Mehfil

There are two main aspects of performance — baawat (content) and tareeqa (method of expression or skill). Since the latter rules the world now and lack of substantial content has reduced music to sheer excitement, the maestros need to analyse each of their disciples whether they are following the proper format. A music presentation, especially a vocal recital, is like telling a story that unfolds gradually, phrase by phrase, before reaching the climax. This journey must evoke taseer (soulful emotion) that results out of introspection or meditation. But this introspection also demands a tareeqa or methodology.

A composition plays a major role in this because its vowels and consonants portray a picture, strong enough to evoke taseer. A bandish or composition actually takes three major aspects of music within its fold: lyrics; the raga&’s key phrases; and rhythm-based gait. Different bandishes in the same raga come up with different characters and moods of the lyrics, raga and rhythmic designs. When one portrait by the lyrics, one angular aspect of the raga and one mood of the tala get encapsulated within one song, all these help define the nature of the performance of the day.

This is a vast subject; it demands close familiarity with raga, tala and language of the lyrics. The latter, in turn, demands proper enunciation and clear understanding of the intrinsic meaning. The meaning, more often than not, goes much deeper than the literal one; because, as is the nature of all Indian languages, abhidha (literal) leads to lakshana (indicative) and climaxes in vyanjana (deviated, hidden meaning). As a result, the most erotic of all bandishes can be treated at the height of spiritualism. That is why, when taken literally, the deep Sufiism underlying the oft-heard “Bairan Saas-Nanadiya” appears as shallow pieces of literature composed by so-called “illiterate musicians” of a post-medieval era!

Surprisingly, these are still sung by most of the top khayal exponents due to their excellent melodic and rhythmic structure; but very few try to go under the skin of the bandishes so lovingly sung by such legends like Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Amir Khan and the like. These are the secrets that are rarely shared by any gharaanedar musician with people outside their clan. They retain these secrets as their ancestral treasures that can be given away as dowry or converted into precious assets.

But not so in the case of Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, a keen researcher and teacher who believes in sharing all that he has learnt at the feet of his legendary guru, Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh, who was a great scholar of Sanskrit, Pali, Urdu languages apart from vocal and percussion music.

Thanks to the farsighted concept and presentation of “Mehfil” by tabla maestro Tanmoy Bose, supported by the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Bihaan Music and Krysties, what Chakrabarty usually shares with his disciples has become available for aficionados. The ongoing series of events focused on different genres of Indian music are coming up with one important topic. The rain-soaked evening of 24 July saw “Bandish” as the topic of the month.

Chakrabarty judiciously selected quite a few bandishes from his treasure trove but paucity of time allowed him to discuss the lyrics of only 12 that sang the praises of Krishna, Shiva, nature, guru and devotional bliss. While Chakrabarty, a wonderful speaker, talked lucidly and logically about the literary beauty of the lyrics, their imaginative tuning within the raga-canvas and the aesthetics of enhancing their meaning by treating them with proper enunciation and embellishments, his senior disciple Brajeshwar Mukherjee translated them into enchanting music. Ably supported by Soumen Sarkar and Gourab Chatterjee on the tabla and harmonium respectively, this worthy shishya presented the compositions — most of which were either composed by Jnanbabu or by Chakrabarty himself — with suitable ornamentations as per the style of the gharana. Despite the short duration, he could accommodate different aspects of khayal singing in different compositions with a superb sense of editing.

Going solo

“Happy Birthday”, a solo act by Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee, premiered on 15 July at Padatik Buildwell Theatre. Chatterjee is an accomplished actor-elocutionist and is also the curator of “Monologues”, India&’s only solo arts festival, apart from being a host of a live-chat show called Just My Way. His work as an actor on stage and screen has been hugely appreciated by many. As a popular elocutionist, Sujoy has performed for legendary personalities like Gulzar and Sunil Gangopadhyay and has been part of BBC Radio 3 productions.

The event was supported and presented by Team Future, a leading institution encompassing engineering, management and media verticals. It was a rain-soaked evening but that didn’t deter the city&’s cognoscenti from being present to experience “Happy Birthday”, the first solo play written and performed by Chatterjee. And it turned out to be a play that addresses issues of diversity and sexual prototypes. It raised such haunting questions: What happens when your skin gets more attention than your talent? How do you react when your body contours supersede your potential? Do you still absorb abuse every day? Do you feel “boxed” when it comes to work? Have you ever loved somebody where you forgot to categorise your feelings?

