Yesterday night I went to Chowmahallah palace to listen to Dr.M Balamuralikrishna and Pt.Vishwa Mohan. It was an experience I will not soon forget. I have a tendency to completely lose myself in some things - books, music and art, among others - and live, breathe and think only these things for a few hours. But I don't choose when this happens, and sometimes it's completely involuntary. Yesterday, after several months, I experienced this feeling again - a sort of ecstatic delirium where nothing else matters. It is in these moments that I feel most religious and faithful. I sometimes fancy that at these moments, the world seems full of light - if only for a while. To me, it seems impossible to help believing in a higher power while listening to such heavenly melodies. All those painful, haunting doubts are in abeyance for a while. For where else can that sort of music come from? Surely it is humanly impossible to conceive such music. It has to be divine inspiration. There's no other explanation for it.
I'd heard Dr.Balamuralikrishna sing before (though not live) but this was the first time I'd heard Pt.Vishwa Mohan. Their jugalbandi was adhbhutham. The only English word that comes close to that is exquisite, I think. Pt.Vishwa Mohan invented his own veena, the Mohana veena and his playing was beyond brilliant. I often wonder how their fingers move so fast. There are some high notes on that veena that are pure bliss to hear. Listening to Dr Balamuralikrishna live was a treat, too. At 82 years of age his voice is unchanged and beautiful as ever. In my mom's words, he literally 'plays' around with the ragas. His alapanas seem effortless, and sometimes he moves up and down the notes so fast, it is said that the accompanist struggles to catch up. There was a jugalbandi between the tabla player and the mridangam player too which was absolutely marvellous. One of the things that is so wonderful about these concerts is the improvisation. The artists come up with the most beautiful melodies on the spot. I went to a concert of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's and Dr.Zakir Hussain's a few years ago, and it was the same there. I'd also listened to other jugalbandis of Dr.Balamuralikrishna with the late Pt.Bhimsen Joshi, which I think were among the first of their kind, being jugalbandis between a Carnatic maestro and a Hindustani maestro. There you could see their delight and respect for each other and there was a beautiful blending of the two forms of music.
I hope and pray that this kind of music lasts forever, because it is this sort of music that transcends boundaries and binds people together in common appreciation of the higher things of life.