Content with being exclusive

Catch a rare performance of the reticent Budhaditya Mukherjee tomorrow

Type in Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee in a search engine and most of the results will be links to his recitals and a lone Wikipedia page with scant information. The results show that Mukherjee’s music lacks the cohesive public discourse it rightfully deserves.

Evading media gaze

The sitar virtuoso and doyen of the Imdadkhani gharana has also evaded the media gaze. Admirers have had to be content with revisiting YouTube videos and exchanging notes about the Hameer or Behag that he plays with great dexterity.

Recognition of Mukherjee’s prowess came early and soon concert offers poured in from around the world. The maestro’s first performance in Mumbai was way back in 1976. He describes the city as one with dedicated listeners. “In the silence of the concert hall, the audiences communicate with the artiste,” he says in a rare interview with The Hindu. “When I first played in Mumbai, I found that listeners would grant the artiste [an opportunity] to make them feel good. People travelled from across the metropolis to listen. There cannot be a bigger reward.”

He says, “I was taught to invest all my energy into my work, which would then spread its fragrance. How do I tell the world that I am playing good music? I can only play a certain kind of music and leave the rest for the world to decide.”

Instead of ‘doing music’, which he finds arrogant, he says it is an endeavour to reach out to music, which is a universe in itself.

“There is nothing like good or bad music but at the same time, I shouldn’t be under assessed,” he says. “With a lot of not-so-great achievers being appreciated to a level that astounds me, it forces me to make myself exclusive. Why should I make myself available to just about anybody?” Mukherjee says he is content performing just five concerts a year.

The sound he loves

Admirers wax eloquent about the speed and sound of Mukherjee’s sitar, but it’s a teleological matter. “Speed is a sheer degree of achievement and emblematic of pleasure too,” he says. “I strived for over 15 years to create the sound I love. I had a certain sound in my imagination and to transform it into physical reality, I had to make an instrument.”

Mukherjee regards his father and guru Bimalendu Mukherjee as his foremost influence. Often, the senior Mukherjee would say in Bengali, “Nije Sekho [Learn on your own].” That was probably the biggest lesson that motivated the young Mukherjee to look inwards.

Early recognition

Recognising talent comes easy for the maestro, but he won’t recommend names. “I would be doing injustice to other promising artistes of whom I may not know anything. Did anybody ever take my name when I was young? None but Satyajit Ray, who was not a classical musician.”

The author teaches English Literature at Flame University, Pune, and occasionally writes on art and culture

Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee will be performing on October 16 at G5A Foundation, Mahalaxmi, from 2.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. Entry: Rs. 500.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 10:47:45 PM |

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