The sparkle in her eyes competes with that of her nose stud as she animatedly describes the beauty of her home town, Varanasi. It was in this city, situated on the banks of the Ganga, where Soma Ghosh's musical journey began when she was only five years old.
“My mother Srimathi Archana Chakravarthy was my first guru,” she says, staring into the distance, as if remembering her mother's voice blend into the beautiful sun-kissed ripples of the holy river. “I used to sit on my mother's lap and learn the talas when she taught her students,” she recalls.
A literature graduate from Banaras Hindu University, Soma mastered in music and completed her doctorate in khayal. Her specialisations typify the Benares Gharana style of singing that includes thumri, tappa, hori, chaiti, kajari, dadra and ghazal . “It was in Varanasi that I learnt the technique of Senia Gharana,” she says, a gharana to preserve which she will someday dedicate her life. “Many music styles are becoming endangered and slowly these will vanish,” she laments. “Nowadays, the reality shows on television promote a style of singing that is not grounded in classical music. In the 1960s and 70s, the music that was produced was classical-based, “ says Soma.
Perhaps, for this reason -- to preserve the roots of music for future generations -- Soma set up Madhu Murchhana 12 years ago. “The NGO has three objectives: to save indigenous instruments such as rudra veena and surbahar , revive the Darbari mehfil (a court mehfil in the traditions of Gauhar Jaan ) and look after the welfare of musicians who belong to the gharana ,” she says. “Many musicians do not have an education and can't find jobs easily. I help raise money to support their families by contacting those who can afford to help out.”
Soma describes her initiatives as providing “old wine in a new bottle” so as to attract the younger generation to yesteryear's styles of entertainment. “Through the Darbari mehfil performances, I provide entertainment which is very important. Every art form should provide entertainment,” she says, adding that this way she can change the demographics of classical performances that only attract the older generations.