Beauty and Bliss
Mustafa Zaman Abbasi
Hariprasad Chourasia on flute.
Kolkata was still cold, especially in the lake areas, when some music lovers from Dhaka managed to turn up at a memorable musical programme. Being musicians, we feel the need to drink deep from fountains of music. From dusk to dawn, thousands of music lovers were soused with the taste of some sublime Hindustani music at Nazrul Mancha in Kolkata from January 22 to 25. A memorable moment of beauty and bliss was thus created for listeners as well as performers in a conference like this for which connoisseurs wait for a year.
Many years ago, when we were younger, in the company of our father, we came across stalwarts such as Ustads Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Zamiruddin Khan, Alauddin Khan, Mustaque Hossain Khan, Nisar Hossain Khan, Ustad Amir Khan. In Dhaka, we listened to Ustads Asad Ali Khan, Roushanara Begum, Nazakat Ali Khan, Salamat Ali Khan and others during the early years of Pakistan. The Dover Lane Music Conference is one such gathering in Kolkata, which has been annually presenting the stalwarts of Hindustani classical music for 58 years.
The first evening was a tribute to the memory of the recently departed Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. It was a nightlong performance by five of the best performing sarodists. It started with the presentation of Anindya Banerjee followed by Shiraz Ali Khan and Kamal Mallick. The next item was by Ali Akbar's son Alam Khan, and last but not the least, was the famous Ustad Aashish Khan. As we arrived one day late, we missed this evening's programme.
The second evening was in memory of Pandit Tarapada Chakrabarti, a friend of my father Abbasuddin. The aesthetics of his music created a tradition and his name is synonymous with the Kotala Gharana. He is regarded as one of the great musicians of the 20th century. His gayaki and his intrepid presence amongst the giants of the musical world of those days such as Abdul Karim Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Omkernath Thakur and others made him the icon of music in Bengal. He had improvised ati vilambit ektaal on which his gothic structure of vistara behelwa, bandish gayan, tan boltan and sargams were based.
The following night listening to his son, Pandit Manash Chakrabarti is a wonderful experience. His melodious voice, kotali gharana style, creating a home for the individual raga, pure understanding of kheyal, thumri, tappa, bhajan, at once made me feel that he is really an 'artist of artistes'. When he started his jogkosh in ektala, and then in surfakta with his daughter lending her sweet melodious presence, I felt the presence of his father, Sangeetacharya Tarapada in the concert.
The duo recital of Santoor by Tarun Bhattacharya and flute by Ronu Majumdar was memorable. Perfect understanding of presented ragas, total submersion of ragas' behaviour in ascending and descending between these two stalwarts was a treat. Santoor maestro Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya traversed the globe performing in some of the most awe-inspiring venues and cities. He revolutionised Santoor, as I have never heard before. He mastered the maihar gharana and is a wizard in ragdari as well as layakari (mathematical calculations). I also rate Ronu Majumdar as a major innovator of New Age Music as flute has been introduced as a new aesthetics in Indian music. They played three ragas and three dhuns. The music in accompaniment with tabla took us to new areas of musical mist.
Padmasree Ustad Rashid Khan, the best kheyalist in the sub continent, started with jog raga. Pure romanticism studded with a matured tan boltan sargam and mirrh in accompaniment with Sarengi of Murad Ali was the main attraction of the conference. I listened to him many times at ITC and Dhaka. He has matured tremendously, but I felt he was not in the best of moods that night.
Pandit Manas Chakravarty with his daughter.
In comparison, a young artist, named Jayateerth Mevundi, a disciple of Vimsom Joshi and Gangu Bai Hangal took the conference by storm. His style of kirana gharana depicted in his first presentation of raga bhupali, 'tuma bina kawn' spread his melodious voice throughout the auditorium in seconds. He knew the correct placing of vadi samvadi, the exact recluse of ragas heart, the resonance and modulation in his voice all ended in my evaluation of being the best performer of kheyal that night. His next presentation of Sudhkalyan followed by Pahari Thumri and Bhajan by Tulsidas is still ringing in my ears. Jayatu Jayateerth!
Padma Talwalkar presented Darbari Kanara followed by Raga Basanta and then a thumri. She has a melodious voice and the presentation was well planned. In comparison, presentation of Shubhada Paradkar was ordinary. Manjiri Asanare- Kelkar, an artist from UP was also good. Kushal Das, a solo sitar and surbar player from Kolkata, was a disciple of Ravishanker, who also played with great fervour.
I heard Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Hariprashad Chourashia many a times. Amjad Ali, when on stage, looks like the prince of music. Every stroke of him is a gift from paradise. But these days he no longer enjoys deflowering a raga in a gradual manner, as he seems to be playing for western audience mostly. The audience, whom he considers as 'the soul of his motivation', is often deprived.
Chourasia, on the other hand, believes in establishing a rapport with the audience. He claims to speak Bengali; he says that he is more a Bengali than someone from Allahabad. In Bangladesh, he would easily pick up a bhatiali dhun and play it for an hour; in Kolkata he picked up Pahari Dhun where he included kirtan as well. One is never tired to listen to his flute.
The conference venue attracted 5000 strong enthusiasts from all over the world. Several stalls were set up selling records, CDs and Videos. The younger ones busied themselves dissecting items they just heard, sipping coffee or taking a bite. The first few rows were occupied by elderly like us procured on premium, the middle rows by comparatively younger people; and the last fifty rows by new generation showing up with small tape recorders, note books and pillows, were the real connoisseurs and they formed the backbone of the conference.
It was an occasion where the music of the past generation reappeared once again in the presentation of new generation artists. Gharana of Joypur, Gwaliar, Patiala, Agra are rare to listen to these days. In the audience again, I could no longer find my lost friends, Ravi Kichlew, Vijay Kichlew and Kumar Prashad Mukherjee. In previous meets at ITC I noticed the presence of personalities like Aparna Sen, Soumitra and Ajoy Chakravarti. Many regular visitors could not go there this time due to visa restrictions. Dover Lane may not need performers from Pakistan or Bangladesh as India has so many talented artistes. Bangladesh certainly would do well if it sends at least a hundred new generation artistes to present their work at this conference.
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