533 Souls Festival celebrates mental well-being in the post-pandemic world through serene, contemplative renditions of ragas and yoga. Filmed and recorded live at England’s premier venue - The Curve Theatre, Leicester - this performance is part of the 533 Souls Festival. Curated exclusively with UK-based musicians.
Eeshar Singh is an emerging santoor player from the heart of West Yorkshire in the UK. Since 7, he has studied under Ustad Harjinderpal Matharu, a senior disciple of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. He has aptly imbibed his guru’s sparkling approach to Indian classical music through the development of rhythmic and melodic improvisation.
In this performance, he plays Raag Bhimpalasi, a late afternoon melody derived from Kafi. Accompanying him on the tabla is Gurdain Rayatt, an extraordinary talent who comes from a family steeped in music. Rayatt’s years of solid training and sadhana (immersive practice) is evident in the ease and smoothness of his execution and the rich content of his music.
Singh details the raga in an alap (rhythmless introduction). He expands it within a medium tempo (madhyalay) composition set to Jhaptaal (10 beats). The santoor’s soft, grainy textures evolve into finely woven, fluid sentences evoking mystic wonder. With rhythmic impetus from Rayatt, the mellow chimes graduate to a riot of swirling notes tied in taut combinations. In a cracking delivery, their combined efforts soar to a thrilling crescendo in the end with a crisp, high-spirited finale.
The 533 empty seats do not deter the duo’s spirit to show up – a vital requisite that comprises human resilience and has assured the continuity of civilisations through the toughest of times. In a post-pandemic world, which has affected most of us, especially the performing arts and brought all hopes and aspirations to a grinding halt, Singh and Rayatt exude a steely determination to carry on with their music, no matter what. With humble submission to reality and a renewed resolve to continue their ‘sewa’ (service) through music, they give an energetic performance evoking the joyful emotions of Bhimpalasi.
With no one around to watch, judge or revel in the performance, the musicians have been stripped of the inessential – an occasion where art finds precedence with complete immersion in the moment.
Executed in collaboration with the De Montfort University and The Curve Theatre, the 533 series covets and honors lives of students who have been severely impacted by COVID in the UK and world over. One of the worst COVID-affected areas, Leicestershire was moved to tier three by the UK government - a category that completely banned household mixing and led to the shutting down of pubs, restaurants and universities, thus, putting an end to the dreams and aspirations of the huge students’ communities in Leicester.
Eeshar Singh (santoor)
Gurdain Rayatt (tabla)