Marina: Dedicated to classical music
"Mero Allah Meharban," lilted husky voiced classical singer Marina Ahmad Alam when she dropped into The Daily Star office a few days back. As silence descended on an otherwise busy workplace, one could well imagine the response to her performance in the recent National Music Festival. Now back in New York where she lives, she took the time to pay a brief visit to our daily.
The festival, she says, was a watershed in her music career since it marked her first public performance in Bangladesh. Among the ragas she performed were Rageshari and Nat Bhairav, while she rendered her maiden Bangla kheyal, titled Srinkhala Bhumondole. As she maintains, "The audience was very receptive. It felt good to win such appreciation, particularly in one's own country."
What puts Marina in a class of her own is her 18-year association with Padmabhushan Pandit Jasraj, the maestro of North Indian classical music. She has the rare privilege of studying classical music, more specifically the Mewati gharana, under the guru--spending around five to six months in Mumbai towards this end. In addition, she trains in classical music with Manik Bhide in the Jaipur gharana.
Marina is widely travelled. Along with Panditji, she has toured and performed in the US extensively--at the Carnegie Hall, Town Hall (both in New York), Tampa in Florida and elsewhere. Other stops are in Canada and London. In India she has touched down on Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune and Aurangabad.
Working with Panditji is arduous, points out Marina. Often after a performance draws to a close, an exhausted musical team may be called on to practice once more--even in the wee hours of 2 am. Yet, says Marina, few can compete with Panditji as a teacher. She recalls stimulating musical camps in Mumbai where he would give instructions on various ragas--or maybe call on the singers to go and have an icecream. A grateful Marina recalls how Panditji allowed her to travel along with her then young son.
"Even when people don't understand classical music, they may just break into tears when Panditji performs. It would be no exaggeration to say that his singing transports one to a different plane and has a touch of the divine," says an enthused Marina.
Marina has a wide repertoire and also performs thumris, ghazals and bhajans. She has recently been experimenting with more contemporary styles such as jazz fusion, which uniquely combines the depth of the Indian classical style with the free-flowing motion of jazz.
What's in store for the talented singer? She wants to be a professional singer for sure. Then there is her teaching. She instructs 100 students in classical dance in Washington DC, New Jersey and Connecticut. Most of the young ones are Indians, but there are also Americans, Britons and other nationalities. One of her best students, says Marina, is British.
Marina puts in gruelling hours for practice. She is so totally absorbed by her medium that she has little time to socialise. Here's to Marina and her mellifluous voice.