Sunday ‘baithak’ with Ashwini Bhide Deshpande at Mumbai’s NCPA

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It was a Sunday morning well spent listening to a Hindustani classical recital by vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts.

In a small, but cosy, musical gathering, Deshpande presented the different styles of the Todi raga that is traditionally sung during the morning hours. Todi is believed to be one of main parent scales in Hindustani classical music, and is also famously associated with legendary musician Tansen of Mughal emperor Akbar’s royal court.

The late sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar has also contributed to a recent exploration of this raga, Deshpande said at the beginning of the concert. But it was a composition by the late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi that she listened to during her short trip to the concert venue that morning, she told the audience.

The compositions based on Todi, as Deshpande’s recital demonstrated, evoke a gamut of emotions: from romantic/devotional love to compassion, serenity and intense sorrow. During her performance, she narrated the story of a vocalist who began to weep while rendering a Todi song. Such was the magnitude of his grief that his wife had to pour cold water for him to calm down. But it took him twenty four hours to return to a state of normalcy, which brought upon him an inexplicable sense of peace.

The performance of Deshpande, a vocalist for more than three decades, was received by the audience with such intensity that many were found to be overwhelmed by her music. Here is one of Todi-based compositions available on YouTube:

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