The four-day long Bengal-ITC SRA Classical Music Festival is just a few days away. In a bid to bring back the lost pride and to popularise the heritage of classical music, Bengal Foundation has joined hands with ITC-Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) in organising the festival. The much-hyped festival will kick off on November 29 at Army Stadium in Dhaka. Popular Bangla daily Prothom Alo is the strategic partner and The Daily Star is partner of the festival. Maasranga Television is the telecast partner while abc radio is the broadcast partner. Ice Media Limited is the media partner of the festival.
Observing the history of last 150 years of Bangladesh, we notice many of the brightest patrons of classical music. The names of many pioneering classical music maestros, including Ustad Allauddin Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ayet Ali Khan and Ustad Vilayet Khan are attached to Bangladesh.
The heritage of Bangladeshi music is very opulent; though it is unknown to some. Such a grand festival can play a key role in generating interest among all.
The entire festival has been dedicated to Sangeet Samrat Ustad Allauddin Khan while opening, second, third and concluding day's programmes will be dedicated to musicologist Waheedul Haque, Ustad Vilayet Khan, Pandit Uday Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan respectively.
About a hundred celebrated artistes both from ITC-SRA, India and Bangladesh will perform classical vocal and instrumental music at the festival. Of them, the profiles of several world-renowned artistes are sketched out below. Performances on the first two days (November 29-30) of the festival will start at 6 pm and will continue till 4:30 am the next day. On the next two days (December 1-2), performances will start at 6 pm and continue till 12 am.
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, the internationally renowned exponent of the bansuri or bamboo flute, loved music from an early childhood. By the age of 15, he was taking his first steps toward a lifetime as a performer by studying classical vocal with Pandit Raja Ram of Benares. He changed his focus to playing the flute after hearing a recital by Pandit Bholanath. Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia has become one of India's most-respected classical musicians, earning several awards, including the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1984, the Yash Bharati Sanman in 1994, the Padma Vibhushan in 2000 and the National Eminence in 2012. Pandit Chaurasia currently heads the World Music Department at the Rotterdam Music Conservatory and is also a dedicated teacher with several devoted art music students worldwide, many of whom are beginning to make their mark on the concert stage.
Vidushi Girija Devi
Acclaimed by music enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike, Vidushi Girija Devi, the prima donna of the Benaras and Senia traditions, has dedicated her life to the cause of Hindustani classical vocal music for over five decades. Born in Benaras in 1929, she was initiated into music at the tender age of five under the tutelage of Pandit Sarju Prasad Mishra. She later continued with Pandit Srichandra Mishra. She is renowned for her amazing proficiency in khayal, thumri, dadra, tappa, kajri, hori, chaiti and bhajan. Vidushi Girija Devi has received many awards and accolades, including the Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the ITC Award. She has been a guru at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy since its inception.
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma is the master instrumentalist of the santoor. Born to the singer Uma Dutt Sharma, his mother tongue is Dogri. Shivkumar said that his father started teaching him vocal music and tabla when he was just five. His mother did extensive research on santoor, and decided that Shivkumar should be the first musician to play Indian classical music on santoor. So he started learning santoor at the age of thirteen, and made Uma Dutt Sharma's dream come true. He gave his first public performance in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1955. He recorded his first solo album in 1960. In 1967, he teamed up with flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and Brij Bhushan Kabra to produce a concept album, “Call of the Valley” (1967) which turned out to be one of the greatest hits in Indian Classical Music. Shivkumar is the recipient of national and international awards, including an honorary citizenship of the city of Baltimore, USA, in 1985; the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1986; the Padma Shri in 1991; and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001.
Pandit Birju Maharaj
Pandit Birju Maharaj was born on February 4, 1937. He took training in Kathak dance under the guidance of his father, Achchhan Maharaj and uncles Lachchhu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj. Birju Maharaj is a multi-faceted personality. Besides his mastery over Kathak, he is also a superb musician, percussionist, composer, teacher, director, choreographer and a poet. Birju Maharaj is a recipient of several honours and awards. These include: Sangeet Natak Academy Award, Padma Vibhushan, Kalidas Samman, Soviet Land Nehru Award, SNA Award, Sangam Kala Award etc. He was also conferred with two honorary doctorate degrees and the Nehru Fellowship. Birju Maharaj taught at Sangeet Bharati, Bharatiya Kala Kendra and headed the teaching faculty of Kathak Kendra in Delhi till his retirement in 1998.
Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty
Born in Kolkata, Ajoy Chakrabarty showed extraordinary promise in music from a very young age. He was initially groomed by his father Ajit Chakrabarty, who shaped his early style in North Indian vocal music and later by Kanai Das Bairagi. Ajoy also honed his musical skills under Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh. He has been with ITC-SRA right from its inception, joining in 1978 as its first scholar and then becoming one of the youngest gurus of the Academy, a post he still holds today while also being a member of its Expert Committee. Ajoy's list of awards and honours is monumental. To name but a few, he is the first to have received a gold medal from ITC-SRA, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2000, the Padma Shri Award in 2011 and he was also the first recipient of the Kumar Gandharva Award for the 'Best Musician of India under 45'.
Ustad Rashid Khan
A child prodigy, the immensely gifted Ustad Rashid Khan joined ITC-SRA under the tutelage of his grand uncle Ustad Nisar Hussain Khan, one the greatest maestros of the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana. The long and arduous training under his guru made Rashid a perfect exponent of the Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana. He remained a scholar under the tutelage of Ustad Nisar Hussain Khan until the latter's demise in 1993. Though a loyal and proud member of the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana, Rashid has always been ready to learn and incorporate the best from other gharanas into his renditions. His singing bears a distinctive stamp that is his very own, grand and majestic, yet soul-stirringly pure and simple. Rashid has won accolades for all the aspects of his musical performance -- voice, phrasing, virtuosity and sensitivity. He was awarded the Padma Shri as well as the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2006.
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar was born in 1955, to a family of musicians. His father, N.D. Kashalkar initiated him into vocal music. He also received training from great masters such as Pandit Ram Marathe and Pandit Gajananbua Joshi. With the gift to blend the gayaki of Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur, with aesthetic excellence, he emerged as one of the most remarkable vocalists of India. Pandit Kashalkar is the recipient of several awards such as the Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Jadubhatta Puraskar and Swar-Ratna. He has been a guru at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy for nearly twenty years.
Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta
Padma Bhushan Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta is the senior-most exponent of one of the most authentic sarod gharanas today and is recognised worldwide as one of the finest masters of the sarod. Born in 1933 at Bhagalpur, he started his music training from the age of 10 from the sarod maestro Pandit Radhika Mohan Moitra. A veteran performer in major musical and cultural festivals, rich honours have come his way. These include the prestigious Padma Bhushan for 2012 from the government of India and the Sangeet Natak Akademi's Tagore Akademi Ratna for 2011. An accomplished teacher, his education, articulation and teaching techniques have yielded students of the highest order, many of whom occupy the performing stage today. Pandit Das Gupta has been a guru of ITC-SRA's Instrumental Division since it was established in 2002. He has also been a long standing member of the Academy's Expert Committee.
Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan
Mashkoor Ali Khan was initiated into music and trained for fifteen years by his father, the great sarangi-nawaz Shakoor Khan, and secured a place in the world of music very early in life. After his father's demise, he joined the ITC-Sangeet Research Academy as a scholar, to polish and hone his undiluted style of Kirana gayakee. Now, as a guru of the Academy, he nurtures several scholars under his able wings. Mashkoor Ali Khan's career is studded with numerous awards, like the Abhinav Kala Sammelan (1993), Master Dinanath Mangeshkar Award (1994) and Swaranjali Award (1997). In Kolkata the Bharatiya Sanskriti Samsad has conferred on him the Best Vocalist Award. The Salt Lake Cultural Association honoured him with the title of 'Bandish Nawaz' in 1998.
Pt. Rajan and Pt. Sajan Mishra
Pt. Rajan and Pt. Sajan Mishra are brothers, renowned singers of the khayal style of Indian classical music. They were brought up in Varanasi and received their musical training from their grandfather, Bade Ram Das Ji Mishra; their father, Hanuman Prasad Mishra; and from their uncle, sarangi virtuoso, Gopal Prasad Mishra. The Mishra brothers have been performing to audiences all over India and the world for many years. They have released over 20 music albums in genres ranging from classical khayal, to semi classical tappa and bhajans. They were awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2007, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, jointly in 1998 and the Gandharwa National Award for 1994-95.
