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Back where it began

Boasting performances by maestros, a couple of classical soirees lit up Kolkata’s cultural firmament recently.

Meena Banerjee |

The City of Joy vibrates with the best of soirees along with fine arts and performing arts’ exhibitions, seminars and workshops. For reasons unknown, all these cultural activities thrive in the southern part of Kolkata now; albeit the city of palaces or old Kolkata was the hub of it all not so long ago. It was this Kolkata, which was hailed as the cultural capital of India once.

Bratya Basu — minister of information technology and electronics, West Bengal government — who is better known as a very successful theatre personality, took it upon himself to reverse the trend; gradually, with active and positive work.

The Dum Dum Marga Utsav (Classical Music Festival), hosted by Dum Dum Pratyay Welfare Society and supported by Basu, emerged as a result. While inaugurating the star-studded second season of the super successful two-day soiree recently at Dum Dum Rabindra Bhavan, a visibly happy Basu admitted, “North Kolkata, often referred to as the original Kolkata, was always starved of good quality classical soirees or live classical music, although the place never lacked noted listeners and music lovers. I shared this idea with Raju Sensarma. I never knew that he will put so much effort to realise the dream.”


Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan
Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan


The fest featured a few eminent young musicians along with several stalwarts — both as the main performers and accompanists. With able support from Pandit Anindo Chatterjee’s sophisticated tabla, popular flautist Rakesh Chaurasia, nephew-disciple of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, commenced proceedings. Next was a sarod duet by brothers Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan (ragas Yaman Kalyan, Bageshri and a Pahadi dhun).

They were well supported by Shubhen Chatterjee and Fateh Singh Gangani. Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty (raga Abhogi) chose to be in the company of young but brilliant accompanists like Sandip Ghosh and Gourab Chatterjee on the tabla and harmonium.

The dazzling cast of the second evening included legendary kathak maestro and Padma Vibhushan awardee Pandit Birju Maharaj with Shaswati Sen (dance) and Mukund Rajdeo (tabla), erudite khayal exponent Pandit Ulhas Kasalkar (ragas Multani, Marwa and Desh), Pandit Surash Talwalkar (tabla) and Gourab Chatterjee (harmonium), popular vocalist Shubha Mudgal (with Pandit Anish Pradhan and Sudhir Mishra on the tabla and harmonium respectively) and sitar maestro Irshad Khan with tabla virtuoso Subhajyoti Guha as his co-artiste.


Shubha Mudgal
Shubha Mudgal


Dum Dum Pratyay Welfare Society (the host of this soiree) is a non-profit organisation headed by Raju Sensarma. The organisation is also known for its social welfare plans that include financial support for 25 poor children’s education, health awareness programmes and cultural activities like drama performed by street children.

Vociferous duet

The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture organised an enthralling classical violin-duet recital at their prestigious Vivekananda Hall recently. The evening featured the famous violinists Deb Shankar Roy and Jyoti Shankar Roy (popularly known as the Violin Brothers) with an interesting combination of North-South percussions.

Veteran mridangam vidwan Shankar Narayanaswamy and young, brilliant tabla exponent Arindam Chakravarty, as their accompanists, could add this special effect simply because the Brothers, disciples of Pandit Ravi Shankar, are adept at playing Hindustani classical as well as Western classical along with fusion music.

They showed their class through their technique and command over the instrument with a few well rendered compositions rather than dwelling upon one single raga and its compositions.


Violin Brothers with N Shankar and Arindam Chakraborty
Violin Brothers with N Shankar and Arindam Chakraborty


They started their recital with raga Keervani set to rupak tala in the slow-medium tempo and later in fast teental. With very clear notes and tone they brought out the essence of this beautiful raga and coloured it with their laya-chhanda based imagination during the gatkaris both in the vilambit and madhya laya. The drut was also very interestingly played; however they did not play the usual jhala.

Next, they chose raga Megh. Jyoti Shankar etched a short alap and then both the brothers started off with a brisk composition set to ektal. A very fast paced teental composition in raga Bhupali followed next to showcase their immense skill and control with speed-laced melody without going overboard with aggression, which one tends to do when playing at top speed.

It included thrilling sawal jawab between the violinst and the superb accompanying percussionists (Shankar Narayanaswamy and Arindam Chakravarty) who gave equal replies to the sawals put forward by the violin brothers and ended in a rousing finale after which the percussionists played a short sawal jawab between them and ended in a crescendo.

As the final piece, a very mellifluous Bhairavi turned to a Tagorean composition Bhenge Mor Ghare Chabi. The Brothers improvised on that and again came back to the original composition and closed their recital on an emotive note.