‘Spontaneity is the hallmark of our music’


A multifaceted artist, Pandit Nayan Ghosh judiciously balances educative and entertaining elements in his recitals.

The infinite reach of aesthetic pleasure often drives a genuine musician to the peaks of versatility. The collective impact of all other artistic pursuits and resultant awareness enrich their music-making. ‘Ek saadhe sab sadhe’ says it all. There are many who can sing and play several instruments; yet very rarely one finds a musician who ventures out to play more than one role; that too at professional platforms. Pandit Nayan Ghosh handles several, and with élan!

A tabla soloist and accompanist par excellence and an eminent sitarist equally adept at singing, Ghosh, at 61, is virtually a living encyclopaedia of music with an enchanting multifarious persona, that also enables him to be a very successful guru, administrator (Sangeet Mahabharati, Mumbai), organiser and a multilingual speaker. This Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee musician’s stage or seminar appearances are, therefore, pleasantly unpredictable and packed with judiciously balanced quotients of education and entertainment.

Recently, at Chowdhury House Music Conference, Kolkata, his eagerly awaited tabla-duet with Ishaan Ghosh, was delayed by more than an hour, but with his disarming charm and a brilliant presentation he easily befriended listeners from all walks of life. At Rabindra Bharati University, his solo recital was packed with useful tips to identify varied compositions like peshkar, kaida and almost 25 types of gats from different gharanas. Blessed with amazing memory and enthusiasm of a young student, he keeps adding the traditional tabla and sitar compositions along with dhrupad, khayal and thumri bandishes to his enviable treasure trove.

Born to Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, Nayan Ghosh grew up amongst illustrious musicians. The legendary Pannalal Ghosh, ‘Father of Hindustani Flute’, is his elder paternal uncle and the erudite sarangi exponent Dhruba Ghosh his younger brother.


You hail from an illustrious musicians’ family. How did this help you?

Normally, such a boon saves a lot of time and effort in imbibing musical qualities; and so, sensitivity to music becomes quicker. For me, it was like fish taking to water. My first tabla-solo was broadcast when I was barely four; and by seven I had learnt enough vocal and tabla compositions to entertain Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan! It gave me the great fortune of knowing greatest of musicians and their art intimately; of receiving guidance from my father-guru as well as his Guru, the legendary Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa. I recall how Khan sahab was averse to repeating any musical instruction and it is this musical background that helped me grasp things instantly even as a child. Later I also took taleem from sarod maestro Buddhadev Dasgupta. At present the musical environment at home is helping my children. Ishaan, as a baby, always demanded music and related anecdotes instead of fairy tales. Now, I rely on his memory!

Is it important for instrumentalists to learn vocal music?

Since Hindustani music is essentially voice-centric, an in-depth knowledge, ability and experience of vocal music including genres like dhrupad, khayal, thumri-tappa, even folk and spiritual music come to tremendous advantage. Exposure to raagdari comes in very handy to make tabla accompaniment far richer, melodic and receptive to the main artiste’s raga-music and therefore helps create a soulful musical experience, which goes beyond mere drumming the beats. A step further, it would be fantastic to develop a taste for and listen to music of other evolved cultures; this empowers and widens musical perception.

As a sitarist which ragas do you find sitar-friendly?

Ragas like Yaman, Bihag, Todi, Desh, Puriya Dhanashri, Shuddh Sarang, Tilak Kamod, Bageshri are very sitar friendly, but technical difficulties could arise handling taans for Chhayanat, Kamod, Shuddh Kalyan, Gaud Sarang, Komal Rishabh Asawari, Kaushi-Kanada, Darbari, Adana, etc. Adequate taleem and assimilation opens newer avenues to address the challenges. I somehow find these ragas quite attractive and approachable.

What are your favourite techniques in the alaap segment?

Oh, I love the entire alap section very deeply. I feel it is very vital to bring forth the raga-swaroop and not just play mere notes of a raga up and down the scale. I enjoy delving myself into the intensity of the various emotions of a raga. It’s like losing oneself into a mystical world of colours and splendour; a fantastic inner journey of self-discovery far away from normal life. The sitar offers a wide range of techniques like the meend, gamak, ghaseet, soont, krintan, aas, murki, khatka, zamzama, etc to explore a detailed alaap. Many of these techniques are also beautifully utilised in the gat-vistaars, todas, taans and even jhala.

What attracts you more: tabla or sitar?

Honestly, melody and rhythm, tabla, sitar; and vocal music! I revel in singing. As a tabla-soloist, I’m passionate about the exquisite and elaborate poetry that has been enriched by legendary masters. Their proper execution provides no less satisfaction than a sumptuous raga portrayal – focused on its personality and sentiments. It is a lot easier for me to graft pre-composed tihais to my sitar renditions. But I choose not to indulge in this, as I believe in spontaneity and upaj (extempore creations) which I think is the hallmark of our music.

What are the main features of your tabla accompaniment?

I feel the key is to listen to the music of the main artiste, get totally involved in the raga, the nuances, the dynamics and the overall musical thought process and thereby provide the most appropriate tabla partnership. Just the kinaar stroke may have to vary in density, tone, texture and volume according to the instrument, or the style of gayaki (gharana speciality), the artiste’s personality and musical expression. Also, the theka (basic rhythmic time-cycle) may vary considering the above factors in addition to the introvert/extrovert nature of the music. I believe that I am not merely providing a time-cycle support but contributing to the total music-making. Other than replicating the main artiste’s musical ideas rhythmically, I love to create a canvas for the music to help it rise to artistic heights and create a musical dialogue with the main artiste. This theory applies to all kinds of melodic instruments and vocals. My love for languages comes handy while accompanying evocative thumris.

Is laggi playing a special art?

Towards the end of an antara of thumri/dadra, the scintillating laggis are a series of interesting and lilting rhythmic designs that are executed in a very dexterous manner on the tabla, along with simultaneous melodic variations of the mukhda (refrain) of the composition by the vocalist. There are certain artistic stages a tabla player employs to heighten the joy of laggis, which are interspersed with loud ringing strokes, used for musical relief, called ‘laggi-chaanti’. Most of the laggi patterns, when inverted, create unusual accent points, further enhancing the thrill of laggis and exuberance of a thumri-dadra recital. Entirely different from the usual repartee, this special art requires a totally different training, approach and ability to musically execute the rhythmic ideas of thumris that encapsulate Hindi heartland’s entire culture.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 11:54:11 AM |

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