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ITC SRA News - August 2015 - July 2016

Review of ITC Mini Sangeet Sammelan, Malda – 17 March 2016

Review of ITC Mini Sangeet Sammelan, Malda – 17 March 2016

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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