I was privileged to be invited by the North Bengal Classical Artist Forum to their musical soiree on 3-4 October, where I saw an eight-year-old playing the pakhawaj with the outlook of an experienced musician. For half an hour, Arijit Banerjee played on the drum, keeping the audience amused and enthralled. He began with Shiva Stuti and Ganesh Vandana and our eyes twinkled when he played Salami Boul.
The thought flashed across my mind as to how such a young boy could do wonders by brining out his own improvisations in classical music. It came into my mind how Abhimanyu, the son of Arjun in the Mahabharata, knew the tricks of archery when he was still in the womb. What I mean is that a child, if nourished like a sapling with great care, can become a fruit-bearing tree that gives refreshment to all who comes underneath.
I thought of interviewing this wonder kid who lives at Dabgram in Siliguri, to know what his secrets were. Arijit studies in class-II in the Pathbhavan School at Hakim Para in Siliguri, and like any other child, he too reads story books and comics and watches cartoons, or loves to complete school assignments on time and achieve good result in studies.
The difference is that the gives extra time for his passion- the pakhawaj-and he practices for at least three to four hours a day, accompanied his father Sanjay Banerjee, a noted pakhawaj player in India, who travels with his musical family to perform at places like Benaras, New Delhi, Aurangabad, Allahabad, Kolkata and even Bangladesh.
Arijit’s mother Keya Banerjee is an equally famous Dhrupad musician of Dagar Gharana, blessed by great classical maestros like Bidushi Kaveri Kar, Mrindagam Acharya Gurudas Ghosh, Pundit Ravi Shankar Upadyaya, Pundit Akhilesh Gundecha, Pundit Dalchand Sharma and Pundit Mohan Shyam Sharma.
It is indeed a very good thing for Arijit to be blessed and motivated by stalwarts of classical music as he shares the stage with the likes of Pundit Malhar Ghosh, Pundit Digambar Mitra, Pundit Arup Chattopadhyay and Pundit Sujay Basu.
Every year, during vacations and festivals, Arijit accompanies his parents to perform in the International Classical Music festival. In the International Dhrupad Festival held in Banaras, little Arijit played in June 2016 and on 12 February 2018.
“He left the audience spell-bound with his solo performance. He again excelled in Dhaka in Bangladesh on 27 June 2018 when he was invited by the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre in a classical evening. It was again time for him to play in the Rajshahi University on 2 July 2018 in the programme entitled “murchana,”‘ family members revealed.
The proud mother says she never stopped her music even for once even after her child’s birth. “I practiced and performed on stage without any discomfort when Arijit was in my womb, and even after giving birth, I sang while Arijit lay on my lap,” she says.
Arijit is never fond of computer games nor does he like to listen to rock music. He instead spends his leisure hours in watching Drupad music and pakhawaj recitals of notable Indian classical musicians on YouTube. He loves to listen to Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar Sahib and Bidushi Kaveri Kar and others.
Asked about his future plans, the little wonder told me he would like to grow as a renowned Pundit of Indian classical music and take the pakhawaj to new heights, spread across the seas.
Arijit started performing since he was six, and he is now also a radio artist who plays the pakhawaj at the Akashvaani in Siliguri in the Sishu Mahal section.
Asked how they would love to see their son grow, Mrs Banerjee says she would like to see her son become a noted classical musician and take this Gharana to a new dimension, while Mr Banerjee says he would like to see his son grow up as a good human being, “as only a good human being can become a good musician.”