News and views on classical music events - Academy Updates

August  2016
ITC Sangeet Research Academy Celebrated India’s Independence Day

Like most educational institutions and organisations in the country, ITC Sangeet Research Academy celebrated India’s Independence Day with due ceremony. The National Flag was hoisted by Guru Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan in the presence of Guru Pandit Arun Bhaduri. The staff, Scholars, their parents, security personnel and gardeners who constitute the extended SRA family joined spontaneously in the august ceremony that concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.

Afterwards everyone gathered inside the Aldeen building for tea and snacks. The atmosphere was positively festive even while the solemnity of the occasion was maintained by everyone who attended the programme.

Photo Gallery of Independence Day
Malhar Festival, Kolkata, 5th & 6th August 2016

While it rained outside, the notes of Malhar Ragas reverberated in the GD Birla Sabhagar, Kolkata, and filled up every corner of it. Stalwarts such as Pt Ulhas Kashalkar, a Guru of ITC Sangeet Research Acaemy for over two decades, and Pandit Venkatesh Kumar performed t the ITC Sangeet Research Academy’s timely Malhar Festival.

It was an array of flavours from the rich family of Ragas - Miyan ki Malhar, Megh, Surdasi and Ramdasi Malhars, Gaud Malhar - that add to the romance of the monsoons. Another Guru of the Academy, Subhra Guha, also performed in the event that upheld the talent of one of the Academy’s most prominent young talents, vocalist Shri Deborshee Bhattacharjee.

The instrumental department of the institution was represented by Shri Ayan Sengupta (Sitar) and Shri Ratan Bharati (slide guitar). The festival was once again a celebration of the Guru Shishya Praampara with the masters and youngsters sharing the same stage.

Photo Gallery of Malhar Festival
July 2016
Annual Gradation Report

All the Scholars of ITC Sangeet Research Academy recently went through a gruelling process of evaluation during which their grades for the year were decided.

This annual ritual continues to be the central focus of the assessment of Scholars who prepare for months to give off their best during the Gradation. In addition to the esteemed Gurus of the Academy, the panel included Vidushi Ashwini Bhide Deshpande who judged the vocal scholars and Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar who did the honours for the Scholars of instrumental music.

While many of the Scholars were upgraded and promoted, the Academy’s auditorium reverberated to the music of some who displayed definite signs of future stardom.

Taal Class on ITC SRA

Fundamental to any music is its relationship with time. In Hindustani Classical Music it is a very well developed system of Taal that keeps it tied within a format of beats with specific intervals between them. At ITC Sangeet Research Academy recently an important lesson on this subject was taught by Guru Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty in a series of two sessions.

Having trained, among others, under Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh in vocal music, harmonium playing and the Tabla, Pandit Chakrabarty is one of the foremost teachers of this genre of music.

One of the treasures shared with all the Scholars of the evening was that laya (speed) in which a Bandish is performed should take its cue from the lyrics of the Bandish. He instructed the students that they should internalise the taal first and then learn to control taal independently, irrespective of what the Tabla accompanist is playing. One of the methods by which this can be achieved, Pandit Chakrabarty suggested, was by reading out the sounds/mnemonics of the taal theka and get into the habit of writing them down. Improvisation on theka should follow afterwards, he added. It was imperative to learn kaydas and tukdas to get a feel of the taals, he felt.

The sessions were both well attended and the Scholars gained much from them.

Photo Gallery of Taal Class on ITC SRA
April  2016
ITC SRA Mini Sammelan, Siliguri - 7th April 2016

ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, in collaboration with the Association of Physicians of North Bengal, organized a mini sammelan at Siliguri on 19th March 2016.

The evening saw performances by senior scholars of the Academy, Shri Ratan Bharati, Shri Alick Sengupta and Shri Ayan Sengupta; musician tutor, Shri Abir Hussain and guru, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty. Providing them commendable support on tabla were Shri Sanjay Adhikary and Shi Indranil Bhaduri and on harmonium was Shri Gourab Chatterjee, an alumni of ITC SRA.

