Venerable virtuosos

  • Meena Banerjee

    June 17, 2017 | 03:17 AM
music, Robin Pal, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Smarananjali

Jalsaghar, centre for music and performing arts, completes 50 glorious years of its existence this year. This is also one of the best known Kolkata based organisations that presents uniquely designed classical events under the able guidance of Robin Pal, a close associate of Bharat Ratna Pandit Ravi Shankar. As usual, it pledges to celebrate its Golden Jubilee year through monthly sessions. The invitation of the first session titled, Smarananjali turned out to be a collectors’ item as it paid tributes by enlisting names of pathfinder musicians who brought change while remaining devoted to tradition during the last two centuries.

This inaugural event, in association with the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, remained steeped in nostalgia at Vivekananda Hall when Ranajit Dey (president Jalsaghar), Swami Supurnananda (secretary RMIC) and Debashis Basu (celebrated anchor) shared several anecdotes related to Jalsaghar’s illustrious journey that began in 1967, inspired by none else than the legendary tabla maestro Kishan Maharaj and Pandit Ravi Shankar who performed under its banner at the Marble Palace and remained the organisation’s founderchairman and chief advisor respectively, till their demises. Jalsaghar also received unflinching support from Ustad Dabir Khan, Raichand Boral, Pandit Kanthe Maharaj, thumri queen Siddheshwari Devi, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and several other luminaries.

A few memorable events organised by Jalsaghar include “Event of the Decade” (1983), held at Netaji Indoor Stadium featuring a sitar-sarod duet by Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, supported by tabla-wizard father-son duo Allarakha Khan and Zakir Hussain. Thousands of musicians, including George Harrison, witnessed this. Another great event at the same venue marked the silver jubilee of Jalsaghar in 1992. It showcased greatest masters Ravi Shankar, Bismillah Khan (shehnai), Vilayat Khan (sitar), Bhimsen Joshi (vocal), Samta Prasad (solo tabla), Birju Maharaj (kathak), along with tabla maestros Kishan Maharaj, Allarakha Khan, Zakir Hussain, Kumar Bose, Ishwarilal Mishra and several other eminent musicians during this night-long soiree. A dhrupad festival at Swami Vivekananda’s residence to celebrate his 150th birth anniversary is another memorable event organised by Jalsaghar, which also puts together Endowment Lectures delivered by venerated celebrities like Salil Chowdhury, Shambhu Mitra, Tapas Sen and Mrinal Sen. The list is endless.

This inaugural event of the yearlong Golden Jubilee celebration was also uniquely conceptualised. It featured 91-year-young vocalist Pandit Amiya Ranjan Bandopadhyay, the self-proclaimed “change agent” of the Vishnupur Gharana, and Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya, who’s santoor blends the power of sarod and sweetness of sitar with telling effect. While Bandopadhyay, devotedly followed by his disciples Subhrakanti Chatterjee (harmonium), Pritam Roy and Arghya Mukherjee (tanpura and vocals) along with Soumen Nandi (tabla) rendered emotion-charged raga Puria Dhanashree with amazing dexterity becoming of a young vocalist; Bhattacharya etched a soulful, thrilling version of raga Janasammohini, perceptively supported by tabla virtuoso Prosenjit Poddar.

However, the flying sparks of bitterness that engulfed the concluding tihai could have been avoided with the help of refined techniques of time-management. Agreed, the balancing act is extremely challenging, but classical soirees are meant to epitomise classy etiquettes for posterity.

Rediscovered

The music world rediscovered vocalist Chandana Chakraborty on her splendidly Shashthi-Poorti utsav (60th birthday celebration) organised by the Shrutinandan family at Uttam Mancha when she shared the stage with husband Pandit Ajoy Chakrbarty to render Bangla Gaan (Bengali songs) of varied genres.

However, it was Geetinandan “PaNeoMusicracy”, under the youthful, imaginative stewardship of Ananjan Chakraborty, which inspired Chandana Chakraborty, the singer, to make a comeback. She, for decades, had chosen to remain the backbone of the family with her world renowned vocalist husband, daughter Kaushiki Chakraborty and Shrutinandan, their “musical kingdom”. Besides being a dedicated daughter-in-law, wife, mother and the administrative head of Shrutinandan, she is also a venerated trainer who does wonders with musically-talented children, Kaushiki being an illustrious example.

To mark this auspicious occasion, Ananjan, under his scheme of recording and presenting immensely talented singers who “could not realise their dreams due to pressing priorities”, produced two audio CDs containing songs sung by his mother. Accompanied by some of the best musicians, her collection of six devotional songs in Nutan Kore Gorhbo Thakur include Nazrulgeeti, the traditional Bhawani Dayani and two songs tuned by Ajoy Chakrabarty, who also rendered Sanskrit stotras in his inimitable style. Prano sakha, a collection of six Rabindrasangeet songs, showcases the versatility of the singer.

The celebration saw Ustad Rashid Khan officially launching Nutan Kore Gorhbo Thakur and Prano-sakha was released by Kaushiki Chakraborty. This was followed by an audio-visual on the “Musical Journey of Ananjan”, the lifeline of Ananjan Studio.