Vidushi Alarmel Valli
Vidushi Alarmel Valli received formal training in dance from the renowned guru Chokkalingam Pillai and his son Subbaraya Pillai. Thereafter, Alarmel came under the tutelage of Smt. T. Mukha and studied Padams and Javalis for many years. Additionally, she learnt Odissi from Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and his disciple, Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena. Valli has performed in almost all the major festivals in India and has also displayed her talent in most of the cultural capitals of the world. Valli received the Padma Shri Award in 1991, the Grande Medaille de la Ville de Paris Award in 1997, the Sangeet Natak Akademy Award in 2001, and the Padma Bhushan in 2004, among many other honours.
Ustad Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan
Born in Kolkata in 1939, Ustad Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan, the acknowledged Shehnai maestro of eastern India, comes from a family of renowned shehnai exponents from Benaras. Ali Ahmad received his training from his maternal uncle, the late Ustad Nazir Hussain Khan and his paternal uncle, the late Ustad Imdad Hussain Khan of the Benares Gharana. He also took training in vocal music from the late Pandit Tansen Pandey of the Senia Gharana. A top graded artiste of All India Radio, Ustad Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan, has received many awards. Prominent among these are the ITC Award and the Bishwa Banga Sammelan Award. Ustadji has recently joined ITC SRA as a guru.
Pandit Kumar Bose
Bose was born in Kolkata in a distinguished musical family. His first teacher was his father, Bishwanth Bose, a famous tabla player who taught his son to play his first beats. After the latter's untimely death he was taught by Pandit Kishan Maharaj. He has been applauded for evolving a distinctive style of his own without diluting the purity of tradition. He currently conducts private lessons in the style of his mentors. He is known for maintaining high standards in teaching his students, emphasising the importance of devoted practice. His high profile students also include the likes of the Mumbai-based tabla player Shyama Prasad Das. His long list of career achievements includes receiving the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2007.
Daughter of the world-renowned vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, Kaushiki was born on October 24, 1980 and brought up within the precincts of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy. Her mother, Chandana Chakrabarty, initiated her into vocal music, but her formal taalim started at the age of seven when she became a student of the legendary Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh. Later, as a scholar of the Academy, between November 1992 and June 2004, she was groomed by her father and guru, Ajoy Chakrabarty. Kaushiki's recitals are marked by maturity far beyond her years, sound musical concepts and remarkable spontaneity. Her outstanding performances have fetched her many awards. The Salt Lake Cultural Association of Calcutta presented her with the “Jadu Bhatta” Award in 1995. Kaushiki received the 'Outstanding Young Person' Award from the Rotary Club of Calcutta for 2000 and the BBC Award in 2005.
Vidushi Subhra Guha
Having attained the stature of one of the leading female vocalists of the country, Subhra Guha is regarded as one of the finest female exponents of the Agra gharana. Coming from a music loving family, Guha started showing signs of exceptional talent at a tender age. She received her earliest training from the late Satish Bhowmick. During her growing years, she took advanced training from one of the veterans of the Agra gharana, the late Pandit Sunil Bose. Later in 1982, she joined the prestigious ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata where Bose was a guru. Subsequently, she also received training and guidance from stalwarts -- the late Pandit KG Ginde and late Pandit DT Joshi. She went on to become a guru of the Academy between 1992 and 2003. Today, Subhra has gained recognition for her thumri renditions in the Poorab Ang.
Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar
Tejendra Narayan Majumdar started his musical training under his grandfather, Bibhuti Ranjan Majumdar. He later trained under Ustad Bahadur Khan for 18 years until the latter died. He then continued under Ajay Sinha Roy and the legendary Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Majumdar is one of the most popular and celebrated sarod players of his generation. He stood first in the All India Radio Music competition in 1981 and was awarded the President's gold medal and also received the Pandit D.V. Paluskar award.
