Music

Sandhi attempts to incorporate scientific technique in musical training

IN SYNC WITH SCIENCE Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty

IN SYNC WITH SCIENCE Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty   | Photo Credit: AKHILESH KUMAR

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“Sandhi”, a collaboration between Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and IIT Kharagpur, is an attempt to incorporate scientific technique for imparting musical training

Eminent classical vocalist and successful guru Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and Sandhi, a science-culture initiative of IIT Kharagpur, have joined hands. Under the stewardship of a few like-minded intellectuals led by Partha Pratim Chakraborty, it is attempting to ‘revisit India’s eternal wisdom through the lens of open scientific inquiry’.

The Art-Brain

Frankly, the winds of change are making their presence felt for quite some time now because this restive era demands the complete development of the brain including the science side and the art side. Music helps develop the art side of the brain. In 2001, IIT Bombay had introduced dhrupad music for their staff and students in their humanities cell in the form of Dhrupad Sansar, a gurukul under the guidance of Ustad Fariduddin Dagar. After the Ustad left, the gurukul was restored when Pandit Nayan Ghosh started music appreciation classes and continued to teach tabla and sitar for five years.

Sandhi of IIT Kharagpur is quite different in its holistic approach. Its Centre of Excellence includes a wide range of works, such as art, sculpture, architecture, literature; very much like the ancient Indian method of imparting knowledge that did not divide wisdom in segments – a method borrowed from the West.

This holistic view holds music in high esteem and according to Partha Pratim Chakraborty, Pallab Dasgupta, Joy Sen and Priyadarshi Patnaik, the brains behind Sandhi, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty’s scientific technique of imparting training in music fits the bill perfectly.

The methodology

The master admitted frankly, “after Guruji (Jnan Prakash Ghosh)’s demise, I began facing numerous questions which did not get convincing answers despite my direct access to all the learned gurus of Sangeet Research Academy. Fortunately, thanks to the Academy’s archival collection, we could listen to hundreds of records and continue our research work. While listening to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, I realised that he exposed the alphabets of music while most of us plunge in the ocean of instant creativity while singing ragas, without even learning the introductory syllables, i.e. the twelve notes – replete with their correct placements.

“My first attempt was to compose sargams like nursery rhymes for children. It worked like magic. They begin to see the notes individually and create their own phrases in a play-way method. Later, this helps them to explore the raga according to its chalan or gait.

“The next step depends hugely on ‘connectivity’ of the notes. The character of a raga may allow one to go from Sa to Pa straight, while another raga may demand a detour. So, Sa to Pa can have different approaches. Add to this the language of heart, ‘Moner sange praner connectivity’. This does not complete without the colours and essence of humanity springing out of bhalobasha, bishwas, shraddha, samarpan (love, faith, reverence and total surrender).

“My Guruji would insist on memorizing the compositions by reciting them over and over. He believed that literature and music are inseparable. Truly enough, the lyrics do create an indelible imagery which helps during raga elaboration. Unless one is able to penetrate deep into the emotive contents of the lyrics, rising above the mundane becomes impossible.

“Modulation through voice culture becomes absolute necessary at this emotionally charged stage. I have realized that human voice is changeable up to 30 to 40%. Usually, students copy their guru’s speaking and singing styles. While learning from Ustad Munawwar Ali Khan, I copied him instinctively. My father pointed it by saying, ‘Don’t forget that his rich diet of biryani is vastly different from your staple diet of rice with dal. You cannot sing like him. Try to sing in your own voice.’ Voice can be reformed by the person depending on his emotional needs. Based on robust to soft tonality, there are six processes to add dynamism, according to me.

“The need of riyaz, sadhana or dedicated practice varies from person to person. Sa, like a mother, gives birth to all the six notes. Kharaj bharna, therefore, is essential. Total surrender to Sa leads the mind to roop (form), varna (colour) and even gandha (scent). Initially I would do riyaz for five-six hours; but at SRA, I was pitted against gharanedar musicians. To compete with them I had to work real hard. Moreover, I realized that a khayal vocalist from Bengal rarely get acknowledged at national and international level. I took it upon myself to fight this jinx out. Riyaz is the only solution to all questions.

“The ritual-based act called riyaz, coupled with dedication, is bound to lead to spirituality. As I said, all six notes, along with their five variants emerge out of Sa and they keep moving in four directions: aarohi, avarohi, sanchari and abhog. And vishranti or pause, as implied by Ustad Amir Khan in his immortal gayaki, gives peace. This is synonymous to spirituality.

“Knowing these twelve members of a septet-family intimately leads to universal love. The modern one-child syndrome of a nuclear family rarely understands the bliss of a joint-family system of yore. We, who know the difference, must explain that like varied kind of relationships, a raga can also emerge out in different moods. Yaman can be formidable like a strict parent one day, on the other it can behave like a little boy yearning for love and care.”

Sandhi plans

Their aim is to develop the fast vanishing aesthetic tehzeeb of yore which helps develop unique relationship with each individual aided by perseverance, acceptance and positivity. To work in this direction, Sandhi have several projects in hand. Exhaustive documentation of the pedagogy through recording is the main plan which will guide, mainly the teachers along with serious students. This is their first massive project. Thumri gayaki and its development is another project. Research on Omkar-based music therapy is another.

“And an archival collection of a hundred ragas sung by me is already on its way. I am doing them group-wise; e.g. Puriya-Marwa-Sohini. Though I didn’t learn this way but I believe learning sister ragas helps in the long run. Also, I do not believe that ragas like Sohini, Hansadhwani, Khamaj or Bhairavi are small or light. All of them offer scopes for detailed explorations,” said Chakrabarty.

These recordings are done at Shrutinandan’s Ananjan Studio. In fact, Shrutinandan will be the major hub of all the activities on the net that will facilitate video conferencing and viewership for ten thousand people from all over the world. “Raga is a subject that is still surviving despite invasions and paradigm shifts in social values. Treatments have changed from time to time, but gold remains as gold!” the master rounded off with contentment.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 12:06:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/for-a-holistic-approach/article23762647.ece

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