Veteran sarod player Pandit Sunil Mukherjee performed after a long gap, but the wait was worth it.

The veteran sarod player in his eighties, Pandit Sunil Mukherjee performed after a long gap when he played for the HCL Concert Series at the India Habitat Centre last week. He charmed the audience with his sensitivity and artistry throughout the recital. Pandit Debu Chaudhury was a hundred per cent right when he introduced the maestro thus, “Pandit Sunil Mukherjee's aesthetics play a vital role in his performance. He has commendably adopted the sarod style of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, because Khan Sahib is the guru who resides in his heart.” Debu da hailed him as the senior most sarod player of Delhi who has been performing since the early 1940s.

Initiated into music by his father Jibon Chandra Mukherjee, he got his training in sarod from S.P. Mukherjee, the then director of AIR orchestra, after graduating from Bhatkhande College of Music, Lucknow. He was also groomed by Pandit Ravi Shankar. A top grade artiste of All India radio and Doordarshan, Mukherjee has also groomed disciples like Kedia Brothers, the renowned sitar-sarod duet artistes.

Mukherjee opened his recital with raga Rageshri. The initial aalap itself spoke volumes about the supple and sinuous grace of his fingers before he played a vilambit (slow) and a medium tempo composition in teen-tala. A creative artiste of exceptional sensibility, Mukherjee's aesthetic sense, at times, takes liberty with the raga. Old age may have affected his hands when it comes to technical virtuosity, but the remarkable melodic content was intact, alertly guarded by his sharp ears that took care of the tunefulness of his instrument.

His inherent musicality took wings while he played the next composition in Zila Kafi. The imaginative use of both the gandhaars and nishads underlined his creativity in full measure. The following pahadi dhun set to Kaherava Theka allowed Debashish Adhikari also to prove his proficiency in the concluding laggi. Debashish in fact provided the veteran sarodia the ideal tabla support, maintaining the decorum of ‘saath-sangat' (accompaniment).

Mukherjee announced that he wanted to play Tilak Kamod next and started with a melodious aalap in this raga, but once he touched the sharp madhyam of Shyam-Kalyan, he switched over to tilak-shyam, which is a combination of ragas Tilak-Kamod and Shyam-Kalyan. This raga and its popular composition in teen-tala with which he concluded his performance, both were the creation of Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Totally devoid of artifice and gimmickry, his music reached the hearts of music lovers. His melodious and minimalistic approach often reminded the listeners of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, who has always been his idol . Mukherjee also proved that our classical music, being the spontaneous expression of the inner being, ripens with age and experience of the artiste.