Raagini Arts, established by enterprising vocalist Minaakshi Majumdar with a pledge to promote the rich heritage of Indian Classical Music and Dance and other performing arts and culture, debuted in style at Uttam Mancha in Kolkata recently. Raagini Arts has charted a long-term commitment to the world of art with a few but important objectives. It aims to curate and organise innovative public performances through national and international collaborations; to ensure participation of young talented artistes of the country, to invite other organisations that keen on taking this pledge forward as partners, and to remain completely committed to all performing arts.
Keeping its promise the event did focus on young musicians but with the final slot reserved for star performers for obvious reasons. The inspired jugalbandi of tabla maestro Abhijit Banerjee and ghatam virtuoso Somnath Roy, ably accompanied by Sanatan Goswami, came as a thrilling confluence of the Hindustani and Carnatic streams of music. Banerjee chose teental, which is usually teamed with the aditala despite their having different gats due to divisions of taali and khaali. But according to Roy, teental is akin to hamsanadam in the Carnatic parlance, in which he ventured to infuse the Hindustani style of rhythmic variations with élan while Banerjee remained glued to the varied hues of tabla traditions.
Earlier, the evening commenced with a sarod recital by its young exponent Indrayuddh Majumdar, son-disciple of Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar. His companion was another young tabla exponent, Sohonn Ghosh, a disciple of Pandit Gobindo Bose. Both are budding organisers as well. Both, therefore, are well versed with stagecraft, its hazards and privileges. This helped a lot in charting out their presentation, which turned out to be picture perfect with neat raagdari (in raga shyam kalyan) replete with alap-jod-jhala and teental gatkaris (one of them a beautiful composition of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan) with ornate designs suited for aesthetic entertainment. However Ghosh needs to work on his bayan (base drum) to make it more musical. The concluding tihai need not always be so long either — a compact, neat arrival on the sam is more apt.
Minaakshi Majumdar, the second artiste of the evening, has been trained by a host of eminent gurus like Pandits Nihar Ranjan Bandopadhayay, Arun Bhaduri, Ajay Chakrabarty and Aniruddha Bhattacharya. She also learnt the art of thumri singing under the tutelage of the late Vidushi Purnima Chaudhuri. Blessed with a beautiful melodious voice, she chose to sing raga puria (piya gunwanta, slow ektal and Kar aayi piya sanga, fast teental) with an eye for symmetry and replete with all the eight segments of khayal singing; perhaps a result of the blend of different gharanas. For a change, she chose to have seasoned accompanists like Biplab Bhattacharya (tabla) and Allarakha Kalawant (sarangi). Their experience enhanced the beauty of her recital manifolds. While Bhattacharya gave a rock solid theka, Kalawat infused melodiousness, especially in the concluding Mishra pilu dadra (More saiyan nahi aaye). Majumdar too appeared more confident in this genre.
Young vocalists Atri Kotal, Nilanjana De and Sohini Singha Mojumdar won the top three positions respectively in the Pratima Chandra Memorial Award 2016 contest, organised by Pratima Chandra Foundation, in association with The Dover Lane Music Conference and The Dover Lane Music Academy. This year’s contest was confined to only female vocalists of Hindustani classical music in the age-group of 25-35 years. Professional artists were not allowed to participate.
After initial screening by the selection committee, 36 participants were selected to perform in front of a panel of erudite judges that included eminent vocalists like dhrupad maestro Falguni Mitra, Pandit Mohanlal Mishra and Vidushi Shubhada Paradkar. Each contestant was required to appear for both khayal and thumri idioms. The award money carries Rs 50,000 for the topper, Rs 20,000 for the first runner up and Rs 10,000 for the second runner up. The results were declared on 15 November and Awards will be conferred on 22 January at Nazrul Mancha at the inaugural ceremony of the 65th Dover Lane Music Conference.
Both Atri Kotal (the topper) and Nilanjana De (the first runner up) are senior disciples of Ustad Jainul Abedin since 2009 and 2003 respectively; while Sohini Singha Mojumdar is a disciple of Pandit Amiya Ranjan Bandopadhyay. Kotal is often seen on concert platforms as a promising talent. De, after taking training from her guru till 2010, shifted base to England after marriage. Since then she has been getting online training from him on a regular basis. She participates in concerts there and has won Sangeet Ratna, Young Musician of the Year 2014 by Milap fest, which is one of the leading UK-based Indian classical music organisations under the Arts Council of England.
At the Parishad Sabhagar recently, Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad organised a novel-analysis! The pun is intended because it did focus on the novel Jadiya Bai, authored by Kusum Khemani; and in a novel style. When a poet assesses a novel by another author, it turns out to be something out of the ordinary. In this case, the analytical poet was the Governor of West Bengal, Dr Kesari Nath Tripathi. He also officially launched the book and regaled listeners by reciting some of his own poems in his rich, emotive baritone.
Khemani is a much-awarded and renowned author, translator, editor and orator with a number of novels, stories, travelogues and research papers to her credit. A venerated socialite, she is known for her love for literature and music. Her social and literary engagements see her as an active member of numerous organisations and also as the secretary and trustee of Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad since 1988. Parishad is a reputed institution dedicated to the promotion of all Indian vernacular languages with a special focus on Hindi since 1976. Vagarth, a literary Hindi monthly — edited by her and published by the Parishad — is considered as one of the most prestigious magazines in the eastern region of the country.
Each of Srijan’s Addas arrives stuffed with love-driven data about their chosen artiste/litterateur of the month. The team Srijan makes it a point to collect all possible information in the form of video, audio, books, paintings, photographs et al and tops it up with reminiscences from personal experiences, writings, musings, poems, translations or music. For the month of November, Srijan focused on Harivansh Rai Srivastava alias Bachchan as it happened to be his birth month (27 November 1907 – 18 January 2003).
On this occasion, Srijanites emailed invitations with a wonderfully compiled resume of the legendary poet. I am tempted to share it with the readers of this column, “One of whose very first poetry-books of 135 quatrains, Madhushala, published in 1935 brought him instant fame; whose own recitation became a ‘craze’ at kavi sammelans. Besides Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, he will also be remembered for his Hindi translations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Othello and also the Bhagvad Gita and his four-volume autobiography.
“Born in a Srivastava Kayastha family, in the village of Babupatti (Raniganj; Pratapgarh; UP), he died at 96 from respiratory ailments. The poet studied at the Allahabad University and Banaras Hindu University; did a PhD on WB Yeats from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge University — the second Indian to do so.
“A string of awards including the Padma Bhushan for his immense contribution to Hindi literature, the inaugural Saraswati Samman for outstanding literary works in prose or poetry in any of the 22 Indian language listed in Schedule VIII of the Constitution of India, the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Soviet-land Nehru Award and the Lotus Award of the Afro-Asian writers’ conference, among others.”
In the early evening, Srijanites assembled in their cozy adda room. Beautifully anchored by Basant Rungta, they paid rich tributes through emotion-charged musings and readings from original Hindi writings of Bachchan and also some exceptionally good translations in Bengali and English by poets/writers like Utpal, Syed K Jamal and Debashish Lahiri. Later ghazal exponent Vibhas Kichlu offered his melodic tributes by singing a few of Bachchan’s poems.