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Steeped in emotive melody

Meena Banerjee |

Vocalist Shaunak Abhisheki’s recital was a refreshingly pleasant deviation from the prevalent vocal styles in Kolkata and stood out for its melodic and emotional content during the “Concert for Harmony” at Uttam Mancha recently by Nadd foundation — a Delhi-based organisation committed to propagating Indian classical music in different cities of India. The worthy son and disciple of Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki began the evening with Dhani — a raga with limited scope for elaboration and, therefore an unusual choice for the slow-paced bada khayal. But his vilambit ektal and drut teental had the stamp of a gharanedar musician’s confident delineation. He followed it up with a thumri in mishra Kalavati set to Punjabi/pushto tala — another rarity in Bengal. He rounded off with a nirguni bhajan in deepchandi tala. Durjay Bhaumik and Anirban Chakrabarty provided inspiring accompaniment on the tabla and harmonium respectively.

Tabla maestro Swapan Chaudhuri’s solo recital — treating the audience to a memorable collage of kaida, rela, tukra, chakradar of the Lucknow gharana — was the grand finale of the event. Earlier, sitar exponent Partha Bose (Maihar gharana) chose Tilak Kamod replete with alaap, jhaptal and madhyalaya teental compositions while balancing the time-honoured phrases of the melody with traditional sitar techniques of meend, krintan and ekhara taan. The concluding Kafi highlighted the romantic mood of the raga with the austere tabla accompaniment of Ustad Sabir Khan.


Madhyami, in collaboration with Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad, offered an emotion-charged Shraddhanjali to Padmabhushan Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan (18 February 1927-4 January 2017) at Bhasha Parishad Sabhagar. The Ustad, who was in the league of sitar maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan and Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, was the last giant of the sitar. He effortlessly straddled the profoundness of Hindustani classical music and its popular version in the Bollywood film world. He had established the Jafferkhani Baaj — a unique style of playing the instrument, and was awarded  Tantri Vilas, Padmashri, Padmabhushan, Tagore Ratna, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and many more.

The Ustad’s prime disciple Pandit Harashankar Bhattacharya is the sole veteran representative of Jafferkhani Baaj in this part of the world and as such his Guruji treated him as his bada beta (elder son). Now his son Deepshankar Bhattacharya is carrying the baton of the gharana with great enthusiasm.

ecently Kolkata saw this father-son duo lifting the prestigious Jadu Bhatta Award for keeping the flag of guru-shishya parampara flying high. Several dignitaries recounted interesting anecdotes regarding the Ustad. All this and much more information about the legend was captured and recorded in camera by the Bhattacharyas and preserved by them. Deepshankar made a wonderful documentary by compiling lovingly-assembled photographs, audio clips and a few rushes of video from this archival collection. The projection of this audio-visual churned up nostalgia; especially the last part that showed the Ustad turning his back and walking away towards light. Choking with tears Harashankar Bhattacharya recounted how he met his Guruji and much later how he selected Madhyami, one of his unique raga-creations, as the name of his organisation and how the relation lasted forever.

Both Harashankar and Deepshankar played a duet in raga Marwa, the first raga taught to the senior Bhattacharya by his Guruji. The elaborate alap showcased almost all the aspects of their style that thrives on very complex ornaments of instrumental music. The teental gatkaris, accompanied by Abhirup Roy’s tabla further established the uniqueness of the Baaj. The best part was that every single phrase, except the cascading taans, remained steeped in emotive melody.

Holi birthday

Ramkrishna Math and Ramkrishna Mission (controlled by Belur Math) organised a grand celebration of the 155th Birth anniversary of Swami Brahmananda, the spiritual son of Thakur Ramkrishnadeva at their Sikra-Kulingram Ashram recently.

