As his rhythm of ‘Govinda, Govinda’ picked up pace I felt exactly like I was on weed. He then picked up the beat to convince you that probably he was losing control of himself as well. But he was in perfect control and left off suddenly… the one who had drowned was you… you were left grasping for breath… for more. At its peak I felt the supernatural (read: beyond human control) brush past me.
This was my first full time formal experience at Savai Gandharva. Pandit Jasraj had settled on the stage and the compeer announced that ‘there were to be no limits.’ I had no clue what sort of an experience this would be, but trust me as I sat on the baithak, my head buried in my knees… only Jasraj’s voice floating in the air, I found myself being consumed in the music. I tried concentrating on other things, but thoughts just seemed to float and nothing remained in my head for too long because his voice took over.
Savai Gandharva has a charm of is own – it has a respect for those who genuinely love music, for those who treasure it and appreciate it. It is an experience of four full days of music, where connoisseurs eat, sleep and live music. There might be stalwarts of music presenting the best of their talent before them, but you will see no gold jewellery, no silk saris, and no fancy hair-dos in the audience at this event. Everyone returns to the grounds with a blanket and sweater to beat the cold and they fill the auditorium with a river of claps, which keeps rising higher and higher like the waves in the sea. You stop applauding, but the shower continues and continues.
At Savai, I realised that musicians come to enjoy themselves. They come for Bhimsen, whom they so dearly love, they come to keep alive a tradition of Indian classical music and most importantly they come to pay tribute their own skill that they claim to have earned either from ‘god’ or from ‘their guru’.
Simple Maharashtrian families set up food stalls at the grounds to serve khichadi, vada pav, tea… Those who bought their seasonal ticket for Rs 350 after standing in line for 4 and 5 hours get the best of seats… right at the base of the stage. There too, if you want to be first in the seating, you have to come hours before time. And people do! There are the others, who aren’t sure of schedules and buy tickets on a day to day basis, but ensure that they can make time for at least one program.
No wonder these artists return each year with as much love and dedication. “Many ask me whether people still listen to Indian classical and I ask them to visit Savai Gandharva,” said Shivkumar Shama, before he started off with his performance this year. What surety of being appreciated!