Photo Gallery of ITC Mini Sangeet Sammelan at Siliguri 2016
March  2016
Review of ITC Mini Sangeet Sammelan, Malda – 17 March 2016

Photo Gallery of ITC Mini Sangeet Sammelan at Malda 2016
January  2016
Ayan Sengupta and Alick Sengupta’s performance at Ramkrishna Mission, Asansol - 12th January 2016

The Ramakrishna Mission organized a Musical Festival on 12th January 2016 to mark the 154th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in association with ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, at the auditorium of Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, Asansol.

Mr. Jitendra Tiweri, Mayor, Asansol Municipal Corporation inaugurated the program with Mr. Sumit Gupta, Additional District Magistrate, Burdwan, as the Chief Guest and Swami Somatmananda, Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, Asansol who spearheaded the event.

The second half of the program commenced with scholar Shri Alick Sengupta's recital where he performed Raga Shree and Raga Hameer. The packed audience of over 1000 people were very appreciate of his performance. Both Pandit Jyoti Goho and Shri Sanjay Adhikary provided commendable accompaniment on harmonium and the tabla respectively.

The program concluded with scholar Shri Ayan Sengupta's rendition of Raga Jhinjhoti and a Pahari Dhun on his sitar, which was also very well received by the audience.

He was accompanied by Shri Indranil Bhaduri on tabla.

Bandish Class taken by Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan

The relationship between the Gurus and Scholars of the Academy is a symbiotic one. Each draws inspiration from the other and the process of teaching and learning gains from it.

But, not infrequently, there are other inputs into the process of learning. One such recent initiative was a Bandish Class taken by Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan for all the Scholars and students of the Academy.

Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, who has been acknowledged as Bandish Nawaz for his immense prowess in this area, taught Bhairo bandish ‘Daridra Dukh Bhanjan’ in Jhap Taal followed by ‘Pratham Man Allah’ in Teen Taal.

More such classes will be organised in the near future. Each one will doubtless add to the Scholars’ repertoire.

Padma Vibhushan Girija Devi - celebration at ITC SRA

On January 26, the nation woke up to the news that Dr Girija Devi had been awarded Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second highest civilian honour. It was cause for ITC Sangeet Research Academy to rejoice. She has been a Guru at the Academy from its inception.

On 27th January evening, therefore, there was a celebratory get-together with spontaneous participation from all Gurus, Scholars, musicians and staff of the Academy.

Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty spoke about how much he had learnt from the great Guru about the art of performance. Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan spoke about the values held dearly by Appaji (as she is lovingly called in the Academy) and her generation and her motherly indulgence towards all younger musicians in the Academy.

December  2015
ITC Sangeet Sammelan at Kolkata - 4th, 5th and 6th December 2015

Awash in soft white light, the Victoria Memorial Hall, stood tall and serene amid the greenery that set off its glorious whiteness to perfection. As a spectacle, what could have matched this! But there was a great deal more to the historic location on the evening of December 4, 2015. It was the venue for the inaugural concert of the ITC Sangeet Sammelan, 2015, and Kolkata’s most famous address reverberated to the music made by some of the country’s leading musicians. An ecstatic audience, large enough to fill up every seat on the gravel pathway leading up to the museum, was enthralled by the atmosphere in which two important heritages of the country, colonial architecture and centuries old classical music, came together.

The evening, held by ITC Sangeet Research Academy in collaboration with the Victoria Memorial Hall, began with the felicitation of Dr. L. Subramaniam who was honoured with the ITC Sangeet Samman for 2015. His masterly performance along with that of his son, Ambi Subramaniam, was a fitting tribute to the magnificent ambience of the marvellous monument whose front steps provided the setting for the programme.

Later on in the evening, Subhankar Banerjee on the tabla, Sridar Parthasarathy on mridangam, and Gopal Barman on the sreekhol presented a brilliant percussion ensemble. With a combination of sounds and rhythmic compositions that came from the repertoires of the three musicians of three different genres, they created magic with their beats.

Malkauns was Ajoy Chakrabarty’s choice for the conclusion of the evening’s performance. His voice soared to astounding heights and echoed through the gardens and the halls of the magnificent museum, leaving memories of an enchanting evening in the minds of all present. The mood was significantly heightened by the outstanding accompaniment on the tabla provided by Kumar Bose.

