This year’s annual concert in memory of samvadini doyen, the late Pandit Jayant Bhalodkar, featured Hindustani classical vocalist Shweta Jhaveri from India.

Shweta is one of the most seasoned vocalists on the Hindustani classical music firmament today. She began learning singing at a young age and then went on to be tutored by legendary masters like Pandit Jasraj of the Mewati gharana, whom she accompanied at concerts later.

In her long musical career spanning several decades, she has performed in solo recitals all over the world and also collaborated with other musicians on raga based world music initiatives at both concerts and recordings. She divides her time between the Western United States and India.

At last weekend’s concert in Auckland, though, Shweta sang a purely Hindustani classical repertoire to a rapt audience of a couple of hundred at the Mt Albert Community Centre Hall.

She began with a bada khayal (full length rendition) in raag Puriya Dhanashri, exploring the evening melody with great finesse in slow, medium and fast tempos. Her slow, languorous development of the raag especially in the lower octave over extended phases set her presentation of the melody apart as her own style.

When asked, she told this reviewer that she was trying out developing this technique of exploring raags in lower octaves over the past few years. She also punctuated her performance of both Puriya Dhanashri and the post-interval raag Jog with frequent meends (gliding from one note to another) – again somewhat unusual. Shweta’s presentation was equally cerebral and entertaining.   

For me, the standout piece was her faster-paced Puriya Dhanashri number in the rather rare but intriguing 10-beat Sultaal played with great relish by Auckland’s ace table artiste Manjit Singh.

With Manjit’s percussion support on tabla, it was Samir Bhalodkar who accompanied Shweta on samvadini – an innovation on the traditional harmonium. The late Jayantji is credited with some of the innovations, which have taken it beyond being just an instrument for accompaniment into one that can stand on its own as a solo concert instrument.

Post-interval, the gifted artiste sang raags Jog, Chandrakauns and her own innovation on the final raag Bhairavi, which she calls Krishna Bhairavi.

As in previous years, the concert was free to attend and this was the eighth year that the Bhalodkar family hosted the memorial concert.