Cadenza 2020: A soulful evening

BY JUHIE SABOO

It is of deep value to me to be writing this account of what went by as one of the most impeccably planned and soulfully curated musical evenings that I have attended in Guwahati.

A little about the history of Cadenza and me — then a mother of a two-year-old. Promiti Phukan and her production – I came by six years ago. And while it amused me to think of what a production such as this one would be (what, with the imaginary sight of nervous tiny beings trotting their pudgy fingers on the keys of the grand instrument); I had begun hoping for my child to be a part of this biennial event. I had by then gathered a little information about Phukan and her rather gutsy approach towards not only teaching music (that she has been doing for over two decades now) but also bringing all her students (well, not all of them are tiny beings; rugged teenagers and blossoming young adults made for a rather eclectic group of 54 students in this year’s performance) together on the platform of Cadenza, which is her personal endeavour, supported by her family, friends and well-wishers, apart from the music fraternity of Northeast India.

Why go through the effort, one may ask. And the answer comes through: in the tedious rehearsals through the winter months, every second year; in the effort taken to detail out the attire; in the choice of venue being from amongst the best that the city has to offer; in the trying and spirited prodding of the students and parents alike to go through the labour in the present, for the gift it shall hold in the tomorrow; in not giving up on any one of her students, for the aspiration of a picture perfect show; in ensuring that every student of hers gets his/ her moment under the stage lights — on the mics, in a vocal rendition or on the Grand Piano; in working out the odds of economics and ticketing the show at a paltry amount.

For, from where I see it today, hers is a vision to create a cadence in the symphony of teaching music; such that she births her own Music School, also the show’s namesake, and builds a community, here in Guwahati, which is coming about to be a mélange of music aficionados and complete novices — the former need no nudges to support every step in the direction of musical indulgences and the latter are beginning to open up their hearts to appreciating the good music.

Having witnessed three editions of the Cadenza, personally, the heart of the show is truly in its promise to evolution while remaining completely grounded in the pure, classical lineage of music. Not for a moment did the audience find one shadow over the other — each of the edits outdid the previous one; the exhibition of planning, practice and keeping the audience centre-stage to the pieces chosen for the performances only got better this time (while each of the last edits were complete and stellar in their own might).

This year’s edition was a pure beauty for me — for I found myself enjoying pieces of performances, which I was a complete stranger to. No — I would be a pseudo if I were to claim that I have always enjoyed western classical music. I’d also be lying in saying that I have been a true-blue music buff and have followed the music stalwarts of yore. And, I am not a complete commercial music or an EDM fan either. I make for that person in the audience who is keen to explore and learn; who is coming around to embrace every note that stirs my insides or sparks a joyous rhythm in my being. So while I waited for my son’s “on-stage moment”, I found it so easy to enjoy every piece that the students played out. And each piece that they played was in such perfect harmony! What does it take for 3 “not-so-old” boys to play out their piece, together, in complete sync? When is the last time that I saw on-stage, lady-like poise on a generation often passed off as a brash, defiant lot? The wonder lay not only in the waft of the mellifluous notes, but also in the smallest of these moments, which left a buoyant impression on me and I could say so for the audience at large.

Making Cadenza superlative, in its experience, was the presence of and performance by artists from the northeast, who have created a niche for themselves in the region and across global boundaries. Nise Meruno — a name that needs no introduction wowed all with his humble, love-filled performances, while being joined by his protégé, the very talented Thunglamo on the vocals. The artist’s gentle words inspired all present that evening; more so as he lauded the mesmerizing performance by artist Writam Changkakati. And as Writam played out Yanni’s “In The Mirror”, I could feel all my nerve endings come alive in the mushy space of hope and belief. Of course, there was Rittique Phukan’s charming acoustic performance, accompanied by the show’s creator, also his sister-in-law, on the piano. And, while he spelt out his performance as a tribute to global music legends, I found myself making a knotted note — when the spirit finds its expression, it’s imprints will only be indelible!

Now, while I have relived almost each moment from that evening of January 19, 2020, here comes one of the most enthralling memories — that of having experienced the performance of the Bohemian Rhapsody. Proma, with her students Queen, Prayashi and Kundal — what a near-perfect delivery was that! Should we have seen this piece coming through, when you had shared a video of your attempt at it, about a year or more back, Proma? This one called for an ‘Encore’!

Finally, for the grand finale, there was the most apt wrap-up in the form of the showmen and show-women of Cadenza claiming to be living a million dreams; inspiring all present to dream a dream!

Now that is what I soaked in on this fifth edition of Cadenza; and even as Proma said that she was surprised that she had attempted doing it the fifth time round. Cadenza is not what one would call a musical extravaganza; it could probably be best described as a kaleidoscope of symphonious lessons in life and the coming together and growing of a community in times of strife.

Juhie Saboo is an entrepreneur and a well-being coach