Two streams of Indian classical music

The aesthetically designed studio-theatre of Chidakash Kalalaya, an Ashram-like institution founded by the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award recipient scholar-guru Piyal Bhattacharya, is a haven of research, restoration, and practical application of music, dance, and drama as scripted in Bharatmuni’s Natyashastra and its precious commentaries by scholars of yore.

Two streams of Indian classical music

Saraswati Pooja (Photo:SNS)

The aesthetically designed studio-theatre of Chidakash Kalalaya, an Ashram-like institution founded by the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award recipient scholar-guru Piyal Bhattacharya, is a haven of research, restoration, and practical application of music, dance, and drama as scripted in Bharatmuni’s Natyashastra and its precious commentaries by scholars of yore. Maintaining its tradition of offering music, dance, or drama to Goddess Saraswati on Vasant Panchami, Bhattacharya invited Sarod sisters Troilee Dutta and Moisilee Dutta this year. They chose to play Saraswati, an enchanting evening raga named after the goddess of learning. Adhering to the dhrupad ang gayaki, the melodious alap displayed sthayi and antara-based elaboration of the raga briefly. The sanchari and abhog segments of an alap were highlighted by the medium and fast speed of the jod segment, which exhibited their playing skills. Ably accompanied by Mithun Chakraborty’s pakhawaj and the tabla of Soumen Hazra, the sisters’ teental gatkari, replete with a variety of rhythmic patterns, was highly commendable.

So was the alap-jod-jhala in Raga Malkauns on the Rudra-Veena, played by Sayak Mitra, the multitalented disciple of Bhattacharya. He sings, dances, acts, composes, and assists his guru in teaching with equal competence. His clear concept of different jaatis of laya lent a sparkling effect to his brief recital. This was followed by two dance items offered by Somen Palit (Saraswati Varnam in Bharatanatyam) and Amrita Adhikari (Draupadi-katha in Odissi). Finally, the reconstructed Mattakokila Veena of the primaeval era, played by Subhendu Ghosh, sang out the Murchana of Shadja Grama of the Bharata. This talented disciple of Bhattacharya mastered its playing technique under the guidance of U Win Maung of Myanmar because it is extinct in our country but still exists there as its national instrument!

Musical Streams


An intimate evening of Carnatic and Hindustani streams of Indian classical music was organised by Bharatiya Vidta Bhavan and the Infosys Foundation on 16 February at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture. The evening commenced with a percussion ensemble, conceived and presented by Mridangam Vidwan Shankar Narayanaswamy. It featured Ghatam maestro Somnath Roy and upcoming tabla exponent Sohon Ghosh.

After this heady and vociferous item, it is challenging to attract listeners’ attention with an instrument like Shatatantri Veena (very similar to Santoor) with its soft, delicate sound, but young maestro Dishari Chakraborty, belonging to Maihar Gharana, achieved this within seconds due to his pristine presentation of Hem Bihag, a raga invented by Baba Alauddin Khan. The alap adhered to the dhrupad anga instrumentalism of his gharana, having four segments. The slow elaboration focused on the ascending and descending order of the raga, respectively. The jod segment, starting with medium-paced rhythmic phrases, blended the gait of both sthayi and antara, while the fast jod displayed the ecstatic mood of the raga. In the jhala, Dishari’s playing technique was at its best and closed with lad-guthao. Pakhawaj virtuoso Mithun Chakraboty provided lively support.

For gatkari, he selected a traditional slow Masitkhani composition in raga Khamaj and adorned it with melodious elaboration of the raga, cascading taan-todas, and tisra-jati rhythmic patterns. It was a pleasant surprise to experience a drut gat replete with manjha and antara, because many star musicians prefer to play just the sthayi of a bandish these days and go ahead with the whole gamut of instrumental music recital. After short, crisp taans, bol-based taans, and thonk jhala, his wish for sawal-jawab was granted by the superbly crafted replies on the tabla of maestro Ujjwal Bharati, who provided excellent support till the climax created by high-speed jhala that came to a close with a dynamic and dramatic tihai.

