Struggling to stay afloat, India’s debilitated music industry no longer finds the time or money to promote and advertise its catalogue. Lavish album launches and promotional campaigns are now events from a bygone era; consequently, music lovers often remain none the wiser about new releases. It would be a great pity if the same fate were to befall the sterling three-CD collection titled Golden Archives of the Gwalior Gharana, featuring archival concert recordings of the veteran vocalist and scholar, Pandit Sharad Sathe.

Released in early 2012, to coincide with the singer’s 80th birthday celebrations, this remarkable collection of concert recordings undoubtedly makes for a very valuable addition to any music collection. Three great stalwarts of the gharana, namely Pandit D.V. Paluskar, Prof. B.R. Deodhar and Pandit Sharadchandra Arolkar, bequeathed their legacies to the singer, endowing him with a formidable musical inheritance. In sharing a tiny part of this inheritance with music lovers through these three CDs, Pandit Sathe gives listeners a glimpse of the treasures he inherited from his gurus, and the dedication and internalization that made them his own.

Two of the three discs offer music lovers khayal renditions in the ragas Todi, Poorvi and Miya Malhar, with a single thumri and bhajan thrown in for good measure. But it is CD 3 which is the pièce de résistance, as it were, with 10 masterful renderings of tappa recorded in concert between 1970-2000.

The complexity of the form, and the skill, stamina and training required to be able to render it competently, makes the tappa a rarity in current times. Barring a handful of exponents, it’s rarely heard in Hindustani classical music performances. An entire CD of tappas is thus an absolute windfall for students of music and music lovers alike. What adds even greater value to the offering is the fact that in addition to relatively familiar tappa compositions like O Miyan Janewale in raga Kafi, or Chaal Pehchaani in raga Khamaj, the erudite scholar- singer has also presented rarely heard tappa compositions in compound ragas like Des-Nat and Jogiya Asavari.

Tappa demands the use of fast-paced, cascading taan sequences in typical double-looped patterns. The tension and momentum built up during the singing of brisk taans is abruptly and unpredictably released in tappa renditions, and this is achieved through impeccable training in the form, relentless practice and mastery over breath and voice, and finally, ingenuity and virtuosity.

So demanding is the form that exponents rarely present it for over a few minutes for fear of becoming repetitive. Pandit Sathe’s detailed elaboration of the tappa compositions is therefore unique, with patterns and ideas gushing forth almost effortlessly.

Chronologically, according to the information provided on the album jacket, the concert recordings featured in this album have been selected from a three-decade span of the artiste’s journey as a performer, between the ages of 38 and 68. Fortunately for music lovers and students, Pandit Sathe’s performances were well-documented and archived and can therefore be shared today.

If there is one lacuna in an otherwise inspiring album, it is the complete absence of any mention of accompanying artistes.

Also Read | Shubha’s previous Lounge columns

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