Friday Review

‘The more I learn, the bigger I feel the subject is’: Pandit Subhankar Bannerjee

DRAWING FROM VARIED LINEAGES Pandit Subhankar Bannerjee Photo. M. Moorthy

DRAWING FROM VARIED LINEAGES Pandit Subhankar Bannerjee Photo. M. Moorthy  

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As tabla exponent Pandit Subhankar Bannerjee reflects on his heroes and changing profile of accompanists, Shailaja Khanna takes notes.

One of the finest tabla players today, a regular accompanist to most top artists, in addition to being one of the most expressive soloists, Pandit Subhankar Bannerjee’s 50th birthday was celebrated in his home town Kolkata with a grand concert of Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia followed by a concert of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma to an audience of a number of people at Calcutta’s Nazrul Manch. A brief film with video tributes by all the leading artists of the times was also presented.

“I have so far had a career spanning more than 30 years as my first public concert was at the age of nine. The position of a tabla player as an accompanist has really changed over the last 30 years – there is a lot more visibility now. The flamboyance of players, efforts made by legends like Pandit Ravi Shankar and public interest in percussion have contributed to this,” says Banerjee.

Excerpts from an interview:

On his training

I have had training in three different tabla gharanas – Farrukhabad, (Pandit Swapan Shiv), Banaras (Pandit Manik Das) and Lucknow (Pandit Harisadhan Goswami) but mainly, of course, it’s Farrukhabad. This gharana is an offshoot of the Delhi and Lucknow gharanas. Bengal and Maharashtra have now become the centres of the North Indian classical music, and tabla playing in Kolkata over the last 75 years has evolved a distinct style, an amalgamation of influences from Punjab, Lucknow, Delhi and other gharanas.

I personally feel today that one can separate Farrukhabad playing into different strands even in Kolkata – Ustad Keramatullah Khan and his descendants represent one stream, Pandit Gyan Prakash Ghosh, who learnt from Ustad Maseet Khan, another stream…I think one could isolate a separate Calcutta gharana of tabla now – after all there are so many great players from Kolkata – Pandit Kanhai Dutt, Pandit Shankar Ghosh, Pandit Anindo Chatterji, Pandit Sanjay Mukherji…

On whether tabla gharanas may die out/merge into others if outstanding riyaazi (practised) exponents are not there

Delhi gharana baaj is played by all of us; it cannot die. Lucknow gharana’s Ustad Ilmaz Khan is there; he may not be in the limelight but the taalim is there. And, of course, Pandit Swapan Chaudhary is there and so are many very talented players in the Lucknow gharana. Also, there are so many of us who have absorbed so much from different gharanas, yet know what we picked up from where – nothing can die!

On accompanying legendary artists

Please understand as an accompanist, my job is exacting – it’s not just that I play differently with the different instruments – santoor, flute or sarod. It’s also the artist. For example, imagine there are eight sitar players of different gharanas – I have to study and figure out their playing styles before I play with them, to play effectively. I also need to understand the mood of the raga that is being played. Pauses are important. The length of my solo pieces also changes depending on various factors. I remain very alert during a concert; I can’t afford to lose myself to the music being played!

On the influences, apart from Gurus he learnt from

I heard hundreds of recordings of the all time greats like Ustad Ahmed Jan Thirakwa, Ustad Maseet Khan, Ustad Inam Ali Khan, Ustad Wajid Hussain Khan, Ustad Habibbudin Khan but no doubt amongst live players it would be Ustad Zakir Hussain Khan. In fact, when I was younger I used to sound a lot like him.

On his philosophy of life

I have taken my life as it came to me – I never planned things. I have been gifted more than I deserved in terms of music – the Almighty has given me love and respect from music lovers around the globe. I am still trying to learn, to update my skills for my betterment every day through research and sadhana (rigorous discipline) I feel very happy when I am practising. The more I learn, the bigger I feel the subject is!

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 11:01:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/%E2%80%98The-more-I-learn-the-bigger-I-feel-the-subject-is%E2%80%99-Pandit-Subhankar-Bannerjee/article14628593.ece

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