Thousands of people were enthralled by an extremely captivating musical morning that was woven with devotional songs by the Bhajan Samrat Anup Jalota (Mumbai) and a recital by tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh. Ghosh presented a trio performance with his midangam vidwan Guru S Sekhar under whom he still receives training in mridangam and Gopal Barman, an eminent artiste who introduced Bengal’s Srikhol to the world. In this all the three maestros showcased solo pieces as well as passages of playing together while exchanging ideas in their instruments’ respective languages.

Anup Jalota mesmerised the audience with his most popular bhajans (both Hindi and Bengali) in his inimitable, effervescent and soothing voice. Starting with Aisi Lagi Lagan, he continued with other devotional songs like Khelichho E Biswa Loye and He Gobindo Rakho Charane (Nazrulgeeti), Govinda Jaya Jaya Gopal Jaya, Bolo Ram Ram Bolo Shyam Shyam, Rang De Chunaria, Main Nehi Makhan Khayo, Jhini Re Jhini and several of his immortal numbers.

This venue in Sikra-Kulingram is near Basirhat, 60 kilometers from Kolkata. Swami Brahmananda’s pre-monastic name was Rakhal Chandra Ghosh who was brought to Kolkata for his studies. There he met Narendra (Swami Vivekanda) and under his influence, joined the Brahmo Samaj. After that he was taken to Thakur Ramkrishna. Prior to that Thakur Ramkrishna had a vision in which he saw the divine mother showing him a child who would be his son. As soon as Rakhal came to Dakhineswar, Ramkrishna recognised him and treated him like his son. He was one of the six disciples of Thakur Ramkrishna. And after his Maha Samadhi, Rakhal underwent sannyasa ordination and became “Brahma-nanda”.

In 1897, Swami Vivekananda, after his return to India from Europe and the US, wanted to give a new turn to monastic life. A great bond of love was developed between these two monastic brothers. After establishing Belur Math, when Swami Vivekananda got Ramkrishna Math registered as a trust, Swami Brahmananda became its president. He held this post till the end of his life. For his kingly qualities of administration, Swami Vivekananda gave him the appellation “Raja”, and since then he was respectfully called Raja Maharaj. He left his mortal frame on 10 April1922. A temple stands in his memory at the place where his body was cremated in Belur Math.

On the holy birthplace of Raja Maharaj, 57 years ago Sri Ramkrishna Temple was consecrated on Akshaya Tritiya day (11 May1959). Swami Shankaranda Maharaj, the seventh president of Ramkrishna Math and Ramkrishna Mission, had inaugurated the Temple in Sikra-Kulingram. This is one of the branch centres of Belur Math, which within limited resources, is working for the up-liftment of the villagers in and around Sikra-Kulingram. Several projects in sectors like education, hygiene, healthcare, continued relief operations, et al have been undertaken by them. 

In the morning of the holy birthday of Swami Brahma-nanda, there was a procession carrying the photos of Sri Ramakrishna, Ma Sarada, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Brahmananda in carts on shoulders followed by an elaborate puja in the temple. Swami Anantananda, president, Ramkrishna Math and Ramkrishna Mission, Sikra-Kulingram came on the stage to address the audience, talk about Swami Brahmanandaji’s pious life and welcome the respected artistes. The entire celebration was a three-day festival on the occasion of the auspicious birth anniversaries of Ramkrishnadeva, Ma Saradadevi and Swami Vivekanananda apart from Swami Brahmananda. 

Music Fest

Gourmalhar (Burdwan) organised the Dhruvatara Sangeet Sammelan at the local Railway Institute Hall recently. The day-long fest began at 2 pm and featured vocalists Jayita Chowdhury Bhattachartya, Prasenjit Chakraborty and Nandini Chakraborty. Dilip Mukherjee and Surojato Roy supported them on the tabla while Sanatan Goswami and Kamalaksha Mukherjee provided melodic support on the harmonium. The only instrumentalist of the day was veteran sitar exponent Pandit Sanjoy Bandopadhyay. The Dhruvatara Joshi Smarak Samman was bestowed on this erudite musician and guru.