The Melbourne visit over 10-12 October went very well. Surashree, a group of five Marathi families, have presented vocal concerts before but this was their first instrumental presentation. Travelling with Panditji as tour manager, I was able to at last meet Sanjay Bhide, one of Surashree's members. I had talked to him many times about a concert when he was president of the Maharashtra Mandal. He worked diligently at that time towards a concert but when he vacated his role as president arrangements could not be completed. He was very happy to be part of this visit.
It was a wonderful concert and greatly appreciated by all. Beginning the concert with a stirring version of Yaman, Panditji followed this with Marwa in a rhythm cycle, which he demonstrated to the attentive audience before commencing the raga, and then he played a delicate interpretation of Kahmaj. As an encore and on request from the audience the evening ended with a semi-classical piece. The young tabla player, Hemant Kumar gave a splendid and nicely balanced performance. His elder brother came back stage after the show and knew all about Panditji's recent concert for INFOSYS in Japan, as he is the Australian chief executive for this IT company.
We also met several people from Panditji's 1992 visit including Melbourne's most senior lady vocalist, Mrs. Sheela Sharma who once again played tanpura as she had done with Panditji at his concert during the 1992 Australian Festival of Asian of Music. The venue was at Carwatha College, where the theatre had excellent facilities including a sound system, enthusiastically installed and operated by Ravi Dhayagude that gave perfect acoustics. About 150 people attended.
On Sunday morning we listened to the soulful prayers offered by Panditji through his sitar at the Baronia Ganesh temple in the picturesque Dandelong Ranges foothills. Just before his playing we all were invited to watch the closing ceremonies of a puja for Ganesh so the interior was heavily laden with smoke when Panditji began with a 'chant' on sitar. One of Melbourne's leading Indian community dignitaries, Dr. Raman Marar attended and organized some refreshments later in a sunny outdoor section of the temple grounds.
Then it was up Mountain Highway to a summit section in the Dandelong forest with Vhilas and Maduri Kamtikar from Surashree. Here we fed all kinds of brightly coloured parrots from our hands. We set off on a walk along a path through the forest but we had to pull up after a while otherwise we would have been walking for hours on end. We returned to the city and enjoyed some South Indian lunch, then continued on to Dr. Marar's for a pleasant meeting. It was great to see how kind and thoughtful all the families in the Surashree group treated Chandrakant and myself. They were enthralled by his stories, enjoyed listening to his Marathi and Hindi repartee and laughed a lot. Everyone, including the children joined in. It was apparent they were all lifted onto a plane of melodies and musical rhythms that were part of their lives and very much in their souls.
Written by Preston Struthers, Tour Manager