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Classical music festival enthrals the audience

Indian classical music is indeed a huge bond between Bangladesh and India, and should be nurtured.

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This year a first was the introduction of Western classical music for the first time — the Astana Symphony Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Bengal Foundation Classical Music Festival, held annually in Dhaka, is in its 6th year now; the festival is an all night long event for five nights. Bangladesh has an old tradition of classical music, and, in fact, was the home of several leading legends in the world of music, including founder of the Maihar Senia gharana, Ustad Allaudin Khan, Guru of Bharat Ratna Pt Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. His brother’s family still resides there. The princely estate of Gauripur patronised the leading sitar player of his time, Ustad Inayat Khan (father of sitar wizard Ustad Vilayat Khan) – for some years, he was known as Ustad Inayat Khan of Gauripur. Ustad Vilayat Khan was born in Gauripur. Kr Birendra Kishore Roy Chaudhary, of Gauripur, a trained musician, kept up the link with the family even after Independence and the dissolution of the princely states; he used to regularly send Ustad Inayat Khan’s retainer to the Ustad’s family even after his death.

Pt Radhika Mohan Maitra, doyen of the Senia Shahjahanpur sarod gharana was from Rajshahi, Bangladesh. It was touching to hear concerts at the festival from two young artists who are ably carrying forward his musical tradition – Dhaka based sarodist Rajrupa Chaudhary, and Kolkata based sarodist Abir Hosain.

This year a first was the introduction of Western classical music for the first time – the Astana Symphony Philharmonic Orchestra with its 60-member team opened the festival, with a violin solo by Dr L. Subramaniam. He was accompanied on the tabla by the very versatile Pt Tanmoy Bose. The orchestra played two of Dr Subramaniam’s compositions – Turbulence Symphony and Shanti Priya, and then played a piece from Tchaikovsky’s famous Swan Lake. As the maestro said “it was wonderful performing with this orchestra, which is a young orchestra with a lot of enthusiasm. We worked very hard for this concert, for over three days together, to get the quality we wanted. It was a great pleasure. It was a thrilling experience; we got an instant standing ovation. Last year, when I performed at about 3.30 am in the morning in Dhaka, there were over 35,000 people. There was a huge audience this time as well, and I am happy to have been part of the history made with this first ever Western classical music concert, thanks to Mr Abul Khair (chairman of the Bengal Foundation).”

Amongst the truly spectacular concerts were the unusual jugalbandi concerts. One was between sarodiya Pt Tejendra Narayan Mazumdar and Carnatic violinist Vidwan Myore Manjunath; deservedly there was a spontaneous massive standing ovation. Pt Tejendra Mazumdar who has been a constant at the festival since its inception five years ago, said “I try to present something different each time. I have played solos here, during which I tried to highlight different aspects of each time; this jugalbandi was special as I have the highest respect for Manjunath ji who is an exceptional musician”. Flautist Rakesh Chaurasia and sitarist Purbayan Chatterjee have played many times before, and know each other’s music fairly well. In this concert, as the last concert on the opening day, they chose the pre dawn Raga Lalit to start with and ended with a traditional Bhairavi. For Rakesh, it was his first concert at this festival, Purbayan has played solos earlier.

The third interesting duet was between flautist Grammy awardee Pt Ronu Mazumdar and sarodist Pt Debojyoti (Tony) Bose. Mazumdar is from the Senia Maihar tradition and has learnt from Pt Ravi Shankar; Bose has learnt from Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. But their presentation of music flowed smoothly, proving that notes transcend all gharana limitations. On the tabla were Pt Yogesh Shamsi of Punjab gharana, and Pt Abhijeet Bannerji of Farrukhabad gharana.

The fourth jugalbandi was between father and son duo on sitar, Pt Kushal Das and his dexterous son Kalyanjit.

A massive percussion ensemble included the great percussionist Grammy awardee Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram and his internationally acclaimed son Selva Ganesh on khanjira, grandson Swaminathan and others. Pt Budhaditya Mukherji, the sitar maestro played at the festival for the first time; he recalled how his grandfather had worked in Mymensingh in the 1940s, and so he had a link with Bangladesh even before he was born! Pt Jasraj too performed on this stage for the first time; as did Banaras tabla doyen Pt Ram Kumar Mishra. Ram Kumar said he was “amazed at the patience of the crowd, sitting through the night listening to classical music, when they did not even perhaps understand the nuances of the music fully”. Pt Yogesh Samsi on the tabla was in great demand; playing seven concerts through three nights! He admitted “it was a challenge not to repeat oneself, and quite heavy on the mind as well as body”.

There were dancers as well – Aditi Mangal Das’s Kathak troupe, and Sujata Mohapatra, Odissi. In addition there was a dance mélange featuring Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Manipuri dances, to Bengali music, by local artists. The visual spectacle was aided by several enormous screens all over the grounds ensuring that everyone was able to see exactly what was going on, on the huge stage.

Indian classical music is indeed a huge bond between Bangladesh and India, and should be nurtured.

The writer writes on music, musicians and music matters.

 

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