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Rapatwa (repetition) in classical music makes us lazy sometimes," says Hindustani classical vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, who belongs to the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. “Bandish (composition) brings us out of our comfort zone; it challenges us as musicians."

Deshpande will adapt compositions by Sadarang and Adarang, who excelled in the Khayal style of Hindustani music, on 3 July—the opening day of the annual festival Bandish 2015, organized by the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). “The challenge is to do justice to this great body of music," she says.

Hindustani classical musician Uday Bhawalkar, who will perform Dhrupad compositions on Day 1 of the three-day festival, says: “The idea is not just to present these classical compositions but also to look at how these musical pieces have evolved into what they are today."

On Day 2, the audience can experience some variations within semi-classical genres, with performances by Hindustani classical vocalists Ajoy Chakrabarty and Shubha Mudgal, who is also a Mint Lounge columnist.

Mudgal will present renderings of bandish ki thumri compositions by Lalan Piya. “Lalan Piya’s compositions are significant markers in the journey and evolution of thumri. The majority of his compositions are in the bandish ki thumri format, but he also created several dadra, chaturang and even tarana compositions," says Mudgal. “Basically, I do not see any reason for thumri to be considered semi-classical."

Like the classical arts, semi-classical music too faces an uncertain future—both in terms of patronage and the stigma attached to it for reasons that do not seem “reasonable or justified", according to Mudgal.

“This makes the festival even more important," says Suvarnalata Rao, head, programming (Indian music), NCPA, and the curator of the festival. “Even if you take today’s Bollywood numbers, they are derived from the Hindustani classical music and the younger generation needs to know that," says Rao.

Chakrabarty, who belongs to the Patiala gharana, agrees. “Bade Ghulam Ali Khan belonged to the Patiala gharana. As a musician, we have grown up practising and singing his compositions. As my tribute to him, I want to perform and at the same time bring on stage his timeless music," he says.

The festival will conclude with singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan’s Baithak To Bollywood, where he will explore the role of bandish in melodic improvisation across genres like classical, semi-classical, light and pop music. “The name suggests what bandish is all about. It is not tracing the roots of today’s music. It is a documentation of how Hindustani classical music has evolved over the years," says Rao.

Bandish 2015 is on from 3-5 July, 6.30pm onwards, at Tata Theatre and Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point. Ticket prices vary. Click here for details.

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