Behind the scene
Niranjan Chandra Das and his music
Niranjan Chandra Das is a local celebrity for his prowess with the cornet. But his talents are not limited to just one musical instrument. He is well adept with the tabla, and harmonium as well. If there is a wedding in Jhenidah, who do you call? Well, Niranjan Chandra Das of course!
Niranjan was born in 1962, to father Tagore Chandra Das from the Tilla village under Kaliganj Upazila in Jhenidah. His father was a local barber, and could barely pay the bills on a regular basis. With the limited income, it was not possible for Niranjan to pursue an education. He had to drop out in grade five from the Baliadanga Government Primary School, after his father passed away. It was at this turning point of his life that he had picked up the cornet and started training on the tabla. After years of grueling practice he learnt to play the harmonium as well and turned out to be a professional artiste.
His extensive training on the cornet started with lessons from Ram Prashad from his home village. His training continued in the hands of Mona Das from Kotchandpur Upazila. His last teacher was Adhir Das of Balabaria village of Kotchandpur. Now he has his own band of a few disciples: Jagir Das, Nalin Das, and Bikash Das. Each of them are supporting their families through their trade and passion for music.
Niranjan has made appearances in more than 1,000 bridal parties and 500 other cultural shows over the years. The amount of functions he has hosted with his music is definitely huge, yet it still is not enough; the pay is not good at all. He is hired for Tk. 700 to Tk. 1,000 for every gig he plays at. The pay is even less at the rate of Tk. 500 every night he plays at the Jatra parties. Its slim pickings definitely, but nothing can be done as his audience are all from the remote rural areas. Even then, he enjoys a few perks every year as he is hired at a rate of Tk. 1,500 to Tk. 2,000 every night during the Durga Puja. He may not be well paid at all, but he is still humble and grateful to his Ustads for the gift of music they bestowed on him. Music has been his life and he could not have enjoyed anything better, he says.
“My band and me have made a good income during the times when Jatra Pala was a daily thing. We would travel to different parts of the district and earn a lot. But alas, times have changed. People are not interested in Jatra as they used to be, and we are now struggling to lead a dignified life,” he lamented. Niranjan finds it very difficult to support his family on his now mediocre income in the off seasons. Maintaining the education, something he could not have, for his son and daughter and looking after his wife becomes a challenge during the times he has no gig to play at.
Niranjan gets frustrated at times when he sees that no one is interested to learn the art of playing the cornet anymore. He is infuriated with the idea that this musical instrument may one day be buried forever. But he cannot help it. The profession is a dying art and really does not pay enough for anyone to be interested in it anymore. But he vows to keep playing with his band for as long as it takes, and keep traveling to places such as Jessore, Jhenidah, Magura, Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga and Narail. He will never give up his passion.
He was awarded as the best performer in 1988 by the Faridpur Jatra panel. Shandipada Sarkar Kirtan, expert in Kaliganj for Hindu Kirtan Ghosti, said, “Niranjan undoubtedly plays the cornet mellifluously. Our Kirtan pala are never complete without his presence. He is one of us when it comes to the performances.”
(R) thedailystar.net 2011