|Geet Sagar Melody, an orchestra group in Cuttack, rehearses. Telegraph picture
Cuttack, Sept. 22: The festive season is here and so are melodies.
Fifty years ago, pandal-hoppers waited eagerly to see the likes of Akshay Mohanty, Pranab Patnaik, Trupti Das and Tansen Singh — big names from the Odia music industry — perform live during the festive season.
The faces have changed and so has the quality of performances being dished out by these orchestras. But the tradition of melodies has survived the test of time in Cuttack.
Shekhar Ghosh, who sang the evergreen classic Hrudayara ei sunyataku, is one of the veteran artistes who sometimes feature in cultural performances organised at puja pandals even today. Ghosh feels there has been a sea change as far as “melody” is concerned.
“Melody used to be actually melodious in the 60s when we were at the peak of our careers. People would come with their families to the performances and no matter how late it was, women would also turn up for the shows. Today there is a lot of glamour and style but no ‘melody’ in the performances. I only perform when it is a cultural programme and does not include obscene songs and dance, which is more common these days,” he said.
Ghosh said in the past, these programmes were a perfect launch pad for artistes.
“Great musicians such as Akshay Mohanty and Prafulla Kar would be part of the performances. The artistes would get an honorarium of only a couple of hundred rupees for a programme. But it was very rewarding to see the audience appreciate your talent,” he said.
Things are different today. The troupes include not only newcomers and young artistes but also seasoned performers who may not belong to the playback profession. The rehearsals get over a week before Ganesh puja and troupes get extremely busy since then till the New Year.
Cuttack has about 70 orchestra groups and they have already been booked for various shows. They will perform at the 150 to 200-odd major Durga Puja pandals being set up by small and big clubs in the city.
The oldest troupes are still the most in demand.
“Our troupe is 52-year-old. We are usually approached two months before the programmes and our rehearsals begin one month before they start. We have our own set of artistes, who are trained and groomed by us,” said Md Sajeed, founder of the famous Habib group that is known for its hit Odia albums.
“This year, we have chosen some original compositions along with Hindi and Odia chartbusters to perform,” he said.
Another troupe, Geet Sangeet, which is 35-year-old, is also almost ready to perform. From the Hari Om Hari song Haye to garam chumma to the title track of Daha Balunga to top Hindi songs such as Lungi dance (Chennai Express), Hum tere bin ab (Aashiqui 2) and Jeene laga hoon (Ramaiya Vastavaiyya) feature in their list of songs for the season.
These troupes perform at weddings, birthdays and private parties. But Ganesh Puja and Dusherra alone bring them the bulk of their shows. While they charge about Rs 10,000 or above for regular shows, it is nothing less than Rs 20,000 a show during the festive season. Some of the top troupes demand fees as high as Rs 40,000, said members of Club N Club of Buxi Bazar. Performers get at least Rs 2,000 per programme.
“We perform all over the state at different events throughout the year. But Cuttack is the place to be for music troupes during the festive season that lasts till the New Year. This is the peak season,” said Birendra Kumar Das of Geet Sagar.
“We do about 80 shows during Dusherra and Ganesh Puja out of around 200 shows in a year,” said Shyam Kumar Nair of Sargam orchestra.