The Sammelan continued on its second and third evenings on the lawns of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy. A night-long concert on December 5 began with Scholar Deborshee Bhattacharya who performed Raga Shudh Kalyan and a Thumri in Pilu. After Pushpraj Koshti’s Jhinjhoti on the Surbahar in the Dhrupad style, Ulhas Kashalkar rendered an inspiring Bihagda which was a lesson in the treatment of the Raga for students of music. Suresh Talwalkar on the tabla added appropriate vigour to the performance.

Scholars Saket Sahu on the violin and Ratan Bharti on the slide guitar presented Raga Jog in an elegant jugalbandi and displayed, once more, that the Academy’s youngsters are capable of holding their own even when they share the stage with the greats of Indian classical music. Musician Tutor Arshad Ali Khan chose the not-so-oft-heard Bageshri ang ka Chandrakauns for his performance which he delivered with poise and maturity.

A remarkable Jogkauns in Kushal Das’s marvellous treatment proved once again - if proof was at all needed - what an outstanding musician he is. The audience was mesmerised by his performance in the wee hours of the morning, making way for Subhra Guha’s very fine Nayaki Kanhara. A haunting combination of Thumri and Dadra concluded her performance. Although troubled by poor health, she was in fine fettle and completely surpassed herself in the emotional rendering of these traditional compositions in the famous poorav ang gayaki, for which she is known.

Dawn arrived with Rajan and Sajan Misra filling up the senses with the notes of Bhatiyar. As the mist lifted from SRA’s lawns, and the mystery of the night made way for daybreak, the vocalist duo spellbound the audience with their rich Benares gharana gayaki. Their performance conluded with an exhilarating tarana in Ramkali.

The final evening of the Sammelan began with the Academy’s past Scholar Shashank Maktedar’s Marwa followed by Bahar. Scholar Debasmita Bhattacharya showed great promise in the neatness and felicity of her treatment of Raga Jhinjhoti. Whether it was in her tunefulness or in her grasp over ‘laya’, she showed signs of distinction.

It was left to Venkatesh Kumar to draw the curtains on yet another ITC Sangeet Sammelan. His Chhayanat moved every member of the audience making it an incomparable experience. He combined the joy of music with a profundity that only he can muster, creating music that communicated inimitably with the audience. Seemingly effortless, he touched every heart, whether it was in the main Raga, the bandish in Raga Ramkali or in the soulful rendering of a Bhairavi Bhajan.

Photo Gallery of ITC Sangeet Sammelan at Kolkata 2015

October  2015
Arpan Festival at Kolkata - 31st October & 1st November, 2015

The spirit of harmony that the Divine Mother brings into the world was expressed through the medium of music at Arpan, a festival jointly hosted by the ITC Sangeet Research Academy and The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture on 31st October and 1st November, 2015. The Vivekananda Hall at The Ramakrishna Mission at Gol Park reverberated to the pure notes of Ragas as artiste after artiste of ITC Sangeer Research Academy delighted the sizeable audience.

As always, Scholars, Musician Tutors and Gurus of the Academy performed at the event. Kumar Mardur, with his powerful voice so reminiscent of his Dharwar descent, presented an accomplished Puriya Dhanashri setting the right note for the entire festival. His rendition of the bhajan ‘Devi bhajo Durga Bhavani’ was both timely and eloquent of the essence of Arpan. He was followed by Scholar Ayan Sengupta whose Maru Behag on the sitar was a fine exposition of the Raga.

The youngsters who represent the bright future of Hindustani Classical Music, as well as that of the Academy, gave a good account of themselves at Arpan. But it was left to the Gurus of ITC SRA to embody the mastery of a centuries-old tradition. On the first evening, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty chose Raga Shankara to conclude the day’s programme. The great musician that he is, Pandit Chakrabarty brought out the spirited effervescence of the Raga. He teamed up with his student, a former Scholar of the Academy, Anol Chatterjee, to explore its playful capriciousness.

