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SwarGanga presents first North Indian classical music competition in Atlanta

June 2011
SwarGanga presents first North Indian classical music competition in Atlanta

The Conant Performing Arts Center of Oglethorpe University was filled with melodies of a different strain on the first weekend in May, as twenty eight young aspirants and music students met for the first ever Hindustani or North Indian classical music competition in Atlanta, named Crescendo 2011. SwarGanga’s Adwait Joshi and his friends and family worked for several months to make this possible, and all participants were very pleased and enthusiastic about the outcome. 

Fifty eight competitors from all over the USA participated in this event, which started with rounds of elimination online: a panel of judges from all over the world ranked the entries submitted by the participants on SwarGanga’s website over several months. A shortlist of 28 competitors came to Atlanta to perform in the two-day event. We listened to performers in 3 age groups: 16 children below 15 years old, 8 young talents between 15 and 25, and 4 performers above 25. Categories were Vocal, Tabla, and Instrumental. On Saturday, the first round of live competition started for the youngest group, which had the largest number of participants, including several from Atlanta.

The judges themselves performed in a concert on Saturday evening. We had the opportunity to listen to some rare ragas: Sawani, Nat Kamod, Raisa Kanada, and Basant Bahar performed in the Jaipur Atrauli gharana style by Smt. Manjiri Asnare Kelkar, whose rendition confirmed her earning appreciation as "Future Kesarbai Kerkar" from a revered name in Marathi literature and music, P. L. Deshpande. Manjiri was very ably supported on the harmonium by Suyog Kundalkar and on the tabla by Sanjay Deshpande. All three artists from India were currently on a U.S. tour, and it was a great opportunity for the competitors to be judged by artists of such caliber. Atlanta’s own Prithwiraj Bhattacharjee then performed a solo concert on the tabla, accompanied on the harmonium by Pritam Bhattacharjee. Prithwiraj, freshly back from a tour in India, held the audience spellbound as his fingers spelled out crisp kaydas, gats and relas in Jhaptal and then Teental.

Sunday started on schedule, with simultaneous vocal and tabla semi-final rounds in the two older groups. Five of the below 15 years vocalists also competed for two spaces in the mega-final round. Competitors were accompanied on the tabla by Atlanta’s Sam Naik and Anjaneya Sastry, and on the harmonium by Amitava Sen. Competition to this point had been within each category, but the format for the mega-finals was interesting, as the top two competitors from the 3 categories all competed with each other.

Winners in the below 15 age group were Pranav Ghatraju on tabla (Boston, MA, disciple of Ustad Shabbir Nisar) and Rishabh Iyer on sitar (Detroit, MI, disciple of Ustad Shahid Parvez), with runner-up Devika Godbole on vocals (Irving, TX, disciple of Manjusha Hardiker).

In the 15 to 25 age group, winner was Meenakshi Shivram on vocals (Mequon, WI, disciple of Pt. Nagrajrao Havaldar), and runner-up was Aditya Shah on vocals (Tampa, FL, disciple of Pt. Radharaman Kirtane & Pt. Ratan Mohan Sharma).

And in the above 25 age group, winner was Usha Joshi Balakrishnan on vocals (Atlanta, GA, disciple of Smt. Jayashree Patnekar, Smt. Padma Talwalkar & Shri Pritam Bhattacharjee) and runner-up was Rahul Patel on sitar (Lutz, FL, disciple of Shri Mahabala Sharma & Shri Abhik Mukherjee).

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