In memory of her guru, Pt. Bimalendu Mukerjee, sitarist Anupama Bhagwat presents Eulogium, an eveningof music

EULOGIUM, a musical tribute to Acharya Bimalendu Mukherjee, doyen of the Imdadkhani gharana, organized by Kailas Sangeet Trust features his son and foremost disciple Pandit Buddhaditya Mukherjee, tabla wizard Ustad Zakir Hussain and the acclaimed music-couple Vidwan Kumaresh and Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh, on February 16, Algorythm, by Forum, Thigalarapalya, Hoodi, Bengaluru, 6 p.m.

Pandit Bimalendu’s disciple, the versatile sitarist Anupama Bhagwat, who has absorbed the intricacies and fine elements of the Imdadkhani gharana that her guru embodied, shared her rich experience. She detailed the personality of ‘the highly principled, saintly’ musician through his words and mode of teaching, facets that have enriched her individual music and being, more as lived experience than overt lessons. She described his teaching as ‘compassionate’, a quality that qualified his music as well. In fact, openness and generous imparting, with no forbidding tendencies characterised his liberal personality.

Bimalendu’s father, a civil surgeon in Bengal, was a sitar-enthusiast and his mother, a vocalist. For a child of his age, his musical mind was highly developed and he took to singing even before he began to speak. A disciple of Ustad Enayat Khan at Calcutta, the little boy easily grasped all that the guru taught. He also learnt from several other distinguished gurus, widening his music canvas and sharpening his playing skills.

The maestro’s instrumental expertise included the surbahar, surshringar, sarangi, sarod, esraj and Saraswati veena. His inventions, Aditya veena and Bijoya veena named after his son and grandson were backed by immense research. His ability in music-making with multiple instruments positively influenced his approach and skills with his primary delight, the sitar. Anupama shared how while teaching sitar, he would employ the surshringar or sarangi, and the fine vocalist that he was, he would also sing occasionally. While teaching gayaki compositions, Bimalendu ensured that the emotion of the lyric was transported into the instrumental rendition by an in-depth understanding of the sahitya, which in turn guided the stroking patterns. In the context of gayaki-ang, the clarity with which he articulated the technical aspects of sitar-playing was a revelation. Exploring the gayaki-ang through the tappa form has been one distinct mark of identity for the Imdadkhani Bimalendu stream, as borne out by the renditions of Pandit Buddhaditya on sitar. Individual expression was Bimalendu’s keyword for music-teaching. His individualised approach made each disciple unique and enabled original exploration even through common compositions of the gharana. Ragasagar, an extempore chain of ragas, normally played in mehfils, was a challenging musical exercise that he inherited from Enayat Khansaab.

His understanding of music and humility were amazingly well-knit and organically woven into his personality. How else can one understand his response to his prized disciple when she thanked him for his lessons? “Do not thank me. When you are learning from me, I am also learning something else through you!”

Bimalendu was a complete musician, performing extensively, while also teaching and organizing music at Bhilai, then a culturally sapless town. By his undying love for art and untiring efforts, he converted Bhilai into a vibrant centre, where music legends converged for performance and creative interaction, earning Bimalendu the laurel of a Renaissance figure. Disciples came to Bhilai from France, Italy, Japan and from all over India as well. Legendary musicians Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Amir Khan, Vilayat Khan, Ravishankar …several of them visited Bimalendu’s home and he was continually engaged in an intellectual dialogue with them all.

A serious thinker and practitioner, he got down to the core of things whether as a geologist, musician or teacher. Two premier institutions in Chattisgarh benefitted by Bimalendu’s honest commitment, the Bhilai Steel Plant where he served as the General Manager and the Indira Kala Sangit Vishwavidyalaya at Khairagarh, that he headed as vice-chancellor for two terms. A single individual handling such diverse roles with outstanding efficiency is indeed amazing. His role in bringing mammoth profits to the BSP by his commitment and acumen is a tale in itself.

His nature reflected a passionate search, intense and profound. As an instrumentalist, intense riyaz from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. the next morning, with a tabla-player stationed right in his home speaks of Bimalendu’s steadfast rigour. He survived with three hours of sleep for over twenty years, a superhuman feat indeed! At the Khairagarh University, he took up a comparative study of music-education in Western and Indian universities. That he travelled to Canada and USA at his personal cost to pursue this project, speaks of honesty and intellectual curiosity at their best.

Guru Bimalendu once said, “Whenever you close your eyes and play, you will always have me with you”. Holding his word close to her heart, Anupama plays on with passion and devotion, as do other disciples, keeping the maestro’s legacy alive.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 1:15:46 AM |

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