To commemorate his death anniversary, the Baba Allauddin Memorial Committee observed its annual ritual of presenting Allauddin Sangeet Samaroh in association with the Department of Information and Culture, government of West Bengal, at Rabindra Sadan (6-7 September).

Technically speaking, the Maihar gharana existed even before Baba Allauddin Khan (1862-1972) went to Maihar, a small capital town of a princely state, then ruled by when Maharaja Brijnath Singh Jiu Deo. The Maharaja brought Allauddin Khan from Rampur in 1918 and gave him the status of court musician in his darbar and since then it was Allauddin Khan who made an immense contribution in the gharana style. As a musician, Allauddin Khan had some unique traits due to his training in various instruments under various masters. One of his gurus was Ustad Wazir Khan, who was a descendent of Miyan Tansen from his daughter&’s side and played the veena. That is why the Maihar gharana is mostly attributed to him and his lineage and is also called the Senia Maihar Gharana.

This is one of the few gharanas where melodic transition is not through generations of family members but through the truest form of guru-shishya parampara in which the guru handed down his treasures to every deserving shishya. It is also difficult to find another gharana that has produced maestros in different instruments such as Pandits Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Banerjee (sitar), Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod), Annapoorna Devi (surbahar), Pandit Pannalal Ghosh (flute) and Pandit VG Jog (violin).

Baba, being a left-handed sarod player, had a different kind of instrument and, therefore, a different playing technique. While teaching, he found it easy to sing and explain. His disciples would interpret him according to their own sensibilities and reproduce that on their instruments. This produced musically unique artistes. Not even one of Baba&’s numerous disciples plays like the other. But the learning process was not that simple. According to Ravi Shankar, “Many aspiring musicians came to Maihar for taaleem from Baba. Most ran away within a week. The handfuls who survived for a month got glued to Baba for the rest of their lives and became famous musicians.”

Baba&’s Maihar Band is no less famous. According to legend, when an epidemic broke out in the 1920s, many children were orphaned. Baba brought them together, taught them music and created the first ever Western-styled orchestra with Indian instruments. This is how the Maihar Band was born.

On the opening day of this two-day soiree, a recital by the Maihar Band was one of the most striking features. This ensemble consisted of commonly heard instruments like the sitar, sarod, flute, harmonium and tabla along with “Nal Tarang” (made out of gun barrels, an innovation by Baba) and the Saenga (a bow-instrument similar to the sarengi). Their repertoire included compositions in ragas Yaman, Madan Manjari (created by Baba), a folk-tune of Madhya Pradesh that blended ragas like Brindavani and Madhumad Sarang and another light classical dhun. Reflecting rigorous rehearsals, their performance was marked by overall tunefulness and magical cohesiveness. Typical Allauddin-style rhythmic variations, sawal-jawab, etc, were used to enhance the beauty but by intelligently modifying them to suit orchestral requirements.

Earlier, the evening commenced with garlanding of Baba&’s bust in the Nandan complex premises by eminent journalist/author Shankarlal Bhattacharya, who gave the opening speech. Other speakers were Dr Sanmay Banerjee, Krishna Sen and sitarist (Maihar gharana) Partha Bose. This was followed by a vocal recital by Santanu Banerjee. He sang khayals in raga Patadeep marked by melodious vistaar and powerful taans. His next choice was a fast composition in raga Megh. He was ably accompanied by Parimal Chakraborty (tabla) and Hiranmay Mitra (harmonium).

The second evening commenced with a vocal recital by Esha Bandyopadhyay in raga Bhimpalasi, replete with the tonality of bass voice and raagdari through time-honoured vistar phrases. Competently aided by Bivash Shanghai&’s tabla and Pradip Palit&’s harmonium, she also sang a Khamaj thumri. Sitar virtuoso Mita Nag&’s rendition of raga Megh, with Sangram Roy on the tabla, stood out for effortlessly flowing meends, intelligent rhythmic variations, interesting taans, tihais with forceful and clear jhala. 

As the final artiste of the Samaroh, veteran sarod exponent Basant Kabra, a disciple of Annapurna Devi, paid tribute to Baba through the sombre melody of Hem Bihag, a raga invented by Baba. He played detailed alap, jor, thok jhala and followed up with gatkaris studded with boltaan and upaj-layakari in slow and fast teental. His gharanedar taaleem stood out especially in raga imagery.

