The queue outside Granit, a small three-storied concert hall, is long; Indian Classical music is a novelty in these parts, and many are curious. We enter after a half hour wait; soon the artists – a vocalist and a tabla player – are announced, in French, by a young student. She tries to do it without notes, stumbles on the artists’ names, and giggles off the stage as the audience claps and cheers her on. Back with a slip of paper, she gets it right: Devashish Dey and Apurba Mukherjee. The artists appear, take a bow: Namaste. Then, in a gesture common in India but rarely seen here, they bend down to the platform, and in a sweeping motion of their right hand they touch the platform, their forehead and then chest, before stepping on the platform.
The vocalist begins with an apology. He cannot speak French, he says, and requests permission to say a few words in English. Then, after thanking “the organizers of FIMU”, he presents a quick introduction to Hindustani classical music. The origins go back two or three thousand years, he says. The raag he’s about to present today, Mukund Priya, is more recent: it was composed by his late guru. He gives some background about the raag and taal, but adds that understanding these “technicalities” is not as important as embracing the ambience and mood the composition evokes. It is more important to feel, to connect, he says.
The mood he evokes is of devotion. After a long piece in raag Mukund Priya, he sings a Bhajan and finally a Thumri on lord Krishna. Some people leave after the first piece, but the ones who remain give an enthusiastic applause to all pieces. At the end there is a long ovation; the audience, it appears, was able to connect.
Outside, a few minutes after the concert, I catch up with the artists. Devashish Dey’s first remark is a question: “Are you Indian?” Then, after a few sentences, “Which part of India are you from?” I’m a bit puzzled, but his next question reveals the intent: “Do you know Hindi?” We switch to Hindi. He tells me that he’s on his way to Paris for another concert. When I mention that Germans too are curious about Indian classical, he takes out his card: “If you call me there, I will certainly come.” I smile, accept the card, and thank him again for the excellent concert. He bows: Namaste.