Pandemonia at The Most Reputed Music Conference of Kolkata

Dover Lane

Anyone can sing, yes, in last few months of this pandemic, it has been kind of established that anyone can sing. Social media is still free, editing apps are very user friendly and most of it’s features like extreme echo, auto tuning and all are easily available to present your song decently. You just need to have guts, and that’s all.

Everybody sings nowadays and I see no harm in that. But now this incident took place on 13the February,2021, at Kolkata, is alarming. An esteem organisation, which has been organizing the most iconic “Classical Music Conference” for almost last seventy years, cannot afford this foul up.

I oppose trolling absolutely. For last few hours social media has been flooded with memes and disagreeable comments. That is unacceptable. On the other side that we know that he is a great novelist and academician. However that was certainly not the required criteria for a gala performance.

Corruption, lobby, quota,nepotism – these words should be irrelevant, banned, and forbidden from such platforms. As I have said I don’t blame the performer. Performer of any stage wish to perform there one day, across the country, but it is the sheer responsibility of the organisers to bring the best in the country to that platform. For decades we have experienced legendary performances by numerous. angelic maestros.

There are several anecdotes that prove the passion of Kolkata listeners for classical music. In early days people even used to sit on the pavements around the auditorium to listen to maestros like Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Many times they had to come home by foot after the concerts as there was no commute in the midnight or at the dawn. As students we used to sneak peek to many auditoriums to get a chance to listen to Pt Ajoy Chakrabarty’s Gunkeli or Pt Ulhas Kashalkar’s Gaud Malhar with a resold ticket. I am sure you have your story too. This is how the heart of kolkata beats with classical music.

We not only pay a huge amount to get those precious passes, we also wait for months eagerly to get a chance to cherish those moments of listening to the maestros live in those whole night classical conferences, and this is what we experience!

Well, this is not the first experience of disappointment for the listeners there. This has been happening there for last few years actually, but this one was probably the last nail on the coffin. It’s high time for the most reputed brand, in this field to realise their mistake. It’s high time that they bring back their legacy.

There are many more classical conferences taking place in our city of joy. Some with lesser known brand name or no brand name at all. Music happens there. In our country and even in our city there are thousands of artists who mesmerizes the audience with their heart to heart performances. They do deserve a better platform like this. Because listeners of Kolkata still cheers for true musicians. That is why artists through out India seek a chance to perform in this city still now. The organisers of this very conference must remember that many people still do not consider their participation in those conferences as their status symbol, it’s not only about taking selfie in front of that banner, for some it’s still not only an exhibition of niche jewelries, or kurtas or pure silk. They must remember that still there are people, who goes to such conferences not to consume fish kabiraji or mutton biriyani like midnight of Durgapuja, but to seek peace of mind in soul wrenching music devine. May the music prevail.

P.C: Google

The Kirtan, The Flute, and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasiaji – A remembrance on his Birthday

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia

Its 1st of July, As the continuation of birthday celebration of maestros, I am here with my humble offering to the pundit who’s name has been synonymous with flute world widely.

Sometimes life treats you with surprises, which you could not even dream of. My Karma score must have been quite a bit higher than my academic scores. The reason is still unknown, but certainly, something has been carry-forwarded, presumably from my past life. This saga is one such treat which I received from a God.  

It took place almost thirteen years back. I was teaching as the music teacher at a reputed senior school of Kolkata at that time. Since then I have been fortunate enough to be associated with Spicmacay.

An afternoon on those gala days I came to know that there is a classical concert organized by Spicmacay, and I must gather our students and attend that concert in that very evening. To my utmost surprise I then came to know that – The living legend, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia ji will be performing there.

There was not much time. Initially, it took me some moments to register and then in jet speed I addressed all my lovely students and convinced them (At least that is what I thought) to go there.

It was a cozy, homely baithaki at the top floor of 6 (?)Hunger Ford Street, Kolkata. I reached there with only a handful of students and there he was, sitting majestically on that tiny stage. Again fortune smiled and I got a chance to sit in the front row. And then within a few minutes, the soulful music started with a long hold Sa. The first presentation of that recital was in Raag Hamsadhwani.

It was not my first exposure to Pt Chaurasiaji’s live music. I experienced that magic many times before that day. But since it was a concert which was conducted to engage, mostly the school students, and give them more exposers to Indian art and culture,  Chaurasiaji’s immense sense of humor started emerging from the interaction session. He played the tune of Jingle bells asked the students to identify that tune. Each and every student identified that very popular Christmas carol immediately. Panditji then divinely played these few lines of that legendary Bhajan–

“Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re,
Para Duhkhe Upakāra Kare To Ye
Mana Abhimāna Na Āne Re
Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re”

There was pin-drop silence in the room which he broke by asking the students to identify that tune, but unfortunately, no students could do that, and thus he started explaining the rich heritage and culture of our own country, which we must explore, through his magical narrations.   

Spellbound, I was waiting there at the end of the concert. I touched his feet, he must have been noticing me sitting there with teary eyes during his performance and to my absolute astonishment, Panditji started asking me about the concert, and also about me. As usually, I started talking gibberish and told Panditji about my passion for Padabali Kirtan and also said that how I wish he could play Kirtan on that baithaki. Panditji was kind of surprised with such a request and said – ‘oh, ok, do one thing on such and such date I am coming to Kolkata again at the science city auditorium, you be there, and I will play Kirtan for you there.”

Almost two months later, that day arrived and I was there at the science city auditorium to listen to the maestro again. He played Raag Durga and then as usually started asking the audience for their choices. Many enthusiastic Kolkata listeners started shouting – ‘dhun dhun’, some said ‘pahari, pahari’ ( Jiya dharak dharak from the film  Kalyug was still hit), and some said “ Banaras Ki Pahari”….. and it went on.

Pt Chaurasiaji then started laughing – ‘arey banaras ki Pahari, banaras  mein pahar kahan hai bhai’ and then came that magical moment of my life. Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, the living legend, said that he would like to play Kirtan as he promised that to someone in his last Kolkata visit.

I was certainly not believing my ears and my eyes rather any of my senses at that moment. The swing of that kirtan sustained in my soul.

I am not at all a backstage, or autograph or selfie kind of person. But that day I could not resist myself. I went there and touched his feet without saying a word again with a pair of bleary eyes. He was there, that soulful tune of Kirtan was there and these two verses of Padakarta Chandidas were there in my mind….

  • ajhoro jharae mor nayanero pani, Bnashir shabade borai haraili porani”

Pranam to the maestro on his birthday.

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia