The Swar Samrat online music and dance festival is making it a point to not be a free show, and generate funds for over 100 artistes
With a lack of opportunities to perform and depleting financial sources, many classical musicians and dancers have taken the digital route to teach and perform, using social media to heal through their art and reach out to enthusiasts across the globe during the pandemic. However, most of these performances have been free and are therefore not viable, remarks Indrayuddh, son of pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar and Manasi, the renowned sarod player and Hindustani vocalist respectively.
To honour guru
For the past nine years, the family has been hosting the four-day Swar Samrat Music and Dance festival in Kolkata in memory of Tejendra Majumdar’s guru ustad Ali Akbar Khan (the festival is named after his title). Besides Ustad Zakir Husain — who performed for eight years — the festival has played host to legends including Karaikudi Mani, Pandit Birju Maharaj, the late Pandit Jasraj and maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Owing to the pandemic, this year’s festival went virtual from November 1, and will be on till February 28, 2021. Featuring 36 concerts by 100 musicians/dancers, it is a fund-raiser to help musicians and dancers across the country. “We don’t want to name the artistes,” shares sarod player Indrayuddh, adding that some were ready to sell their instruments to survive and some have been on the brink of suicide.
Social media brought people and music closer during social distancing times but free shows do not give any monetary benefits. Irked by the word ‘free’, Indrayuddh says, “This is our profession; the habit of watching everything for free will have a long term impact on artistes.”
The performances for the festival have been shot in empty auditoriums and film studios like GM Studios (Mumbai), The Box (Pune), Purple Movie Town (Kolkata), Chowdiah Memorial Hall (Bengaluru) and the auditorium of Shri Ram School, Moulsari (Gurgaon). A team of 30 (for each city), comprising audio and video professionals, stage decorators and lightmen, were involved, following site-safety rules and sophisticated measures of sanitation.
With Indrayuddh’s instructions over GoogleMeet, the entire studio and and stage space was fumigated, and microphones were sanitised by using UV rays after every performance. “The fact that over 100 artistes were performing on stage after a gap of eight months was a high energy-booster.”
So far, artistes who have performed include Anubhab Khamaru (Hindustani vocal), Pt. Pravin Godkhindi and Jayanthi Kumaresh (Carnatic veena) in a Hindustani-Carnatic jugalbandi, Rupak Bhattacharjee (tabla), Sandip Chatterjee (santoor), Paramananda Roy (flute), Pt. Sandipan Samajpati (Hindustani vocal), Dhananjay Hegde (Hindustani vocal), Pt. Shubhendra Rao (Sitar), Rukmini Vijayakumar (Bharatanatyam) and Pratik Shrivastava and Ayan Sengupta presenting a sarod-sitar jugalbandi.
Two performances are live-streamed every Sunday and the video stays on the website for a day. One can buy tickets or subscribe for a year (₹999) or a month ( (₹299) or per concert (₹99) www.swarasamratfestival.com