Life moves on with these unanswered questions, till one day one starts seeking them, triggered by memories or may be just circumstances. “Happy Birthday” is the story of a man travelling through the alleys of his life, probably to celebrate a new birthday.

Directed by actor Sudipa Basu, the play delved into the life of Ronny Das, a copywriter for an advertising agency; and his tryst with his memories and muse. He comes home one evening, disappointed with his agency and clients and goes on a trip down memory lane. He visits and revisits the pain and agony of his childhood, the abuse that he went through as a teenager and how his life changed after meeting Roger Evans, a strip-dancer in London.

Sujoy&’s powerful performance was coupled with a very effective sound design by percussionist Dipayan Ganguly. Seen among the select audience were designer Chaitali Dasgupta, actor Barun Chanda, filmmaker Gaurav Pandey, choreographer and dancer Sudarshan Chakravarty, actor Ekavali Khanna, theatre personality Sanchayita Bhattacharya, musician Sumit Roy and several others. “Happy Birthday” moves to Toronto in September for an international premiere.

In memoriam

“Nibiro ghono andharay” was launched on 22 July at Starmark, South City Mall, in association with Sagarika Music, the publishers of the audio CD. This is an album of Tagore&’s devotional songs sung by Shyamoshree Gupta. Born in an illustrious Brahmo family of Rabindrasangeet singers, Gupta learnt music at a well-known Rabindrasangeet school in south Kolkata, graduating with a first class first diploma in 1985. Her unique voice and exquisite rendition of Rabindrasangeet brought her early recognition. She has received glowing praise for her performances at Rabindra Sadan, Kala Mandir and the Brahmo Samaj in Kolkata, at the Natya Mandir in Mumbai and in San Francisco and the Bay area of the USA. She is also an Akashvani Kolkata artiste. “Nibiro ghono andharay” is Shyamoshree&’s tribute to her beloved brother, the late Abhijit Gupta — a world-renowned artist and a founder-member of “Khoj Kolkata”.

Curtain-raiser

Not long ago, each gharana of Hindustani classical music boasted of a unique character of its own. The distinctive flavour of most of the gharanas is passé now. Sambhavi, an organisation that aims at promoting classical music by preserving the ancient “Gharanedar Guru Shishya Parampara”, is determined to revive and retain this uniqueness. It also has an objective to provide a platform to young talented artistes along with the veterans. It is starting its journey on the evening of 14 August 2015 at Indumati Sabhagriha. Jadavpur University campus. Its debut presentation features Nabhodeep Chakraborty, a direct disciple and torchbearer of the unalloyed Kasur Patiala gharana. Albeit young, he is carrying forward this lineage not only with his music performances but also by successfully grooming worthy students who are displaying great promise to carry forward this lineage.

To prove this fact, the evening also features Sagnik Sen, one of the foremost “gandaband shagirds” of Nabhodeep. Sagnik recently bagged the coveted “Classical Voice of India” title during a pan-Indian contest and won praise from icons like Ustad Rashid Khan! The concert promises to begin with the inaugural recital of bhajan by Atasi Sarkar, another talented student of Nabhodeep Chakraborty.

Coming up

1 Aug: Sangeet Piyasi organises the 24th annual night-long music conference to offer homage to Guru Krishna Kumar Ganguly (Natubabu); featuring Debojyoti Bose (sarod), Brajeshwar Mukherjee and Deborshee Bhattacharya (vocal duet), Kedia brothers (sitar-sarod duet), Prasant Samadhar and Raghab Chatterjee (vocal duet), Dhrubajyoti Chakraborty (sitar) and Nandini Chakraborty (vocal); Uttam Manch; 9 pm onwards.

2 Aug: Bhowanipur Sangeet Sammilani pays tribute to flute legend Gour Goswami with music featuring flautists Sudip Chattopadhyay and Subir Roy, vocalist Suparna Chatterjee; accompanists Aurobinda Bhattacharya, Soumen Sarkar (tabla), Debashis Adhikary (harmonium); Sammilani Hall; 6 pm.

5 Aug: Nrittyoday — the Creators of Creativity — presents its second annual celebration of dance “Sankalpa”; Gyan Manch; 6 pm.

5 Aug: ITC SRA presents solo recital of young tabla exponent Unmesh Banerjee; Academy Hall; 6 pm.