Creative spaces Society

The muse in the music room

Abhradita Banerjee at Mukthaangan

Abhradita Banerjee at Mukthaangan   | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

Hindustani musician Abhradita Banerjee tune in to nature and her students at her music school, Mukthaangan

A beautiful garden welcomes visitors to Mukthaangan, Hindustani musician Abhradita Banerjee’s home-cum-music school at Vadakara Nagar near Thirumala Junction. For Abhradita, who made the city her home over two decades ago, Mukthaangan, which means a free space, is a place that keeps its doors wide open for art.

Her serene creative space is surrounded by verdant greenery. Although there are houses in the vicinity and this house is part of an expanding residential area, it sits beautifully in harmony with nature. “That’s what we loved about this place when my husband and I saw this plot. We both love nature and so immediately decided to buy it. We built this house a year later in 2008,” says Abhradita. She came to the city with her husband, Moinak Banerjee, when he got posted with Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in 1996.

There was no plan to start music classes at this house because it is located a little away from the main road. “We thought transportation would be a problem for my students. We lived in rented houses at Poojappura till we constructed the house. I started teaching music from 2001. It was after I started giving concerts that many came forward to learn from me. However, never did I imagine they would take the trouble to come here for the classes. They told me that they would come wherever I go!” says Abhradita. She has nearly 80 students now.

Initially, a room on the ground floor served as her class room but as the number of students increased, the class was shifted to a room on the first floor. But when even that space proved to be insufficient to accommodate all her students, she decided to convert the open terrace into her classroom. It was given a roof with sheets and vinyl flooring. A highlight is the bamboo curtains. “We didn’t want to close that portion with walls because it feels so nice to look out into the greenery. I draw the curtains when the classes are on. It’s lovely listening to bird song... in the afternoon hours I find many of them taking a break in our garden. All that adds to my positivity and creativity,” she gushes.

But for a photograph of her father, late Rajkumar Maitra, and one of the walls adorned with wall sticker, the room has a minimalistic decor. A carpet, cotton rugs for herself and her students, harmonium, tanpura and sruti box are neatly arranged in the room. Her elder son Aryamaan’s keyboard, and younger one Shouryamaan’s tabla, mridangam and guitar are also kept here. A swarmandal [Indian harp used in Hindustani concerts] and a mini santoor are among the many instruments in the space. “The santoor was made by musician Hari Alamcode. My younger son used to take santoor classes from him,” she says.

A table in a corner piques my curiosity. She breaks into a laugh, saying, “That’s a foldable table tennis table. My husband and sons love the game. So when I don’t hold classes here, they keep the table in the centre to play...”

Inspired to create

The house, its surroundings, a supportive family and her students — Abhradita credits them all for her creativity. Honorary principal of Natyaveda Centre for Performing Arts and a guest lecturer with University of Kerala, Abhradita says that she is most happy to make music when her students are around. “It is true that musicians prefer to have quietude around when they work. But in my case I am more creative when I am with my students. My senior-most batch is usually with me when I create new compositions. Sometimes it is while taking a class that I feel like teaching or scoring a new composition,” says Abhradita, a disciple of Pandit Madan Chouhan. She performs with her students at various events.

Although language was a big hurdle for Abhradita when she came to the city, that never came in the way of connecting with her students. “I didn’t know a single word of Malayalam then. I learnt it along with my elder son when he started talking! However being a non-Malayali has helped me as a teacher in that my music is a blend of many styles and I am able to teach all of it to my students. Basically it is a give and take process and I feel blessed that I have so many talented students who keep inspiring me. They love spending their time here and many of them enjoy my cooking as well,” she smiles.

Reading also inspires her to experiment with music. She explains how she reads bhajans and ghazals many times so as to understand the right kind of mood for a composition to be scored or sung.

Now she is looking forward to Durga Puja celebrations, especially the Vijayadashami day when her students would visit her in the morning. “They take my blessings and some of them would join me in the music sessions. I celebrate the festival with members of Trivandrum Bengalee Association with whom I share a close bond,” she adds.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 1:51:50 AM |

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