In this uplifting performance, we bring to you one of the finest sitar players of her generation, Roopa Panesar. Her talent gained her recognition in the UK and worldwide. Steadily, Panesar has established as one of the most accomplished sitar players with consistent, neat and soulful presentations. We dug out this concert from the Darbar 2011 festival collection for the Director’s Cut offering.
Panesar plays Raag Puriya, an evening melody belonging to the parent scale Marwa. This is a courageous choice as Puriya is wrapped up in complex layers which make the raga inaccessible even to senior and seasoned artists at times.
Puriya’s revealing phrases reside in the lower and middle octaves and it deploys komal Re (flat 2nd) with its intriguing lower microtones. Teevra Ma (sharp 4th)is used as a signatory companion of Ni (7th) in its ascent and Pa or 5th is left out altogether.
There is another reason we think she had made a courageous choice – the drut gat or faster tempo composition she played was popularised in a recording of the sitar legend Ustad Vilayat Khan, released commercially during the 70’s. Yet, to leave audiences mesmerized with the same gat in an earnest and virtuosic rendition makes her an artist full of gumption and confidence.
She plays a heartfelt alap, bringing out the difficult and subtle microtones between Sa and komal Re while she highlights the glides between Ni -Sa and teevra Ma-Dha in key phrases. Pulling out the keener, softer emotions through gamaks and khatkas, she builds up the jor replete with the flavours of Puriya.
With evocative phrases,Panesar delineates the raga with the 16-beat vilambit gat as the basis of her melodic and rhythmic expansions. The drut gat or the faster tempo composition is approached with meticulous attention to syllables and rhythmic improvisations. Her passionate and unwavering treatment of the raga is impressive. It mirrors the Imdadkhani gharana as her central style along with other nuances she has imbibed along the way.
Accompanying her on the tabla is Sukhwinder Singh ‘Pinky’. He delivers a relishing support, augmenting the performance with rich tukdas at the right moments and calibrating his improvisations to match the soul of the sitar.
In the landscape of sitar players, Panesar has carved a name for herself. She is hard working, talented and has continued to grow as an artist. One of her most extraordinary aspects is her credentials as a brilliant chemical engineer that took her on a different career path initially. She left that path altogether to pursue her passion in music and set an example to the aspiring youth of today. We believe in her story of courage and conviction as much as we love her music.
Sukhvinder Singh ‘Pinky’ (tabla)