The discerning audience of Arpan was treated to some brilliant music on the second day of the festival as well, when Musician Tutor of the Academy, Arshad Ali Khan, presented Raga Multani. A grand Raga with enormous scope, Multani became the medium for Arshad to explore the nuances of the Kirana Gharana.

Raga Hemant came soothingly alive in the hands of Ratan Bharati who played it with great depth and refinement.

It was left to Pandit Uday Bhawalkar, Dhrupad Guru of ITC SRA, to bring up the rear. He presented Raga Puriya through a profoundly meditative alaap, a Jod that was rich in both layakari and raagdari, and finally a virtuoso conclusion that offered glimpses of the magnificence of the evening Raga.

Photo Gallery of Arpan Festival at Kolkata 2015
Agomoni Program 2015

Although it is Hindustani Classical Music that is the stock in trade of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, how can its members be far away from the musical overtones of the various seasons and events that Bengal experiences?

A few days before Durga Puja, therefore, the Scholars participated in a programme entitled ‘Agomoni’. Songs that hail the Goddess as a married woman returning to her mother’s home with her children on an annual visit, Agomoni is a great heritage of Bengal. These songs, some composed by our Guru Pandit Arun Bhaduri, great poets and musicians, coupled with Bhajans, provided the backbone to the performances of the evening. Directed by Pandit Arun Bhaduri, the programme magnificently ushered in the spirit of the season.

If there was still anything lacking, it was more than made up by some energetic playing of the Dhak by some of the Academy’s Scholars.

Agomoni was a charming programme in which many members of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy’s family participated spontaneously to make it a grand success.

September 2015
Malhar Festival at Kolkata - 19th & 20th September 2015

Althoughtechnically the monsoon has shed its last rains by the end of August and beaten a retreat, this time the weather Gods decreed that September should continue to be wet. On the evenings of 19th and 20th September, it rained incessantly. The interiors of the auditorium at GD Birla Sabhagar reverberated to the vocal and instrumental strains of the Malhar Ragas.

The Malhar Festival of ITC Sangeet Research Academy, inaugurated by Shri Pradeep Dhobale Executive Director at ITC Ltd, was a tribute to a family of Ragas that hold a unique place in the pantheon of Hindustani Classical Music.

It also celebrated the spirit of the season. Distinguished musicians of the city, music lovers and aficionados were in the audience. The newly appointed US Consul General in Kolkata, Mr Craig L Hall, and his wife Mrs Meeryung Hall graced the function with their presence.

The festival began with vilambit and drut khayals in Raga Megh performed by Smt. Aparajita Lahiri Brahmachari, a Scholar of the Academy under Dr Girija Devi.

She followed up her excellent exploration of the Raga with a Thumri in Mishra Majh Khamaj and an impassioned rendering of a Kajri to suit the occasion.

Shri Abir Hussain, Musician Tutor of ITC SRA who trained under Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta and later on also under Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, presented Raga Miyan ki Malhar.

His melodious playing highlighted the characteristics of this most popular member of the family through an inspired alap, jod and jhala presentation. He was ably accompanied by Shri Jayanta Chatterjee on tabla.

Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar’s masterly rendition of Raga Jayant Malhar concluded the first evening’s programme. A compound of Jaijaiwanti and Malhar, the Raga unfolded itself majestically in Ulhasji’s virtuoso treatment.

With his signature layakari, magnificent taankari and well-enunciated gamaks, he recreated the nuances of the dynamic sounds of the monsoon, in which he was helped by traditional bandishes along with one received from his celebrated Guru, Pandit Ramashrey Jha. The two Ragas that constitute Jayant Malhar resounded throughout his performance, creating a soundscape that was both unique as well as rooted in tradition.

The second day began with a performance by Shri Sameehan Kashalkar, where he was accompanied by Shri Sanjay Adhikary on tabla. Through traditional bandishes, a splendid badhat, gamak oscillations, and scintillating boltaans, he explored the possibilities of Raga Miyan ki Malhar.

His impeccable training from his celebrated father came through in his rendering. Sameehan concluded with a Dadra learnt from Vidushi Girija Devi, who is also his Guru.