Festival of Percussions

Internationally acclaimed tabla maestro Abhijit Banerjee organises Saaz aur Aawaz, an annual event under the aegis of Dhwani Academy. Banerjee founded this institution in memory of his legendary Guru, Jnan Prakash Ghosh, and nurtures young talents, with a focus on visually challenged children, to master the magic of percussion instruments of different genres. The Academy takes pride in its initiative to print the first Braille book, ‘Innersight’ in English, Hindi, and Bengali, for tabla students who get it for free all over the world. Scholarships for these children and the stage for their tabla ensemble recitals are also organised to encourage them.

This year, the Academy organised a two-day festival at the Vivekananda Hall, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Golpark, on 23 and 24 February, with only one exceptional item in the first half of the second day. It showcased Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee Odissi dance expert and Guru Ratikant Mohapatra with his troupe consisting of a few of his highly competent male disciples and musicians for live accompaniment. This art is dwindling because of a lack of funds for several rehearsals and travel costs.

Mohapatra’s disciples, Rajib Bhattacharya, Subikash Mukerjee, and Shivnarayan Banerjee, exhibited his pure dance compositions and choreography with amazing precision, supported by their guru’s mardala and bol-padhant. But, as a performer par excellence, Mohapatra chose to present the abhinaya items himself. Ramastuti, set to raga Kedar, stood out for his facial and physical expressions. Supported by melodic grandeur soaked in devotion, several other incidents from the Ramayana were also portrayed, including his masterpiece Shabari. Vocalist Rupak Parida, superbly supported by mardala (Eklabya Muduli), violin (Agnimitro Behera), along with harmonium and cymbals, created the ambience with his soulful singing.

This was followed by a pleasant surprise. Pandit Arvind Kumar Azad, a worthy disciple of tabla-legend Kishan Maharaj, is well known to the Kolkata audience as a wonderful accompanist of every genre in classical dance, vocal, and instrumental music. But as a soloist, he debuted on this revered stage with a classy ‘khuli chaant’, steeped in melody and power. This first sur-filled ‘dha’ was so awe-inspiring that it attracted every listener’s attention instantly. Supported by Hiranmay Mitra’s seasoned harmonium, he played teental, vividly displaying the aesthetic appeal of Benares Gharana and his mastery over its pakhawaj-influenced, commanding yet ‘raseela’ style.

Finally, in sheer contrast to Benares, the delicately crafted, beautiful, but complex bols of Ajrara Gharana, represented by popular accompanist/soloist Ustad Akram Khan, kept his audience glued to their seats under his charm of elegant tabla playing. In the penultimate slot, Abhijit Banerjee, flanked by Ghatam Vidwan Suresh Vaidyanathan, Snehasish Majumdar (mandolin), Somnath Roy (percussion) and Grammy Awardee Lars Meller, a guest, presented a fusion of both the streams of classical Indian percussion.

However, the first evening began with a bunch of brief tabla recitals played by several budding talents. Among them, Aniruddha Sharma, disciple of pakhawaj maestro Sukhad Munde, and Abhijit Banerjee stood out as the only pakhawaj-solo, guided by Banerjee. All of these youngsters performed with commendable maturity and vouched for their good talim, hard work, and bright future.

Banerjee staged a solo recital by celebrated tabla maestro Arup Chattopadhyay, a disciple of his senior gurubhai, Pandit Shankar Ghosh. Chattopadhyay scaled the peak of sensitive rhythm-play that does not rely on dry mathematical permutation only. Seadily supported by Gourab Chatterjee’s luring naghma on the harmonium, he officially opened the festival with teental. A brilliant Peshkar, followed by kayda, tukra, rela, etc. with Farukhabad elements, his presentation mostly relied on the compositions of his Guruji. The variety of bols used and the clarity of their nikas resulted in such an aural beauty that was no less than a melody. He closed with a Bedam chakradar.

Distinguished for his intellectual appeal in tabla-solo and accompaniment, Pandit Yogesh Samsi attracts the younger musicians of this generation. He enjoyed the Kirwani-based auchar played by harmonium-wizard Hiranmay Mitra before the peshkar that started with a slow, alap-like progression of the phrases applied in it and entered the complex arena of jaatis (tisra, khanda, mishra) and chhandas. He also exhibited the beauty of several ustads’ compositions that highlight different bol-combinations of tabla-parlance with amazing dexterity. He accepted encores for laggi patterns very graciously.

The writer is a senior music critic