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Golden treat for aficionados

Statesman News Service |

All roads led to Nazrul Mancha on the evening of 19 August when the Kajalrekha Musical Foundation, in association with “Golden Beats”, celebrated the golden birthday of tabla wizard Subhankar Banerjee with a cause. This fund-raising gala event, “Golden Blessings”, was organised to support physically challenged, underprivileged music students, to provide medical assistance to elderly musicians and also to organisations dedicated to physically challenged/differently-abled musicians. It featured two of the greatest living legends of Indian classical music, Pandits Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia.

The event&’s grand finale was scripted by Shivji with his mesmerising version of raga Bageshri, a sweet late-evening melody with its intrinsic pathos. The cerebral approach towards rhythmic permutations by both the santoor maestro and his just-turned-50 companion Subhankar Banerjee on the tabla, kept coming back to the emotive aspect of the melody. The heady blend was enchanting.

Earlier, Hariji, supported by worthy nephew-disciple Rakesh Chaurasia on the flute and Banerjee of the tabla, etched raga Yaman with his usual flourishes and concluded with a sweet Bengali kirtan-based dhun. Albeit not in the best of his health, Hariji was determination incarnate, like a warrior on a mission. And Rakesh, despite being a renowned performer in his own right, exemplified the role of a truly devoted disciple by remaining unobtrusive all through. So did Banerjee&’s sympathetic tabla.

However, ably compered by Biplab Ganguly, the event commenced with lighting the auspicious lamp by Pandits Vijay Kichlu and Swapan Shiva, followed by emotion-charged felicitations to the dignitaries and distribution of scholarships to differently-abled children and “special medical assistance cards” to organisations; because the Kajalrekha Musical Foundation, named after Subhankar Banerjee&’s vocalist mother who, despite her polio-induced physical handicap, breathed music till her last breath and inspired her son to pursue music as his passion and profession, had been promoting young talents and budding musicians through arranging music concerts, organising talent search contests and periodic classical music sessions, granting financial support and scholarships to physically challenged musicians and music students, giving financial support for kidney transplantation and organising lifelong medical insurance to elderly musicians.

For almost the last two decades the foundation has been striving to fulfil its aims under the guidance of Banerjee and his sincere supporters; and implemented by a clutch of his disciples — many of whom handled the event efficiently and immaculately, dressed up in well-coordinated red-and-white or yellow-and-white kurta-pyjamas. This aesthetic touch was perceptible during the launch of a music CD, “Golden Beats and Beyond”, brought out by Raga Ranjini. A documentary focused on Subhankar Banerjee&’s multifaceted persona as a vocalist, tabla-virtuoso, guru, family person and social activist was screened. It is beautifully conceptualised and documented by Shatarupa Sanyal and directed by Goutam Haldar.


Tributes to MSS

MSS or Madurai Sanmukhvadivu Subbulakshmi, one of the greatest vocalists who enchanted music lovers across the globe for more than seven decades, was the first musician to have won the Bharat Ratna — the highest honour given by the government of India.

Born on 16 September 1916, MSS trained under her mother who was a Vainika and started giving recitals even before entering her teens. The youngest to cut a 78 rpm disc (which she did at the age of 10), she gave her recital at the Music Academy, Madras (now Chennai), considered the Mecca of Carnatic music, when she was barely 17 years old. She became a well-known figure all over India after having acted in the film Meera as the main protagonist and her songs in both versions of the film, Tamil and Hindi, became immortal. The recorded discs of MSS, Venkatesha Suprabhatam, Vishnu Sahasranamam and Bhaja Govindam, find a place in every Hindu household and her Annamacharya Samkirtanam series is still the bestseller in Indian classical music.

She was the youngest to receive the Padma Bhushan in 1954, the year of its introduction. Later, she was awarded the Padma Vibhushan as well. Her immense social contribution was internationally acclaimed when she won the Magsaysay Award. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called himself a “mere Prime Minister in front of the Queen of Music” and Sarojini Naidu transferred the title “Nightingale of India” given to her to MSS while delivering the introductory speech as a prelude to the film Meera.

To celebrating her birth centenary year, the government has issued a commemorative stamp and music associations across the country have been organising programmes since September 2015 to pay homage to the great legend.

