Homage to centenarians

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  • Published 10.01.10

If Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur, Lucknow and Benaras make up the Great Tradition of classical music in India, then Dharwad, in Karnataka, deserves a pre-eminent place in the modern hall of fame of vocal music. The city has nurtured some of the finest khayal singers in the country in the last 100 years: Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi, Basavraj Rajguru, and Mallikarjun Mansur, whose centenary is being observed this year, are some of the names that come to mind.

Last Sunday, Mansur Samsmaran Manch, a Pune-based organisation dedicated to the memory of the maestro, along with the School of Cultural Texts and Records of Jadavpur University, organised a programme of vocal music at the Triguna Sen Memorial Auditorium of the university.

Manjusha Kulkarni-Patil, a disciple of Pandit Kanebua and Ulhas Kashalkar, presented khayals, followed by a presentation titled “Mansur and Music in Maharashtra”, with expert guidance by Rajeev Paranjpe and commentary by Urmila Bhirdikar. More such programmes are expected to come up through the year.

The genius of Mallikarjun Mansur, who learnt from no less than Manji and Bhurji Khan, sons of the great Alladiya Khan, was inimitable. Trained in the dizzyingly difficult Jaipur gayaki, Mansur imbibed a masterly sense of concision and an exhaustive repertoire of rare ragas. Gifted with a prodigious memory, he became a living encyclopedia of melodies that are seldom heard these days.

Yet Panditji wore his learning gracefully. His renditions of Khat, Bhavsakh, Bahaduri Todi or Shukla Bilawal sound effortless and elegant, charming both connoisseurs and common people equally.

Man of all gharanas

His guru Girija Shankar Chakraborty had said that Bengal was indebted to Hindustani music, but his musical genius paid off what it had borrowed. Tarapada Chakraborty (April 1, 1909-September 1, 1975) was born in a musical family at Kotalipara in Faridpore in Bangladesh, was first trained by his father, and thereafter by the blind singer, Satkari Malakar in Calcutta, where he lived in his uncle’s house.

But Tarapada walked out and used to spend his nights on the city’s pavements. A natural tabla player, Tarapada landed an accompanist’s job in the Calcutta radio station with the help of Raichand Boral in the early 1930s. This gave him the opportunity to accompany Ustad Enayet Khan, the sitar maestro, Ustad Alauddin Khan and Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, the sarod maestro. In his spare time he was trained in vocal music by Girija Shankar Chakraborty.

His first break came when he stood in for Gnanendra Prasad Goswami, when the latter failed to turn up for a broadcast. This performance caused a sensation, and at an early age he began to perform at all prestigious musical soirees, sharing the limelight with the great musicians of those times. His favourites were Abdul Karim Khan and Faiyaz Khan. He had a unique style that was a seamless blend of Gwalior, Senia, Rampur, Agra, Jaipur, Kirana and Bishnupur gharanas. He is said to have introduced the ati vilambit ektal, and was a pioneer of Bengali khayal and raagpradahan. Heaped with honours, Tarapada had refused a belated Padmashree.

However, few of his recordings exist, although the bandishes he composed have survived in his Suratirtha. The Megaphone Company has recently published a CD of 10 of his Bengali vocals digitally remastered from this maestro’s shellac records of 1938-40. They include popular vocals like Kotha gelo Shyam, Kholo kholo mandir dwar, Madhab Madhusudan and Chameli melo ankhi. Of course, these are no substitutes for the khayals which had won him accolades, but Tarapada Chakraborty’s melodious voice still captivates listeners.

Music festival

The 17th edition of the annual Sangeet Sammelan of ITC Sangeet Research Academy was inaugurated on Friday with the chanting of slokas by Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty. This year, veteran singer Pandit Amiyaranjan Bandyopadhyay was felicitated by the institute that has been promoting and propagating classical music for 32 years.

The ceremonial lamp was lit by Vidushi Girija Devi, followed by Bandyopadhyay, trustee P.K. Sinha and the other gurus on the faculty in presence of a gathering that included musicians as well as practitioners of the other arts.

“This year, for the first time, we have decided to invite giants from other fields to our conference,” said SRA executive director Ravi Mathur; so painter Ramananda Bandyopadhyay, ex-footballer P.K. Banerjee and Odissi exponent Guru Giridhari Naik and film director Haranath Chakraborty figured in the audience.

The inaugural recital was by Ustad Rashid Khan, keeping up the tradition of a former SRA scholar starting the conference. Pandit Chakraborty accompanied him on the harmonium. Khan was followed by sitarist Kushal Das and vocalist Girija Devi, who gave a brave performance while recovering from a sore throat.

The highlight of the second night was Ustad Zakir Hussain’s solo tabla recital.

The conference ends on Sunday, with SRA faculty members Pt Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Pt Chakraborty featuring in the line-up.