Pandit Bhavani Shankar was born into a distinguished musical family, beginning his study of Pakhawaj and Tabla at the tender age eight. His father Pandit Babulalji was a renowned Kathak performer, a popular style of Indian classical dance, which specializes in intricate rhythmic patterns.
He is a versatile performer who has accompanied many of India’s finest musicians including Hari Prasad Chaurasiya and Shiv Kumar Sharma. In the last few years he has made his mark as a prolific composer for films and experimental fusion projects, his mesmerizing performance with Shakti’, alongside Zakir Hussain and John McLaughlin, have made him one of the most sought after percussionists in the world.
Pakhawaj is considered as the ‘king’ of all Indian instruments. It is traditionally associated with Dhrupad, an ancient style of singing full of religious and heroic themes. Before the emergence of the Tabla in the eighteenth century, it was used to accompany the most popular instruments of the time including the Veena, Rabab and Sarangi.
Images of this majestic looking drum are depicted in ancient sculptures in some of the most famous temples in India. In the early hours of the morning Pakhawaj is often the first sound to be heard in the old temples, having the power to drive away all evil spirits.
Pakhawaj is a horizontal barrel – shape, double – headed drum. The smaller head on the right side is treated with a tar paste substance that keeps the head taut and high in pitch. The left side of the drum is treated with a substance called atta, a mixture of whole – wheat flour and water, freshly put on the skin immediately before a performance. The pace helps top create the distinctive warm bass tone, which is unique to the instruments.
The name ‘Pakhawaj’ originates from the two words, Paksha meaning side and beaaj meaning to play. Together, Pakshvadya become Pakhawaj, meaning an instrument, which is played from both sides. Compositions played on Pakhawaj are called ‘bols’, containing syllables derived from the ancient Sanskrit language. The four main sounds ta, dhit, tun nan are said to represent the four faces of God.
The ancient poet saints used these ‘bols’ in their poetic compositions, some of them like Kumbhan Das were highly proficient Pakhawaj players themselves. These syllables have a lyrical quality and through out his performance Bhavani Shankar recites the Syllables of the composition either before playing or simultaneously.
The performance begins with a type of composition know as ‘Strotra Paran’ The Strotra’s or Stuti’s, are metrically composed verses, sung in praise of different Gods. In this composition, there are references to the Hindu Gods Shiva, Shankar and Brahma, and their stories are integrated into a musical composition, which incorporates typical Pakhawaj syllables like ‘takete’ and ‘tetekota godigine’. Throughout the performance, Bhavani Shankar is accompanied by Shishirchandra Bhatt on Harmonium and Ikram Khan on Sarangi, who provide the ‘lehra’, a repeated melodic phrase that outlines a rhythmic structure of sixteen beats.
A stunning live performance by the master percussionist, demonstrating all the majestic charm of the Pakhawaj, the king of Indian drums.
1. Vilambit Teentaal – 17.07
2. Drut Teentaal – 28.11
Pandit Bhavani Shankar – Pakhawaj
Shirishchandra Bhatt – Harmonium
Imran Khan – Sarangi
Recorded live at the Saptak festival
Location Engineer – Derek Roberts
Assistant Engineer – Krishna Shirgaonkar
Executive Producer – Alpesh Patel
Produced by – Derek Roberts
Mixed and Mastered in the U.K. by Derek Roberts of Soudcraft Productions
Thanks to the stage crew at Virtual Studios, Nandan Mehta, Prafull Shah and everyone at Saptak…