April 26, 2021
Posted in Events

Jalsa 5 – A treat to the ears – Jugalbandi – Sufi and Hindustani Classical

Puppets, Sumptuous food, Classical dance and Jugalbandi made the evening.

All my fear resolved into an effortless leap, while the anger dissolved into a footstep on the dance floor. If watching your worries dance away, was a thing, it would be so. From the very moment Dr. Tony Aloysius started his performance, I felt like my mind travelled through an entirely unknown, dimension yet to be discovered. It felt as if my mind left my body and literally travelled in time. As I watched his familiar hand gestures and his graceful body movements, I was reminded of my old Bharatnatyam guru. In certain parts of his performance, I could almost see her in flashes of him. 

It was like witnessing two worlds collide and the divinity of his energy spread, engulfed me like a fire as would silk. All of his expressions and the emotions he was trying to portray with his hand gestures and his eyes were so crystal clear that I felt like I was the character in the story and I was telling the tale. I could feel the vibrations and the emotion in my bones. I sat there in nostalgic awe. It is simply useless to try and explain the feeling in words. It was a feeling that can only be felt. When Dr. Tony performed the Varnam, I was completely astounded. Varnam is a combination of both ‘Natya’ and ‘Abhinaya’ (rhythmic adavus combined with expressions and storytelling).


It is one of the most difficult pieces to learn, let alone perform. But watching him glide across the dance floor so effortlessly that it seemed as if he was floating off the ground, completely disconnected me from reality. I was like a snake charmed by the snake charmer by the end of the performance.  His aura and his performance were so impactful that I almost felt like dancing again. It was truly an enlightening experience.

Jalsa 5, on 17.04.2021, opened with its special feature – a surprise performance. My guitar teacher, Jerome Joseph was the surprise performer this time. I have made it a tradition for myself that whenever any one of my gurus’ is performing, I will be seated at the very front, just to travel into the void between their music and my soul. I was so exhilarated to hear him play, that I was internally jumping up and down.

He started with western classical pieces all composed in minor scales. I recognised that almost immediately and was overjoyed as I recall expressing my love for minor notes and scales to him earlier. It was magnificent how swiftly and gracefully his hand glided on the fretboard. I hope to play like that one day. Jalsa’s magical evening therefore began with the ringing of melancholic and mysterious sounds in the air.

Aarti Kathpalia came back with her puppet show. I was delighted to meet her again. She performed at jalsa for the second time but had me elevated with anticipation and joy as if it were the first. I was so excited to be part of her world of characters again.

From the very minute she began her story, I braced myself for a nice long ride of smiles, giggles, laughs, and a whole lot of being terrified by Mr. Monster. He was the spookiest puppet in the entire room. Everyone shuddered, when he told us to behave as he was watching us all. It was hilarious. What astonished me the most was the ease with which Aarti aunty modulated her voice for each character. I loved the way she mixes morals with storytelling and manages to make it comedic at the same time. I find her perspective on topics remarkably interesting. I enjoyed interpreting the topic her story revolved from a new, unique point of view.

At last, the final event of the evening came along and honestly, it is difficult to put into words how utterly speechless I was to have had the privilege to witness such expert musicians such as Girish Sadhwani and Dr. Prakash Sontakke perform and jam in, right before my eyes.

It was fantastic. It was so marvellous that, for a while I could only think about the music I was listening to at the time. Until Dr. Prakash brought his slide guitar to Jalsa, I had never heard of the instrument or seen one. The way it works is so mind blowing. To top it off, the sound it produced was like that of a sitar but at the same time it was like sliding on a guitar—– so appalling! Somehow, these genius artists did not even discuss what they were about to perform and yet everything they did was perfect. It was incredible fun to watch the jugalbandi between them.

The spontaneity of the event, their confidence in their own expertise and the trust in each other’s expertise was a heavenly thing to observe. Sufi music with a touch of slide guitar; who knew such a combination was an art in itself? I was completely oblivious to everything happening around me as I drifted into the world, they created with their art. I finally got lost in the void between their magical music and my enchanted mind because the power of the soul they put into their performance was so strong that I was under a spell and refused to be cured of the experience.