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Updated: April 30, 2010 15:58 IST

Strings of tradition

MANJARI SINHA
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Sarod maestro Buddhadev Das Gupta
The Hindu Sarod maestro Buddhadev Das Gupta

Sarod maestro Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta on a life spent balancing passion and profession.

A rare opportunity came along when the senior-most representative of sarod's Senia Shahjahanpur gharana Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta was invited by ‘Sangeetam' to participate in their annual festival ‘Golden Greats of Indian Music' at the India Habitat Centre recently.

Lighting the lamp on the inaugural evening, the veteran sarod maestro, who retired from the government service as an electrical engineer remarked humorously, “Most of my life I have lighted boilers. It's only in the later part of my life that I'm lighting lamps.”

For almost six decades, Das Gupta has single-handedly represented the pedagogical lineage of the great masters Ustad Murad Ali Khan, Abdullah Khan, Mohammed Ameer Khan and Pandit Radhika Mohan Maitra of the well known sarod gharana of Senia Shahjahanpur.

This great musician regrets not being able to devote as much time to his music as it deserved, attending to boilers, bosses and fumes working for a company in Kolkata, which of course gave him the economic security to remain faithful to his musical heritage. The financial cushion also helped him abstain from adopting a populist approach and resist pandering to popular taste.

It was only after retirement that he could concentrate on his passion, otherwise his musical journey he admits, has been like walking the tightrope between the two.

It was through the All India Radio that music lovers all over the country could listen to his music, since the demands of his profession never spared him the time to accept invitations to perform outside.

Talking about his early childhood, he has an interesting anecdote to share. When his music enthusiast father took him to listen to Ustad Ameer Khan (who was to become his Dada guru later) playing the sarod, the three-year-old child asked him to stop playing because he didn't like the sound of the instrument. Although his mother learnt the sitar and loved music, the young son was never inclined towards music. It was only at the age of nine at Rajshahi (in Bangladesh) where his father invited Pandit Radhika Mohan Maitra to perform at their home that the young Das Gupta got hooked to the sarod.

Early years

He began learning from Pandit Radhika Mohan Maitra . Although the in-depth taalim (training) under him could be possible only at the age of 15 in Kolkata, it continued till his guru's demise in 1988. But by then, the teacher had bestowed the soulful mastery of his specific style onto his disciple.

The perfect balance between gayaki and tantrakaari ang, pin-pointed note accuracy, thorough understanding of the raagdaari (raga conception), the rabab based bol patterns and the ekahara taans have added new dimension to his parent style.

A true symbol of “vidya dadaati vinayam” (profound knowledge makes you humble) Pandit Das Gupta apologised before his recital. “There comes an age when the hands don't sometimes obey the command of the mind, so please bear with me if at the age of 87, I may not keep up with your expectations….” But when he opened his mesmerising recital with raga Kamod, people were awestruck at his total command over melody and rhythm. The veteran also played some old compositions in raga Tilak Kamod and Desh, soaked in his essential musicality, giving listeners the undiluted pleasure of his signature style.

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