Tunes new and old

Two recent events in the city tried to raise the standard of musical performances with their content. In some ways, they were successful too. However, as it often happens, logistical arrangements hold programmes back from truly flourishing. For instance, a huge list of acknowledgements and vote of thanks to partners and additional background speeches can easily be woven into the main event, thus sparing the audiences' time and agony. Both these events partly failed to do this.

By Music - Samarjit Guha
  • Published 2.06.18
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Two recent events in the city tried to raise the standard of musical performances with their content. In some ways, they were successful too. However, as it often happens, logistical arrangements hold programmes back from truly flourishing. For instance, a huge list of acknowledgements and vote of thanks to partners and additional background speeches can easily be woven into the main event, thus sparing the audiences' time and agony. Both these events partly failed to do this.

At an event presented by ICCR at its Abanindranath Gallery (picture, top), noted singer of theatre songs, Devajit Bandopadhyay and wife, Riddhi, showcased a wide range of Bidyasundarer Gaan, many of which have been written by Bharatchandra Ray and composed by Nilmoni Samadar. These songs later became community songs. The audience was even told of the interest of the legendary musician, Krishna Chandra Dey, in using such songs for films. Of the litany of songs presented, " Gunasagaro nagaro" and "Malini tor rango dekhe"by Devajit stood out for the racy rendition and catchy lyrics. Devajit also gave his trademark punch to the Gopal Ray tune, "Amaar goti ki hobe bolo chaand bodoni",which caught the imagination of many.

Any session with Devajit and Riddhi can, apart from the music, be informative. Revealed on this occasion, for example, was no less than Michael Madhusudan Dutt's claim to one such song - " Ekhon ki aar nagor" (sung by Riddhi) - which was actually Bidyasundar's intellectual property right. Riddhi gave her dulcet tones a smooth run on this one as also in "Shuchikoro Chikonbala", quite similar to a popular Tagore song.

Together, the duo made the evening quite enjoyable. A lot more was desired from those accompanying the pair on the keyboards. In fact, in settings like this, a simple harmonium and tabla are perhaps the best accompaniments. The beautiful boat motif (apparently carrying the romance of Bidya and Sundar) that decorated the performance area, executed by Swarup Bhattacharya of Maulana Azad Museum, deserves special mention.

The other event, Numerous Strings, held at the eastern quadrangle of Victoria Memorial Hall was a live performance of Rabindranath Tagore's hymns in English, composed in the Western musical format, that the singer-researcher, Debashish Raychaudhuri, found in the hymn book of the Unitarian Universalists during his visit to America in 2015. Debashish recorded these hymns in an album and also presented them to the audience recently (picture, above).

Supporting the lead singers, Debashish and Rohini Raychaudhuri, was the Kolkata Youth Orchestra, comprising first and second violinists, cellists and viola players, conducted by Sanjib Mondal. A brief but bright supporting stint from the young pianist, Pallab Pramanick, was noteworthy. Excellent choral support also came from the Voices of Kolkata, enhancing most of the songs by several bars.

Debashish brought in the title song, "Numerous strings" with atypical panache in his deep throated style while Rohini was at her best in " Sara jibon dilo aalo" (presented as a song close to the theme of the English hymns). Surprisingly, Debashish sounded a little shaky in this number, at least at the beginning; but he ended with quite a flourish. The father-daughter pair, along with the choral group, gave "Jagato jure" a great fillip - filling the quadrangle with haunting music. Debashish also read the poem "I remember my childhood" and sang "Now I recall my childhood"(a song version of the poem) and "Your mercy" - with tunes that were possibly collaborations between Tagore and Western musicians. Both left an indelible impact on the audience. Quite a crisp end to this rare evening, which included a release of the album comprising both English and Bengali hymns from Hindusthan Records.