Students of the Sri Guruguha Gana Vidyalaya, Kolkata, under the aegis of the Guruguha Sangeeth Sammelan, offered “Anjali” at Ved Bhawan (15 August) by singing many of the choicest compositions that MSS popularised and immortalised. These kritis of the trinity (Thyagaraja, Shyama Sastri, Dikshitar), along with that of Annamacharya and Swati Tirunal were rendered by young and old students. Adi Sankara&’s sloka, “Mudhakaratta modakam” invoking Lord Ganesha, was sung in Ragamalika. Songs of Subrahmanya Bharati and C Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) also found a place.  The curtain was drawn with the singing of “Maitrim Bhajata” composed by the “Mahaperival” of Kanchi Mattham, which preaches universal brotherhood.  B Karthickeyan gave a commentary on MSS, highlighting her achievements. The entire event was conceived by Guru A Srividya, beacon of the Vidyalaya.



Rhythm organised “Guru Shishya Parampara” in memory of Sangitacharya Gouranga Saha by featuring guru-shishya duos at Birla Academy recently. Pandit Sujit Saha and his son-disciple Surajit Saha presented a tabla duet in teental. They played both uthan and peshkar and moved on to display some kaidas from their rich collection of the Farukabad gharana and Ajrala gharana. A few beautiful kaidas, tukras and chakradhars composed by the senior Saha found pride of place in the junior&’s repertoire. Adequately supported by Hiranmoy Mitra&’s harmonium, the clarity, variety and overall execution was attractive.

Vocalist Guru Dinanath Mishra and disciple Khagesh Kirtania chose to sing raga Megh on this rain-washed evening and concluded with another seasonal Desh thumri. They were accompanied by Biswajit Deb and Hiranmoy Mitra on the tabla and harmonium respectively. The concluding sitar duet featured Guru Debiprosad Chatterjee and disciple Anjan Saha. Their choice was raga Hemant. They played alap-jor and gatkari and followed it up with a lilting composition in Manjh Khamaj with the seasoned support of Pandit Sujit Saha&’s tabla.


Aiming big

Madhyamgram-based Bairagi, a cultural organisation with the aim of holding soirees all over West Bengal, debuted in the arena of classical music by featuring four dedicated musicians at the Ballygunge Institute Seminar Hall (21 August). Krishnendu Paul, who replaced the absentee artiste, played a tabla solo in the second slot of the evening. He played teental replete with uthhan, kaida, gat, chalan, rela, tukra, chakradar, etc. The choice of varied compositions, their effective execution, the open and powerful “chant” all added to the beauty of his presentation. He was accompanied by Paromita Paul on the harmonium. This was followed by a sitar recital by Sarmila Dutta. She chose raga Megh. The instrument was so well-tuned that the sympathetic strings continued to sing with each note of the melodious alap. The delighting jod-jhala led to the medium-paced jhaptal and drut teental gatkaris, nicely supported by Shankar Patra (tabla). She concluded with a lilting Desh composition set to teental.

Violinist Madhuvanti Pal, the final artiste of the evening, ventured to portray Piloo, a raga that has acquired a “light classical” tag these days. After a tuneful aochar, she moved to the medium-paced rupak and teental gatkaris. Her playing was full of difficult layakaris and heavy gamaks. Her final choice was another rarely heard raga, Mirabai ki Malhar (drut teental gatkari and jhala). Madhuvanti maintained the neatness of its picture even while arriving at sam after intricate taans. This was a difficult test for the violin but she handled it adeptly. Her accompanist, Krishnendu Paul (tabla), was reticent in the beginning but opened up later and offered thrilling support during the high-speed jhala.

Earlier, Pritam Das, the opening artiste, sang khayal in raga Yaman. He could do better with an obligatory melodic sense during the raga elaboration. He was ably supported by Shankar Patra (tabla) and Sagar Chandra Ghosh (harmonium).


Coming up

9-11 Sept: The Calcutta Classical Guitar Society presents a new format of festival programming for the city during its Monsoon Music Festival featuring recitals by eminent classical guitarists from Europe and the USA followed by an Indian classical concert; Gorky Sadan; 6.30-9 pm daily.

11 Sept: An evening of classical music featuring Avirup Ghosh (sitar), Satinath Bhattacharya (vocal) and Debamitra Bhattacharya (sarod); Ballygunge Institute Seminar Hall; 5.30 pm.

14 Sept: ITC Sangeet Research Academy presents its scholars Sumedha De (vocal) and Mallar Rakshit (sarod); Academy Hall; 6 pm.