The Purcell room at the Southbank Centre resonated with the music of two young musicians. Soumik Datta and Arif Khan transported the ‘Sounds of Bengal’ from the banks of the Ganges and the Padma rivers of India and Bangladesh, right on to the banks of the river Thames.
Soumik and Arif represents a new generation of classical musicians who bring their own distinctive interpretation of a people’s musical heritage. In this case the ambition of evoking the spirit of a landscape and its people was achieved through some moving audio-visuals, energetic tabla playing along with the dulcet strains of the Sarod.
There was continuous references to folk memories especially in Soumik’s use of bhatiali strains (traditional boat song) which he effortlessly mingled with Tagore’s music and classical notes on his sarod.
Arif Khan’s tabla scaled new dimensions. He was able to transcend the usual adroitness of a tabla prodigy (which he is) into a different world of rhythm which resonated with the rain drenched visuals of a bengal landscape.
As the show was introduced and the visuals on the cyclorama lit up the auditorium, audience was transported to the green fields of bengal. The buzzing crowd, bustling colourful bazaars, commuters jumping on to revving public buses, the gentle tinkle of tram bells and of course the fish market in the audio visuals brought to life a way of living of a riverine people in the densely populated cities and villages of bengal. The captivating imagery so brilliantly captured by Souvid Datta, was the prefect backdrop to the music.
Each visual made a distinctive “sound”. Gradually the strings of Soumik Datta’s Sarod brought in the music accompanied by the brilliant Tabla of Arif Khan.They had a note for each of the images perfectly blending in to create a unique sound. Where ever they were, not a string was missed! Very balanced yet fresh and new.
The show had also brought in Bengal’s famous poet Rabindranath Tagore’s music, presented in a different light. A great attempt, hope the Tagore lovers will see a new direction in this treatment of Tagore’s songs.
This was truly an electrifying performance and an audio visual treat by a young bunch of talents, soon to make a place for themselves in the world of music. Kudos to Alchemy Festival for bringing this refreshing new take on our classical traditions.