The vitality of Raga Desh came out in the Jugalbandi of vioilin and slide guitar presented by Shri Saket Sahu, Scholar under Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, and Shri Ratan Bharati, who trains under Pandit Partha Chatterjee. Providing them with magnificent accompaniment on tabla was Shri Ashoke Mukherjee.

Always mindful of the mood of the Raga, the duo kept up a wonderful interplay between their instruments and their individual styles, responding to each other with complementary phrases and instinctive understanding.

The finale of this year’s Malhar was drawn up by Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty where he was accompanied by Shri Indranil Bhaduri on tabla and Smt. Rupashree Bhattacharya on harmonium. He took the route of Miyan ki Malhar to Mirabai Malhar via Sorat Malhar.

Presenting traditional bandishes as well as a self-composed Thumri, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty did justice to his immense reputation and learning. It was a festival. The strains of Mirabai Malhar, with its mood perfectly setting off the last rains of the monsoon to make way for the white clouds of autumn, provided a fitting conclusion to the celebration of a season that spells hope and prosperity.

July 2015
Raga Analysis Class - 17th July 2015

Aparajita Lahiri Brahmachari

As a student and devotee of music, I always had an interest regarding the huge variety of Ragas, each of unique in type. Having learnt music for more than 23 years gives a fair and prominently distinct idea of the fact that behind the majesty of Hindustani classical music lies a the power of Raga and its various dimensions. There are ragas known to depict each and every mood and season.

At ITC Sangeet Research Academy, utmost importance is given to the Raga system of Indian Classical Music and the Raga Analysis class is one of those time when the scholars and Gurus of the Academy sit together and discuss the particulars of a single Raga, how it should be rendered, what the different routes within the framework of the Raga are or what the criterions are behind establishing a Raga during performance.

Being a Senior Scholar of this Academy, I, along with my 2 scholar friends, were given the responsibility of organising this time's Raga Analysis class by our Executive Director and our respected Gurus.The Raga decided was Malhar and a few different types in the Malhar group.

The first question that came to my mind was what the actual phrase of Raga Malhar should be like? "What is the essence of Malhar?", "Is there any Raga called Shuddha Malhar?".I along with Debasmita requested our Gurus to explain the track of Malhar, Shudh Malhar and Megh / Megh Malhar.

Guru Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty firstly mentioned that if we want to know or sing or play Raga Malhar we would need to know about Raga Darbari because both Ragas use the same phrases (R P, M P g M R S) and this very phrase is what denotes the difference between both the Ragas. A question posed by Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty was,"What is a phrase or why are there even phrases in Ragas?" Sankumay Debnath, a scholar, was asked to begin an alaap of Raga Megh and was asked to established the Raga in one phrase. N S N P, P R. This was the phrase sung by Sankumay and he was asked to build on the same phrase through different routes.

Guru Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar said there are Ragas of the same swara/notes like Bhupali/ Deshkar, Megh/Madhmad Sarang, Puriya/Marwa/Sohini. "These Ragas have the same notes but become different through different rendition of the same notes. "Swar, swar sangati, badhat, meend, murki etc are all the terms that have fixed meaning and the same affects each and every Raga and makes it different", said Pandit Kashalkar.

On Megh and Megh Malhar it was said that there is no such difference between the two Ragas. Megh is recited with Malhar ang which is R M P, P MgR S. Between M and R there is usage of komal Gandhar which is rendered through meend. Some artists use clear komal Gandhar saying that Megh Malhar and some artists sing M R S with meend which is called Megh. The following is a frequently used phrase of Raga Megh and important one as well.

n S R M P n S, S n S P N M P R M S R n S

 Click here to view Saket’s interpretation in Hindi
Photo Gallery of Raga Analysis Class
Guru-Scholar Meeting - 10th July 2015

A joint meeting between the Scholars and Gurus of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy on July 10 proved to be momentous. It was decided that a magnificent tradition of the Academy, a Raga Analysis Class with all the august Gurus of the Academy participating, would be held on a monthly basis.

The first group of Ragas, in keeping with the mood of the season, was to be Malhar. On July 17, it was decided, this group of Ragas would be explored in all its glory. The Scholars responded enthusiastically, promising animated participation in the event.