In memoriam 

Shyam Sundar & Co jewellers presented a three-day exhibition and talk show to commemorate the death anniversary of legendary musician Salil Chowdhury. An initiative by The Salil Chowdhury Foundation of Music has been undertaken to celebrate the glory and unknown facets of the music industry&’s immortal czar. Held on 5-7 September, this was inaugurated at Gorky Sadan with a talk show along with some music in the presence of stalwarts like Sabita Chowdhury, Antara Chowdhury, Sanjay Chowdhury, Haimanti Shukla, Tanmoy Bose, Goutam Ghose, Saikat Mitra, Surojit Chatterjee, Arundhati Holmechowdhury, Kalyan Sen Barat, Banasree Sengupta, Joy Sarkar, Srijato and Shivaji Chattopadhyay.

The second day witnessed performances by Kalyan Sen Barat and his group that remained focused on Salil Chowdhury and his compositions. The final day featured a special musical presentation by the musicians who used to accompany Salil Chowdhury. The exhibition showcased precious personal belongings of the legend including the rare paintings by him along with his awards and memorabilia. There were letters written by him to the industry people and appreciation letters received by him from the other doyens of the music and film industry. All were in blown-up format. There was also a pictorial gallery and an audio-visual presentation. 

The Salil Chowdhury Foundation of Music was established in 2002, in memory of this legendary music composer, poet, writer and playwright and, being a social help and education trust, it aims to work in the fields of music, social justice, empowerment and education and takes all steps to preserve, protect and promote Salil Chowdhury&’s valuable intellectual legacy in the field of music and other art forms. The foundation will establish musical institutes in his memory, carry out training, innovation and experimentation in music and grant fellowships and all encouragement to budding young talents and artists, especially to those in indigent circumstances.

A medley 

The Weavers’ Studio organised a melodious evening based on “The Effect of Raga” featuring vocalist Supratik Das under the direction of Bipasa Mitra, who also played the role of an anchor.  The raga of the evening was Yaman. Supratik sang 15 songs culled out from different genres, but all based on the oceanic raga. For example, there was this oft heard Rabindrasangeet “Dariye accho tumi aamaar” followed by a modern Bengali song, “Mone pore aj”. A bunch of songs from Hindi movies, including “Jab deep jale aana”, “Inhi logo ne”, “Meri aawaz hi pehechan hai”, gave a different dimension to this presentation.

150th birth anniversary

Swami Abhedananda (1866-1939) is hugely overshadowed by the magnetic persona of Swami Vivekananda, his contemporary and gurubhai. Like Swamiji, he, too, was a prolific writer, composer and orator and often accompanied Swamiji&’s vocal recitals on the pakhawaj. Of all the contributions that Swami Abhedananda made to the Ramakrishna Movement, the most widely appreciated and enduring is his composition of sublime and beautiful hymns (in Sanskrit) on Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi. His hymn to the Holy Mother, “Prakritim paramam abhayam varadam”, is widely sung by devotees the world over.

Born to a well-to-do family and christened Kali Prasad Chandra, he was well groomed in Sanskrit and English. At the age of 18, he met Shri Ramakrishna Dev for the first time and thereafter became a frequent visitor to Dakshineswar and devoted servant of the Master. After his Master&’s passing away, he joined the Baranagar Math, became a sanyasi and was known as Swami Abhedananda. His intense meditation earned him the sobriquet “Kali Tapasvi”.

On Swamiji&’s beckoning, he went to London in 1896 to preach Vedanta there and the next year went to the USA to take charge of the newly founded New York Vedanta Centre. People thronged to listen to him — such was his oratory, replete with erudition and deep understanding of Indian philosophy. After his long and successful mission, he returned to India in 1923 and soon established the Ramakrishna Vedanta Math and continued to serve the order till he died on 8 September 1939. 

Sree Thakur Satyananda Dev, one of his eminent disciples, carried his work forward among the rural masses, especially through divine cultural activities. He handed over the lamp to his spiritual daughter Archanapuri Maa, who is the beacon of the Sree Satyananda Devayatan.

Coming up

24-26 Sept: Sree Satyananda Devayatan oragnises year-long celebration to mark the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Abhedananda. The inaugural three-day event features discourses along with “Yugacharya Abhedananda” (musical feature composed by Archana Maa) presented by Satyananda Sangeetpeeth; (24th) sarod recital by Abhijit Ray with Pulak Pal (tabla); (25th) dhrupad recital by Sanchita Chowdhury with Apurbalal Manna (pakhawaj); Devayatan Hall, 1 Ibrahimpur Road, Jadavpur; 6.30 pm daily.  

27 Sept: Lakshmi Jewellers present Swarang featuring brilliant young maestros: Sandip Ghosh (tabla solo), Prateek Srivastava (sarod), Sohini Bose (semi-classical) and Alick Sengupta (khayal); Joy Hind Auditorium, Mahamayatala, near BDM International School (Pratapgarh); 5.30 pm.