Vasant Habba is an annual, all night, festival of music and dance organized at Nrityagram, on the outskirsts of Bangalore. This year it was conducted on 7th Feb.
We set out around 7.00 in the evening, on bikes. The road there is bumpy and extremely painful to drive on, in the dark, but the trees and scenery and all are good.
The enclosed, open air auditorium, is pretty small. People start filling it up from 2.00 in the afternoon, so that for late comers there is no space inside. However the program is projected on screens outside and there are decent mats/carpets put so you can sit/sleep/lie down and watch.
When we got there, a solo Bharatnatyam performance was about to start. Following which an all-male Oddissi group did their stuff. The twelve steps of Surya namaskar which I do during Yoga were part of the dance steps. Then came a solo-modernistic kind of dance by a 50 types year old man. It consisted of slow graceful movements and we were soon bored. After the first piece the performer took the mike and admonished the crowd for misbehaving (Apparently the crowd inside the auditorium had crossed some limits). The second piece was equally boring and we soon started to crack jokes. We attributed the slow movements to the Doctor's advice against exertion, wondered if they had not paid the performer in full, or if the dancer was just recovered from coma and was sort of getting used to the use of his limbs. We were pretty loud in our laughter and a serious looking female close by was giving us contemptuous looks. I totally sympathise with her. If someone was making noise when I was enjoying something, I would be bugged too.
The modernistic piece was the turning point of the evening. First it woke me thoroughly up, and the programs were from then on progressively better.
Next was a Kuchipudi performance by an all-girl band. It was pretty graceful and stuff. After that there was a halfhour break and then the music began.
The music programs consisted of Classical vocal by Bombay Jayashree, a sitar-cello duet by an Indian fellow and his firang wife. Then, carnatic saxaphone by the famous Kadri Gopalnath. I liked the Saxaphone quite a bit since there were three or four pieces which I had heard before, including the piece 'Alay Payuthe' from the movie Alay Payuthe, the original, Tam, Saathiya.
It was almost 4 in the morning then. After much adjusting of instruments, the Band 'Antaragni' came on. But they were not much good.
Then came the band - Indian Ocean. By the time they started it was six and the sky was starting to light. They shut off the projection on the screen outside and we found place inside the auditorium. The weather was cool, but not cold. And the music began.
I had little hopes, but Gaurav, who had gone with us, is a big fan and he was pretty excited. It turned out, I started to like the band, and the music seemed to get better and better. Some fourth or fifth piece was this song called 'Bhor'. It was about a bird which had a Sufi heart, whatever that means. But the song was good. The setting was just right. And I turned my head once right, once left, once on this tree, once on that, and then on the band on stage, and then left and then right and so on, emulating some early morning music show on Doordarshan. It was good fun. The high point of the performance was when in the end they sang the title song from their most famous album - Khandisa. The lyrics were in Armenian, as Gaurav informed us. The song rocked!
Most of the band's lyrics seemed to come from Sufi literature. There was one by Kabir - Jhini re jhini chadariya. Though I do attribute my liking of the band partly to the excellent setting - early spring morning - I think that they are the best Indian band playing now - in variety and quality.
With Indian Ocean, Vasant Habba concluded. The journey back home was very good, since you could see the potholes on the road, well in advance.