The significance of these discussions has to be judged in the light of the superior erudition of the Gurus who have their own experiences and understanding of the Ragas. These enrich the Scholars beyond measure. And often teach them to look at their music in a new light.

Photo Gallery of Guru-Scholar Meeting
February 2015
ITC SRA Holi Milan 2015

When spring has sprung and the cuckoos have started cuckooing incessantly, the gardens of the ITC Sangeet Resarch Academy come alive with splendid blossoms of the season. But colours do not appeal to one’s visual perception alone. Holi, the spring festival, is as much about spraying ‘abir’ on one another as it is about rejuvenating the soul with the many hues of nature.

The Holi Milan programme at ITC SRA is the byword for the spirit of spring.

The 86-year-young Girija Devi, doyenne of the Benares gharana and undisputed Empress of  Thumri, presides over its Holi celebration.

Like every year, this year too she was at the centre of the festivities, singing, laughing and affecting everyone with her cheerful magnetism. In a rose pink silk sari, the diamond on her nose and her paan-lined lips mocking at her lovely long white braided hair, Appaji – as she is referred to by everyone at the Academy – presented Horis and Kajris with an energy that only she can conjure up.

For the large audience gathered at the Academy’s auditorium on Sunday, 8th March, it was as though colours had taken on distinctly auditory overtones. Not only did she sing herself, she also presented some of the Academy’s scholars. The youngsters did justice to the traditional numbers which are deeply rooted in classical ethos but have the spontaneity and emotional content of folk art forms. Nirbhay Saxena and Sripad Limbekar rendered ‘Nain gulal’, a Hori in Kafi, with commendable aplomb.

Sucheta Ganguly, Shoumi Roy and Piu Mukherjee, who gave vocal support to Girija Devi, impeccably trained by her, invested a lot of passion into ‘Dhum machi hai’, ‘Urata abir gulal’ and Holi khelana kaise jaun’. But, as expected, it was Girija Devi ji herself with her nuanced ‘bol banawat’ and her remarkable command over Ragas who communicated vivaciously to all members of the audience. She completely claimed the morning for herself.

And she saw to it the colours of spring flooded the hearts of all those present in the ITC SRA auditorium that was ready to burst at the seams.

Photo Gallery of Holi Milan 2015
December 2013
Bengal Classical Music Festival in association with ITC SRA, Dhaka

There are many counts on which the success of an event can be measured. If the Bengal Classical Music Festival 2013, in association with the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, were put to the test on any of these counts, it would come up trumps:

1) For many it is all in the numbers.

The turnout at the four-day event - there were 29,143 people in the auditorium when Ustad Rashid Khan was performing in the wee hours of December 2 and a whopping 31,863 during Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia’s early-morning performance on December 1 - was fabulous. Add to it the political unrest in the capital of Bangladesh and you have a people who are mad about music. They are ready to brave all odds to listen to their favourite musicians, many of whom they had never heard live.

2) It is not just about the numbers, though.

A sensitive and enthusiastic audience raised the bar of the performances at the event. The listeners inspired the musicians with their appreciation and interest. For four nights in a row, the colossal Army Stadium in Dhaka reverberated to the strains of vocal and insytrumental music and the listeners loved what they heard.

3) The artiste line-up couldn’t have been bigger.

Maestros such as Vidushi Girija Devi, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia featured in it, alongside the likes of Ustad Rashid Khan, Pandit Uday Bhawalkar, Vidushi Kaushiki Chakrabarty, Vidushi PadmaTalwarkar, and Shri Purbayan Chatterjee. If the highly introspective genre of Dhrupad was represented by Pandit Uday Bhawalkar in vocal and Ustad Bahauddin Dagar on the Rudra Veena, the Carnatic tradition found suitable expression in the virtuoso rendition of Vidushi Bombay Jayashree.

