The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Listen to that voice in song

A four-year-old boy, a 13-year-old Class VIII student, a human resources executive and a teacher of music. These are just a few examples of the motley crew that forms Darbari. The only requirement to become a member of the group is a love for Indian classical music. Formed by husband and wife Atanu and Mitali Mazumdar five years ago, “as a platform for people with a passion for classical music to get together”, it has mushroomed into an organisation that “provides unknown talents the opportunity to be heard”.

Atanu is a jack of many trades. He was a journalist and an author, before he took time out to get an MBA. Now, he’s senior executive, human resources, at the Pantaloons store on VIP Road. But through it all, from age five, he has remained a “musician at heart”, with training in tabla, sitar and vocals. While he plays the sitar at public performances, his trusted tabla teammate is Bikash Pal, a teacher of music at Visva-Bharati, and another member of Darbari.

Mitali, too, was a singer, although she hasn’t practised “for a while”. It is the couple’s love for classical music that prompted them to start Darbari, with their home in Salt Lake as the venue for all get-togethers and an annual Basanta Baithaki in spring. Recently, they decided to hold public bimonthly programmes, at the Ali Akbar Sangeet Kakkho, a hall in Salt Lake built by Dr Ardhendu Raha, principal of the Ali Akbar Khan music college in the US. The hall is free to use for classical music shows, for non-commercial purposes.

“The response was wonderful,” smiles Atanu. “We passed the word around and at least 80 people turned up to watch the show of unknown talents. We have had four shows since, and every time, the audience has increased in number. People who host cultural programmes themselves, often invite performers they liked at the Darbari show. Hence, these shows are like a jump-start for them.”

The “musical” family’s rising star is four-year-old son Anushtoop, a student of Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty. After announcing “I am in Lower KG in Apeejay School”, he sits quietly and attentively through a vocal and sitar performance during a rehearsal, before breaking into song himself, without much persuasion, clapping his hands to keep the rhythm. He’s too young for public performances yet, but his parents have grand plans for the confident toddler.

Another young member of the group is Sayani Palit, 13, a Class VIII student of Adarsh Shikshayatan, near her home in Kasba. The student of Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, since the age of four, might be blind, but she has the “voice of an angel”, is competent with the tanpura, tabla and harmonium, — “it’s a compulsory part of the training” -— and is a class topper to boot. “I love classical music,” she grins, talking fast and furiously. “I sing whenever I want to.”

Sayani’s first performance was by her guruji’s side at age eight. However, her first solo performance, with no one beside her for guidance, was at the Darbari show last month. “I was nervous, but it was good,” she smiles. But the pressure gets to Sayani sometimes. “My teachers expect a lot from me, and my guruji has plans for me. I just do my best.” Although not sure whether she will sing in Darbari’s July programme (exams), she is sure about being a professional singer. “That’s why I like Darbari,” she signs off.

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