Friday Review

‘Roses don’t get their fragrance overnight’

One of the world’s most evolved drums and India’s principle percussion instrument, the tabla has dazzled the world since ages. One of India’s greatest living masters of the instrument is Pandit Anindo Chatterjee. Affable, expressive and spontaneous, chatting with him on the subject unveils a fascinating kaleidoscope of rhythm, anecdotes of great masters and a deep passion for music.

Panditji, do please tell us about your taleem days under the legendary grandmaster and Guru Pandit Gyan Prakash Ghosh.

Taleem did not just include learning compositions from the teacher. Living with a master like Guruji itself was a learning process. I have struggled throughout my youth and I remember riding a bicycle from North 24 Parganas, my hometown to the train station and then boarding a train to Calcutta to learn tabla. I would often stay overnight at his residence, even accompany him to the bazaars and his patience was unimaginable! He would meticulously explain the nikaas (delivery) of each composition sometimes even through recordings. He introduced me to other maestros like the great sitarist, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee with whom I would practice and even accompany. He taught greats like Pandits Shankar Ghosh, Kanai Datta and Shyamal Bose and even complete beginners! Guruji was truly born to teach!

Do you recount Guruji speaking about the great old masters?

Guruji was the ganda-bandh disciple of the great Ustad Masit Khan and I was blessed to have performed before him on his birthday! Once Khansaheb expressed his need for money and Guruji, being like his son, organized his radio interview to generate revenue. In a hilarious moment during the interview, when asked about his age, he said he was only around 45 although he was touching 75, and that his son Karamatullah Khan was just around 30! (laughs). The towering Ustad Firoz Khan of Punjab Gharana, his other teacher, was known to be a whimsical genius. His compositions were extremely unique, difficult and of the highest calibre. Guruji had got him employed at the All India Radio and it is said that while he would show up at work when his moods permitted, he would be discreetly smoking ganja otherwise! My understanding of his repertoire evolved as I matured.

Who are the other masters who have influenced you?

The list is long. Many greats from time to time have had their influences on me, Pandit Kanai Datta’s being a strong one. Pandit Samta Prasadji, Ustad Allarakha Khansaheb, Karamatullah Khansaheb, Ustad Afaq Hussain Khan of Luckhnow under whom I studied for three years and of course, the monarch Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakhwa whose recordings I listen for hours together as my uncle would do in my presence.

Do you feel the tabla of the old masters is withering away? Do you find a significant transition in the ‘modern’ Tabla?

That tabla has gone with the era. Today people even lack the patience for it. Performances have shortened in length.

Professionalism has emerged, but so have the ambitions of young classical musicians. Music performance has become more formal as compared to yester years. Those ustads who possessed the authentic styles are gone and so have their values and discipline. The new generation comes with new ideas but a sense of honesty and integrity is somehow lacking. There is a lack of the magic of the greats like Ustads Thirakhawa, Habibuddin Khan and Nizamuddin Khan to name a few.

What are your views on fusion music?

Its great! I am all for it provided it is not just a gathering of several instruments on one stage, but rather, a meaningful and musically rich interaction and chemistry between diverse styles.

Even older masters like Ustad Allarakha have done great fusion.

How do international audiences respond to traditional tabla?

Well, I remember my France tour with Pandit Nikhil Banerjee back in 1975 when, during the alaap, my nodding sideways in appreciation (typical to Indian musicians) had many members of the audience collect refunds and leave! They thought I was disapproving of Nikhil da as they interpreted my nodding as a ‘no’! Today that has changed! Foreign audiences respond beautifully to our traditional music.

Your message to the young generation?

Page 3 publicity and quick fame are taking over serious learning, research and riyaaz.

Roses don’t get their fragrance overnight. Although some bloom soon, some a bit later, it takes time and toil for them to bloom into fragrant flowers!

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 10:30:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/roses-dont-get-their-fragrance-overnight/article8621413.ece

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