To give the event a truly sub-continental flavour and also to underscore the shared tradition of music in this part of the world, Pakistan’s most prominent Classical musician, Ustad Rais Khan, was among the performers. Dance - after all, the three elements of nritya (dance), vadya (percussion) and sangeet (music) constitute Music in the larger sense of the word - was an integral part of the festival. While Vidushi Alarmel Valli presented Bharatanatyam, Shri Vishal Krishna took us on a journey back in time to the traditional form of Kathak before it became the more sophisticated, urban expression that it has become today.

The programme also featured youngsters who certainly constitute the future of Hindustrani Classical Music. Scholar of ITC SRA, Ayan Sengupta, delivered a remarkable performance on the sitar, while another Scholar, Saket Sahu, left the audience spellbound with his extraordinary control over the violin.

A Tabla quartet, Shri Asit Dey on vocal, Smt Reenat Fauzia on the sitar and Manipuri dancer Smt Tamanna Rahman, and stood, for Bangladesh’s pool of talent in Classical music and dance at the festival.

4) Nothing stood in the way.

It is not enough to say that the Bengal Classical Music Festival 2013 was a grand success. It is important to look at backdrop of political upheavals that bloodied the streets of Bangladesh in the run up to and during the programme. Cocktail bombs exploded intermittently all over the country, deaths and injuries in sporadic incidents and a serious lack of transport facilities due to wide spread strikes and bus burning incidents provide a bleak perspective to the festival. But amidst it all, the music flowed freely, exhilaratingly, filling every heart. While driving out of the venue in the early morning hours it was humbling to see the streams of men and women who had to walk back after the nightlong performance. There were no buses to take them home as they were on strike. The 12 buses on eight routes that had been arranged by the organisers helped but were clearly not enough to ferry the mammoth gathering!

With the acknowledgement of ITC’s support for the cause of music came the appeal to important corporates in Bangladesh to come forward and help in the effort at propagation of our music. The country that has given birth to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar sadly lacks takers for serious lessons in Hindustani Classical Music. With concerted effort in the right direction, that situation is likely to change.

The first joins steps have certainly been taken by the Bengal Foundation and ITC Sangeet Research Academy.

September 2013
Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia - A legend at SRA

Of course there’s magic in music but some musicians are magical too.

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia is certainly one of them.

The septuagenarian legend recently enchanted the Sangeet Research Academy during his 3-day visit. Whether it was at the Sunday morning Baithak on 25th September when he performed to a packed auditorium or when he spoke to the Scholars and Musicians of the Academy on the two days preceding it, Hari ji made it a gratifying experience for everyone present.

Hari ji’s words were like music to our ears when he said, “For me it is like a homecoming. The love and the appreciation I have received at the ITC SRA will always be with me. There can be nothing more valuable than this. All I need is your love and blessings.” Addressing an attentive audience comprising Scholars and Gurus of the Academy who engaged in a lively interaction with the maestro, he regaled everyone with his tongue in cheek humour and self-effacing ways. Although he refused to be drawn into a “serious” conversation, breaking into humour at the drop of a hat, one could see how steeped he was in the very essence of music.

It was the greatness of the musician that he immersed his audience in that spirit too.

Lauding the pioneering work of ITC in running an organisation like the SRA, Hari ji said, “There is no such place in Bombay. Why is that the case? There is no dearth of rich people there. It is the city of the Ambanis, the Birlas and the Tatas. Look at the good job ITC has been doing over the years!” The audience broke out in spontaneous applause at these words.

Performances by Musician Tutor Shri Abir Hussain on the sarod and Scholar Shri Saket Sahu on the violin.

He expressed his dream of seeing ITC SRAs springing up elsewhere in India too. “I wish there were many more such places all over the country. As it happens, there is only one ITC SRA. I feel jealous of the scholars here. They get everything they could ask for. We did not get anything. I bless all the children here. I feel that such a place should come up everywhere — in Bombay, Delhi, and even the remote Mirzapur. There is a lot of talent waiting to be honed in our remotest villages,” he said.

At the Sunday morning Baithak Hari ji began his performance with Raga Prabhat Desvari and followed it up with Shudh Sarang. In the end he struck a masterly note with a Bhajan that melted every heart.

The visit by one of the brightest stars of the Indian musical firmament was an inspiration to all.


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