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Keepers of the flame

Kuldeep Kumar
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MUSIC At an event organised by Sangeet Sandhya, the scholarly Deepak Chatterjee gave a vocal recital imbued with the true spirit of raga. Kuldeep Kumar

Traditions are carried forward by a handful of extraordinarily creative and talented people who renew them by adding something of their own. However, they are preserved and maintained by countless others. They too endeavour to excel and, in the process, some of them do attain greatness. This is true about every activity. Sachin Tendulkars are born because thousands of young boys play cricket in the country, making use of whatever meagre resources they can access.

The same goes for our classical music and dance. While big organisers with enviable resources present huge music and dance festivals featuring celebrity artistes, it is the small, local-level outfits and groups that keep the flame burning by offering an opportunity to young as well as senior artistes, thus creating awareness as well as a sense of appreciation about these art forms. In this context, one is reminded of the famed music circles of Maharashtra that have played a great and historic role in promoting Hindustani classical music as well as musicians, and are still thriving.

On Sunday, one had a chance to attend one such programme in Noida where, in a simple community centre auditorium, Sangeet Sandhya celebrated its 11th anniversary. It is an organisation of middle-class music and dance enthusiasts who contribute money to finance its activities without access to big-ticket sponsors. While it put up a long programme featuring a painting exhibition for underprivileged children, a photo exhibition, Kathak by Sonali Roy, sarod-sitar jugalbandi of Aboli Sulakhe and Aparna Deodhar, santoor recital by Pandit Barun Debanath, and vocal recitals by Suchitra Rakshit, Samina De, Suparna Adhikary, Malabika Bhattacharya and Pandit Deepak Chatterjee, one was able to listen to only the last mentioned artiste.

Deepak Chatterjee belongs to the Gwalior-Rampur Sahaswan gharana and has tried to evolve his own individual style, paying special attention to voice culture. Consequently, even at the age of 77, his deep and sonorous voice shows no signs of deterioration. Chatterjee, a former Reader in Delhi University’s Music Faculty, received training in music from Pandit Ganesh Prasad Sharma, Pandit Bhola Nath Bhatt and Ustad Wajid Khan. He has composed over 200 bandishes in various ragas with the mudra of “Rasikrang” and seems to be rather fond of them. Therefore, it was hardly surprising that he sang only his own compositions. He announced that he would sing a variant (prakar) of Kalyan as well as a variant of Kauns, thus arousing expectations in the listener that he was going to be treated to some rare ragas. However, as he began his vilambit khayal “Mora Mitwa Nahin Aaye”, it became clear that he had chosen Shyam Kalyan to open his recital.

In his rendering of Shyam Kalyan, Chatterjee proved that those who have imbibed the letter and spirit of a raga do not have to show off their virtuosity to make an impact on the audience. With typical Rampur Sahaswan flourishes in the systematic unfolding of the raga, he explored its hidden recesses, making expert use of Nishad as well as the Gandhar-laden clusters of Kamod to stave off intrusion of Shuddh Sarang. The Rishabh-Pancham sangati and the use of both the Madhyams brought out the special character of Shyam Kalyan.

Chatterjee made judicious use of gamak-laced sargams and all the other ornamentations like murki, khatka and meend. His boltaans and sargam taans sounded in much better shape than his aakaar tans, which he used sparingly in any case. He also sang a chhota khayal “Chanchal Chapal Tore Naina Sanwaria” and impressed with occasional spurts of short, well-constructed tans. Before concluding his recital with a bhajan, Chatterjee sang a composition in praise of Saraswati in raga Madhukauns which makes use of teevra Madhyam in the more-or-less Chandrakauns format. Shailendra Kumar Mishra and Sekhar Ganesh provided supportive accompaniment on tabla and harmonium respectively.

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