Monday, Oct 22, 2018 | Last Update : 05:58 PM IST

Kolkata comes alive with music during winter

Published : Jan 1, 2018, 12:27 am IST
Updated : Jan 1, 2018, 12:30 am IST

Kolkata has decades old tradition of several concerts every night in the winter months.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. (Photo: Inni Singh)
 Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. (Photo: Inni Singh)

Kolkata has a decades old tradition of several concerts every night, in the winter months. The city comes alive with a musical vibrancy. These have centered around the city’s downtown area – Kala Mandir, Nazrul Manch, Rabindra Sadan, Chowdhury House, Birla Sabhaghar …  one has to choose where one goes; sometimes one venue hops through the evening. With the spread of the city to the suburbs, new music festivals have sprung up, catering to music lovers in far flung areas. These include Dum Dum Margo Sangeet Utsav, Salt Lake festival, Uttarpara, Behala, and many more.

Behala Sanskritik Sammilani is hosting the 6th edition of its annual festival from 6-9th January, at Blind School Ground Behala. Organiser Sandipan Bannerji explained the motive behind holding the festival – unless the best classical music is made available easily to the young, they will not develop a taste for it, he said.

That is why the festival is totally free of cost. The first festival was held after the death of Pandit Ravi Shankar, and was dedicated to his memory. Every year, a distinguished artist is honoured at the festival; these have included tabla maestro Pt Shankar Ghosh, and Vishnupur gharana erudite sitariya Pt Manilal Nag. The motive is to remind younger audiences of artists whom they may not have heard personally.

This year, Senia Shahjahanpur sarod maestro, and today one of the most knowledgeable musicians alive, Padma Bhushan Pt Budhadev Dasgupta will be felicitated by the Mayor of Kolkata. Pt Budhadev Dasgupta has not only maintained and protected the rare compositions and Ragas he learnt from his great Guru Pt Radhika Mohan Moitra, he has also diligently passed on the “virasat” to several students, having taught for years at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy where he is still a Guru. His several extremely proficient students include Sugato Nag, Debashish Bhattacharya, Pushpen Dey, Atanu Rakshit, Anirban Dasgupta, Bhavanishankar Dasgupta, Pratyush Bannerji, Abir Hosain, Debsmita Bhattacharya.

Bannerji said a new feature this year was the introduction of a “Pan Asian flavor” to the concerts, by the inclusion of top Carnatic artists, vocalist Vidushi Bombay Jayashri and veena expert Vidushi Jayanthi Kumaresh. He explained, music is universal, and Carnatic music must be heard in the North more; unless there are opportunities for the younger generation to hear quality Carnatic musicians how will they develop a discerning ear.

The festival opens with Imdadkhani gharana maestro Ustad Shahid Parvez, always ahuge favourite with Kolkata audiences, followed by Vidushi Bombay Jayashri. Bombay Jayashri said she was humbled at being asked to sing in the space that had been earmarked for the late Vidushi Girija Devi, and was always happy to be back in Kolkata, the city of her birth, “City of Joy, City of Ma Durga, vibrant and soaked in culture.” She added “she loved the city, the January mist filling the air, the city’s lanes, and “addas”…...” Music lovers will be given the opportunity to hear her after a year, as she had not performed in Kolkata in 2017.

 The next day features the incredibly versatile saraswati veena exponent Vidushi Jayanthi Kumaresh, disciple of the much loved veena maestro Vidwan S Balachander. Jayanthi’s command of her instrument has to be heard to be believed! She felt the audience in Kolkata was very erudite and she was looking forward to playing before them. She is followed by Pt Venkatesh Kumar of the Kirana gharana, another hugely popular artist in Kolkata today.

The third day starts with violin by Vidushi M Rajam and her granddaughter Nandini Shankar; the evening concludes with flute by none other than Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia.

Fans of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan will throng to Behala, as the maestro this year has decided not to perform in the Dover Lane Festival, held later in the month, starting 22nd January. He is slated to close the festival on 9th January. Before him will be the vocal recital of the talented vocalist Deboshri Bhattacharya, currently disciple of Patiala gharana’s Pt Ajoy Chakravorty. Deboshri said “I used to wait in the green room just to get a glimpse of these doyens, and now to be given the opportunity to share the stage with them is a huge moment for me.” He has been learning for 22 years, and has performed at prestigious festivals like Bengal Foundation Dhaka, ITC SRA amongst others.

As Suparna Basu, a regular attendee at all the big music festivals in Kolkata said, “it’s nice that the first festival of the New Year is bringing in some new names; one cannot keep hearing the same artists”.

Tags: ustad amjad ali khan, dr jayanthi kumaresh