This Saturday is George Harrison’s 80th birth anniversary — and Kolkata will be celebrating. Thanks to the persuasive talents of a city musician, who managed to on-board a happening venue and a group of fellow performers, the “quiet one” will be remembered with his songs, favourite ragas, a book reading and anecdotes from those who were lucky enough to see or meet him during his many visits to the city.
Also on display at the venue of the show, Skinny Mo’s Jazz Club on Manohar Pukur Road, will be photographs that chronicle Harrison’s Kolkata connect, among the most well-known being the Beatle’s relationship with Pandit Ravi Shankar and his extended family, an association that helped put Indian classical music and its traditions on the global map.
“In 2015, while watching the Concert for Bangladesh in its entirety, I was in awe of George Harrison's showmanship, sophistication and honesty,” says singer-songwriter Jaimin Rajani, the prime mover of the February 25 event.
“I can't put into words how it made me feel, but I clearly remember that I had never experienced it before,” says Rajani about the concert organised by Harrison and Shankar to raise international awareness about, and fund relief efforts for, refugees impacted by the genocide linked to the Bangladesh’s Liberation War.
Details of the programme
Those concerts — there were two back-to-back performances by a stellar line-up of rock stars — opened with Bangla Dhun, a tune specially composed and performed for the occasion by Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and Alla Rakha at Madison Square Garden in New York on August 1, 1971.
The Kolkata tribute will see performances by Soumya Mondal (flute) and the duo of Kalyan Majumdar (sitar) and Sohon Ghosh (tabla) playing Bangla Dhun along with several ragas that are known to have been favourites of Harrison. Also, Rachit Lakhmani, Tutul Mukherjee and Rajshekhar Banerjee will together perform some of Harrison’s songs — not just Beatles hits, but also those that are the hallmark of Harrison’s famed solo years.
“One can tell how full of love, compassion and creativity he was,” says Jaimin about the Concert for Bangladesh. “This is my small attempt, made with the help of my friends, to celebrate the life and work of my favourite Beatle,” he adds.
Nishit Arora, who curates musical events for Skinny Mo’s, is equally excited. “Jaimin got in touch with us with this idea to do a tribute to George Harrison on his 80th birthday. We at Jamsteady and Skinny Mo’s thought it was a great idea to pay respect to one of the most inspiring musicians and songwriters of our time. The impact that The Beatles have had over our generation is unmatched. A lot of people picked up the guitar and got into music because of legends like Harrison. With so much influence he has had on our lives, this tribute is our ‘Thank You’ to Harrison and The Beatles.”