Moving melodies

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  • Published 18.10.07

Where there’s no music, there’s no discipline, no brahmatva (creativity),” says Swapan Naskar, teacher-in-charge, Bengal Music College (BMC), Calcutta. The college was founded in 1940 by Nanigopal Bandopadhyay. “A madhur dhwani or a sweet tune, consists of pleasant vibrations. Swaras (sa re ga ma pa dha ni) — musical notes which are fixed sound frequencies — are the basic components of a tune. The serious study of music enables one to convey a thought or idea in a tune and to understand the effects of sound on human nerves at a particular time and place. Music helps build character and ensures the all-round development of a human being,” says Naskar. Understanding the importance of music in life and the need to preserve and develop cultural traditions, BMC sought affiliation to the University of Calcutta (CU). This was granted in 1956.

Musical offerings

A bachelors of music (BMus) pass course and music as an elective under the BA / BSc degree course of CU were offered for many decades before BMC was allowed to start the three-year BMus (honours) degree course in 1995-96. The two-year BMus (special honours) course and the masters degree course in music were introduced in 2000-01 and 2003-04 respectively.

Utpala Goswami, ex-principal of the college, who was instrumental in bringing about some of these changes, argues that it is necessary to provide instruction in music that is of good quality. She says, “Students may be interested in music but it is only teachers who can teach them to understand music.” She was a student of the college in the 1960s. Her teachers at the time were famous singers such as Chinmoy Chattopadhyay, Aurobindo Biswas and Purabi Dutta. The BMC alumni list now includes eminent names such as Purba Dam, Indrani Sen, Antara Chowdhury, Swapna Ghoshal, Uttama Das and Goswami herself. Das, who graduated in 1964, had music as an elective subject. She says, “I got to exchange thoughts on various ragas and raginis with the other students in class. This is something you can’t do while trying to develop your ability on your own.”

For the BMus (honours) degree, students take vocal lessons in Hindustani classical music, Rabindra Sangeet and Bengali songs, including folk songs and kirtans. Those who have passed Plus Two without music as a subject have to clear an entrance test. The admission fee for this course is Rs 125 and the monthly fee (for tuition and academic development) is Rs 200. Students also have to pay an annual fee of Rs 1,000.

Those who enrol in the masters degree (MMus) course after BMus (honours) can focus on the study of music in relation to other disciplines such as gender studies, philosophy, aesthetics and semiotics, ethnology and cultural anthropology, archaeology, computer / information sciences and mathematics. The admission fee for the MMus course is Rs 175. The monthly fee (for tuition and academic development) is Rs 300 and the annual fee is Rs 1,500.

A secure place

Apart from offering CU courses, BMC also serves as an examination centre for other music academies such as the Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapith, Lucknow. Several ex-students are now college lecturers. BMC is very popular with major television channels, which are looking for young performers. Students and faculty are also encouraged to participate in various seminars and competitions. Every year, BMC students win many awards in the Inter Collegiate Music Competition of CU. The well-stocked library and canteen are popular with students. BMC is planning to ask CU for a new building so that it can expand its programmes.

People should think of music as “a profession that is as good as a doctor’s or an engineer’s”, argues Naskar. BMC is working hard to ensure that people do that.

Satarupa Sengupta

Vital Statistics

WHAT IS IT?A college that offers courses in music under the University of Calcutta.

WHO started the college? Nanigopal Bandopadhyay.

WHen was it founded? In 1940.

WHat courses are offered? BMus (honours), MMus and BMus (special honours).

Famous alumni: Purba Dam, Indrani Sen, Swapna Ghoshal.

WHere is it located? P-1, CIT Scheme LXXII, Gariahat Road, Calcutta-700029.Telephone: 24662692, 24659738


Swapna Ghoshal, professor, Rabindra Bharati University, recalls her college days

I was a student of BMC from 1961 to 1963. The college started off in a very small way. When I joined it, BMC was located in Dover Lane. My teachers were Chinmoy Chattopadhyay, Nanigopal Bandopadhyay and Purabi Dutta. Classes were held only on Saturday and Sunday.

The number of students studying Hindustani classical music and Rabindra Sangeet has increased over the years even though the dominant opinion today is that not many people are interested in those genres. Love and respect for music, which are absent in people who are looking to make money fast, will prevent the lowering of standards.

As told to Satarupa Sengupta