she explains.


A complete new-age artiste, Vaze finds inner peace from any style of music or dance that moves her, and it might surprise many that a classical singer-dancer like her also counts the music of Queen, The Police and Fleetwood Mac among that. “Music is something that goes beyond boundaries and the great mystery and depth of this art is how it constantly changes and manifests itself differently to move the human soul. In dance, such different movement vocabularies have been developed to evoke the same response to watching poetry in air. I have often gotten the same peace from dancing West African or hip hop dance as I have in learning Kathak or Bharat Natyam. but if I have to choose my favourite and most true to my nature form it is definitely Kathak,” she says.


Vaze and Vyas are now preparing for a May performance with the Niagara Symphony Orchestra – dancing Kathak and also singing two songs from her first CD. She is also working on recording another CD next year and a new choreography using the raga Bageshree in different manifestations and moods. She is also open to choreographing for films – and why not – after all, as a youngster she had felt highly inspired by Vyjanthimala and Helen’s dances in Hindi films.


(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 05-04-2009)




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