Pandit Samar Saha
Known for his dexterity and rare musicianship, Samar Saha was initially trained by his father Sudhangshu Bhusan Saha and his elder brother Tarak Saha. Later he received extensive taalim from Satchidananda Goswami before becoming a disciple of Krishna Kumar Ganguly (Natu Babu) of the Benaras gharana. A much sought-after soloist as well as an accompanist, he has participated in all the prestigious music festivals in India and overseas, accompanying vocalists and instrumentalists alike. He has been a full time faculty member of ITC Sangeet Research Academy since its inception.
Pandit Subhankar Banerjee
Subhankar Banerjee, the young tabla-player from Kolkata, has often been an expert accompanist to Pandit Ravi Shankar. Banerjee's tabla has been the rhythmic companion to other musicians like sarod player Ali Akbar Khan, sitar maestro Vilayat Khan, violinist late VG Jog and flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia. Unlike most tabla players, Banerjee has also learned vocal music as it helps him “create a mood for making good music”. He belongs to the Farrukhabad gharana, which is characterised by the extensive use of resonant strokes played on the middle portion of the right hand drum. In the tradition of masters who have borrowed from other gharanas to enrich their playing styles, Banerjee too will play gat compositions from other gharanas like Lucknow, Punjab and Benares.
Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan
Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan was born in Mumbai, India. He was initiated into music by his illustrious father and Guru Ustad Aziz Khan, a famous musician and a noted composer. He got his vocal training from his uncle Ustad Hafeez Khan, a famous singer, surbahar and sitar exponent and received taleem in the tabla from Ustad Munnu Khan of the Delhi Gharana. He has performed in all major musical festivals in India and abroad, including the Festival of India held in the US, Europe, Canada, Africa, Russia, West Asia and Australia. His numerous awards include the Sangeet Natak Akadmi Award, the Padma Shri, and the M.L. Koser Award.
Pandit Uday Bhawalkar
Born in 1966, Pandit Uday Bhawalkar is a standard bearer for Dhrupad and a strong force in its growing recognition and popularity. Uday spent over 12 years studying and living in the traditional guru-shishya parampara with Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar (vocal) and Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar (Rudraveena), the pillars of the dhrupad tradition. He has an engaging style and is able to reach out and communicate with audiences of all backgrounds. Uday has received prestigious awards including the Kumar Gandharva Samman given by the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh (2001) and the Raza Foundation Award (2007) given personally by S.H. Raza, the famous painter. He is a visiting guru of ITC SRA.
Classical artistes -- Abhiram Nanda, Abir Hossain, Adnan Khan, Ahmed Abbas Khan (Shehnai), Alif Laila, Allarakha Kalawant, Anirban Bhattacharyya Kathak, Arshad Ali Khan, Arundhati Subramanaim Bharatnatyam, Ashoke Mukherjee, Bhawanishankar (Pakhawaj), Brajeswar Mukherjee, Chandrachur Bhattacharjee (Kathak), Deborshee Bhattacharjee, Ebadul Huq Shaikat (Sitar), Ustad Shahadat Hossain Khan, Ekalabya Muduli, Gourab Chatterjee, Hassan Haider Khan, Indranil Bhaduri, Jaydev Das, Kilappandal Prabhakar Nandini, Kumar Mardur, Murtuza Kabir Murad, Murugan Krishnan, Nandini Sharma Narayanan, Omkar Dadarkar, Jyoti Goho, Pandit Suresh Talwalkar, Pandit Yogesh Samsi, Pratap Awad, Priyanka Gope, Purbayan Chatterjee, Rajrupa Choudhury, Ramesh Chandra Das, Rupak Kumar Parida, Rupashree Bhattacharya, Sai Giridhar Kuchibhotla, Sakthivel Muruganathan Subramanam, Sandip Bhattacharya, Sandip Ghosh, Sanjay Adhikary, Sarwar Hussain, Saswati Sen, Shashank Maktedar, Vidushi Sujata Mohapatra, Takahiro Arai, Ustad Akram Khan, Ustad Murad Ali, Vasudevan Cang Kesevalu, Venkitaramanan Ramani Ghatam, Vidushi Aruna Sayeeram, Vittal Ramamurthy, Waseem Ahmed Khan and Yaswant Vaishnav -- will perform either vocal or instrumental music while several others will accompany the featured artistes on various instruments.