On Sunday I had the great fortune to attend a jugalbandhi (duet) concert by one of my favourite Carnatic singers – Bombay Jayashri, and an equally great counterpart from the Hindustani tradition – Shubha Mudgal. I’ve been listening to their music for a long time, so it was really exciting to have the chance to hear them live.
In true Harrison fashion, I was late, and not for the first time, found myself running across the Hungerford bridge over the Thames in the freezing night air. It was well worth it though. The concert was incredible.
I actually hate writing reports of things that I have such a wonderful experience of, as I feel my words can never really capture what I felt. As I sat in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, both singers progressed effortlessly through piece after piece, each overflowing with melodic beauty and demonstrating their musical mastery and sensitivity. I found a poem start to piece itself together in my mind, as they do sometimes in these moments, and I hastily scribbled it down on the tube home. I wanted to try and express the sensation of listening to this music – it speaks to every sense, triggering feelings and images, even smells. I think this music brings me closer to God. I know him to be the most attractive (Krishna), and every instance of beauty I come across, strikes me as a reflection of his supreme beauty. When I hear this music, I hear him within every note and phrase.
In this darkened moment
Every note resounds within and without
My ears become eyes to wonder at the shimmering, transient beauty.
I see soft forest leaves that fall toward the river,
tumbling in the early morning light.
The first chill of winter,
tears of joy, and of equal sorrow.
I see pattern, woven lattive and the turn of sacred triangles.
A lamp cradled in hand and set bobbing upon still, dark water.
I see the sparkle of falling rain, and the powerful grace of the strong banyan.
Each phrase soars, pure colour thrown,
red, blue, and saffron yellow.
These notes that sound, within and without,
reveal your beauty piece by piece,
a vision of lotuses,
and a form, more wondrous than any,
so bright I can hardly see,
just listen, as the notes reveal your beauty,
piece by piece.
Of course the next day I was back on my work placement, in the private primary school. They were rehearsing their Christmas show for a good few hours and I had to join in with some equally unenthusiastic teachers, hip swivelling through hip-hop renditions of Frosty the Snowman and the greatest hits of ‘High School Musical’. Afterwards I went straight to the Nehru Centre, where both singers were presenting a discussion of their work. Talk about experiencing the sacred and (almost) profane, side by side.