Music is verily Divine! In olden days, there used to be the tradition of court singing wherein celebrity singers would perform in presence of Kings, royal family members and invited guests of honour. Now with the tradition of court singing no more in practice, Prasanthi Nilayam brings a new dimension to this older version of court singing, wherein devout artistes of greater talent come and sing in the immediate Divine Presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba! Verily this has been happening when troupes after troupes, singers after singers, artistes after artistes visited Prasanthi Nilayam over the years, tagged to various festivities to sing in His immediate Divine Presence!. …and Prasanthi’s music tradition is on…
2nd July 2009, the second day of Ashadi Ekadashi celebrations, after a morning session when Bhagawan chose to sit on the dais for quite some time graciously blessing the packed gathering with His Divine Darshan, the stage was set in the evening for a musical extravaganza.
An elaborate stage consisting of two levels laid with metallic frames having an equally grand acoustics, the first of its kind in Sai Kulwant Hall greeted the devotees and students to the Hall. The stage covered the entire stretch of the central part of the Hall horizontally. Eight big focus lights gave a good view of the artistes on the stage. What was in store was a Tala Kutchery, as one could call it, by 12 artistes led by Taalyogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar. Taalyogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar is one of the greatest Tabla exponents of the present times, synonymous for his untiring efforts, devotion, and endless passion in pursuit of promoting Indian classical music. Pandit Sureshji belongs to the illustrious “Keertankar” family of Sri Dholebuva.
“Keertana” being a classical form of devotional and musical discourse, a liking for the classical music was inculcated in him right from his childhood. Pt. Sureshji introduced for the first time, the novel concept of taking vocal accompaniment and added a new dimension and direction to the solo playing of tabla.
The artistes after offering their obeisance to Bhagawan took the stage and an announcement was made that they felt they should enhance their efforts in the path shown by Bhagawan, the path of Namasmarana, to understand His Nirguna Nirakara Swarupa. The Pandit, introducing the programme to Bhagawan and the audience, said that he was most privileged and fortunate to do Seva (service) after having his maiden opportunity to sing in His immediate presence, way back in the year 1973. The percussion based performance had five tablists, including a lady tablist, a flautist, two vocalists, one on sarangi, an artiste on dholak, one each on harmonium and keyboard. The Sarangi is a bowed, short-necked lute of the Indian subcontinent. It is an important bowed string instrument of India's Hindustani classical music tradition. Of all Indian instruments, it is said to most resemble the sound of the human voice – able to imitate vocal ornaments such as gamakas (shakes) and meed (sliding movements).
The twilight’s music extravaganza was a continuous stream of music, with a harmonious blend, at times reaching a crescendo. Weaving musical waves on the combined percussions, often building up to bring it down in the next, most meticulously perfecting the beats, was indeed a treat to the ears; with the lights on, and the Sun that was setting was overshadowed by an emerging twilight, with Bhagawan on stage, it was the perfect stage for Easwara, the Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, to dance listening to the beat of music. …and the first song was on the Lord of Dance, “Shankara Mahadeva…”, right tribute to the Musical Divine!
The songs “Ananda Lahari Bhajave …” and “Dheem, Dheem Dama Damaru Baaje …” by the two vocalists and the taals (vocal beats) by the Panditji kept the appreciative audience riveted to their places with intermittent applauses for more than an hour. There were also interludes in the form of performances by the flautist, one each on the tabla, on the Sarangi, on the harmonium and on the keyboard that added variety to the performance. The whole concept was designed in an innovative way as the Panditji was well known for it, to make it an apt offering to the Musical Divine in physical frame.
At the end of the performance, Bhagawan asked the State President, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Maharashtra and Goa to honour the artistes with shawls and white safari suit pieces. Bhagawan also blessed the artistes with Padanamaskar and a group photo session. Prasadam was distributed to the entire congregation of devotees. After Arati, Bhagawan retired for the day at 6.45 p.m.