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

Swarsamrat Ali Akbar Khan Sahab – The Musician of musicians

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

In last few days, due to an unfortunate incident, few words or concepts have been the talk of the town in India. One such is the word – ‘Nepotism’. Well, there is no doubt it exists in almost every field of fine arts. But we must always try to look at the other side of it before commenting on such a delicate topic.

Time – 1938, Place –Bombay, sixteen years old Shibu Dutta was residing at a Hindu Hotel. He had to do play somewhere for living. He decided to visit the Radio station there. Shibu Dutta’s first recording was broadcasted from Bombay. A staff artist accompanied Shibu Dutta on tabla. Today the music world worships this staff radio artist of tabla. We worship him as Ustad Alla Rakha  Khan.

Radio was one of the few modes of entertainment at that  time.  Their performance was broadcasted. Almost 1200 kms away, Maharaja Brijnath Singh of Maihar, listened to that program and informed Baba Allauddin, that this Shibu Dutta, could be his son Ali Akbar, who ran away from Maihar a few days back.   

Not only once, but Ali Akbar Khan Sahab had to run away from his Guru and father – Ustad Allauddin Khan Sahab – twice.

Now, why did he run away? He stated that reason clearly in his interviews. It was really difficult to cope up with the kind of Talim which was prescribed for him. Baba Allauddin, The legendary Guru of numerous eminent musicians, was also known for his very strict teaching style.  According to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Sahab, he had to wake up at 5 in the morning and was supposed to start his Riyaz right then, till 11 at night with a minimum recess period.

Baba Allauddin  Khan’s life was not less than any fable. He carried the ocean of music within him through his years and years of talim and sadhna.

Probably he wanted to pass on that legacy to his disciples including  Pt Ravi Shankar, Pt Nikhil Banerjee, Pt Pannalal Ghosh, Pt Rabin Ghosh, and most certainly to his heir, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and Annapurna Devi. Baba nourished them all with his infinite musical wisdom. But he was uncompromisingly strict about the disciplines of his Talim.

Ali Akbar Khan Sahab had to carry forward that legacy. But the pressure of Riyaz was always there. That too with constant monitoring by Baba.  At times it must have been suffocating. But Swar-samrat, himself had acknowledged that much needed, strict schooling later.

The seed of Talim which was sowed at his very early age, started blooming when Ali Akbar was only thirteen. The tapestry of raag sangeet, which was knitted by his father, coloured the mind of innumerable listeners all across the world. The lullaby of his music take us to a journey to transcendence.

  Through a research I got a chance to dig into the archive of Amrita Bazar Patrika. There, I came across a  press release of All Bengal Music Conference. Published at Amrita Bazar Patrika, On 2nd January, 1940,– wherein the artist line up you would find the name of ‘Prof Allauddin with Ali Akbar’. He accompanied Baba so many times, from a very young age.

From the shadow of a legendary father and  Guru – the maestro emerged. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Sahab, the musician musicians, the sage, made his journey to eternity on this day, eleven years back. His music works as an elixir to many of us, his philosophy shown us marga – the path.

 “it is a path for realization and salvation.”

….to be continued

 Courtesy: Atanu Chakrabarty, Kolkata Music Mapping, Amrita Bazar Patrika.