Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Back to the roots - Misra Khamaj

Recently I recorded for a British documentary on Rabindranath Tagore.
I had put up at a cosy two-storeyed mud-hut at the border of a forest. In a way, one will see a fusion of traditional and modern ideas in the hut's making. For example, although the mud-hut had a thatched roof, it also had electricity and a very modern bathroom.
The property is surrounded by paddy fields.
It's in a rural place near Shantiniketan, Rabindranath's Abode of Peace. However rampant urbanization has raised it's evil head here as well. Concrete is replacing mud bricks in the surrounding tribal villages and corrugated steel sheets are replacing the thatched roofs that kept the houses cool all round the year. Looking at this, one would be forced to wonder if Tagore's abode of peace will live up to it's name in the coming decade. As a matter of fact, we got interrupted a couple of times by the noise of motorbikes and Toto-vans passing by and we had to re-take.
Since this was an outdoor shoot during the monsoons, the drastic difference in temperature and humidity was of some concern. Hence keeping the instrument in tune was tricky. Sitting on the verandah, I played Alap in a few ragas, an interpretation of Jana Gana Mana (the Indian National Anthem composed by Tagore) and an interpretation of a Baul song made famous by Tagore and made famous on the sitar by Ustad Vilayat Khan as Bhatiyali Dhun.
Both Tom (the filmmaker) and I are quite satisfied with the way the recordings for the documentary have taken shape. I am sure it would be well appreciated both in India and in the west.
More details will follow soon.

Here is a sample from one of the takes for the project.
Unfortunately, I was very sick (runny nose) and later we had to re-take this piece.
This is a portion of the first take (with sniffles in it that is)

Alap in Misra Khamaj (behind the scenes)
Hope you would enjoy listening to it!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Open air baithaki of Kirwani

Kirwani hasn't traditionally been in the standard repertoire of Hindustani Classical music performers.
As a matter of fact, in our Gharana I can't remember hearing any maestro except my Ustadji performing Kirwani in public concerts as a Khayal Raga.
For me, Kirwani is about the pain arising out of separation and the longing to get united with the loved one for one more time. 
The following recording is from a recent open-air Baithaki style concert of mine.
Open-air concerts are always tricky to handle when it's Hindustani Classical instrumental music. The sustain of meend often gets overshadowed by unavoidable outside noise. Also the lack of feedback makes it very important to get monitor speakers (which in most cases can't give an exact idea of sound in the listening area). So one has to alter the method of execution of meend and has to depend to a large extent on the sound engineer's idea of Sitar's sound (which in many cases differ from one's own idea of one's own instrument). I prefer to have my students listening to the output to give me feedback during sound-check, as they are more familiar with my Sitar's voice. 
[Please take a look at the file description for complete artist info]

While writing this post, a memory of an evening came to my mind.
It was about my Ustadji performing Kirwani in an open-air setup.
Fortunately, it was uploaded on YouTube by Simon Gill who had recorded the whole concert.
I was on stage with Ustadji on the tanpura. And, I remember everything vividly even now.
You will find the odd intervention of car and rickshaw horns if you listen to the whole recording.
But if you can overlook that, it was a great rendition of Kirwani.
The great tabla maestro Pandit Anindo Chatterjee was on tabla.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Vilambit Rupak Taal based Gat in raga Charukeshi

I love this sublime composition by my Ustadji.
There is so much scope for elaboration yet it expresses the mood of the raga Charukeshi so well in only 4 lines.
I have seen that mostly instrumentalists end their taans (when accompanied by tihais) at the sam.
But you will see that Ustadji's way is to end at the mukhra.
Which is indeed very difficult to execute when the mukhra of the gat falls in a space between two beats and not on a beat (like in the traditional way). Spontaneous taans, tihais and vistar become even more difficult in such a setup.
But when and if you make them arrive in the right manner, they sound even more beautiful I feel!
On the tabla is Hindole Majumdar, a senior disciple of Pandit Sankha Chatterjee.
Please enjoy my recital. 

You can also take a look at my previous blog entry about this evening. -

Friday, 6 March 2015

Full-house concert on the 3rd of March

Now-a-days, you will see that even small auditoriums in Kolkata do not reach capacity, when it's not something like Bollywood/Tollywood/band music which is being served. It's rarer to have full-house concerts of Classical Music in Kolkata, considered the Mecca of Indian Classical Music.
'Pt. Laxmikanta Laha Music and Cultural Academy' had organized an evening of Indian Classical Music on the 3rd of March at Birla Academy. It was great to see that there were even quite a few people standing, as the auditorium was packed.

There were many top level musicians in the audience. It was indeed my pleasure to play for Pandit Subroto Roy Chowdhury (Sitar-vadak), Pandit Joydeep Ghosh (Sarodiya), Pandit Sugata Nag (Sitar-vadak), Pandit Abhijit Banerjee (Tabla-vadak), Pandit Sandip Deb (tabla-vadak), Pandit Siddhartha Roy-Choudhury (Sarodiya). It was great to see my colleagues there in the audience.
But, it was an honour and my pleasure to have one of the foremost Sitar maestros of the world, Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee in the front row.
I started the concert by taking Ijazzat from the maestro.
Hindole Bhai, one of the foremost disciples of Pandit Sankha Chatterjee, was on tabla and Soham, my student, on tanpura. Hindole Bhai has been playing with my Ustad for around 20 years now, so he knows our style and compositions better than many. His accompaniment was enjoyable.
The concert was very well appreciated. But, I would say that it was an honour to get Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee's blessings and appreciation. It was indeed very kind of him to listen to my complete 1 hour recital with patience and love.
Every other musician mentioned, expressed their appreciation.
Joydeep Da hugged and kissed me after my recital. Well, they are the torchbearers in whose footsteps we, the younger generation, are following. So, if they found something to appreciate in my music, the credit should go to my Guru Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan and to them.

It was also great to have one of the foremost Sitar-makers of India, Jayanta Sengupta in the audience. My Sitar is a fully custom made one. We have worked together for years to get this instrument done in the way I wanted it to be. There have been many failed attempts as well. Everything starting from the measurements of the body, curvature of frets and material of bridge to the decorative work and even the tailpiece is different from a standard Gandhar-Pancham Sitar. I had supplied him with measurements and parameters to work his magic on. I have, myself, handpicked the gourd out of 100 others. So it was a proud moment for Jayanta Da that his hand-made Sitar's voice was appreciated. Quite a few musicians asked me about the maker of the Sitar. So it was good to have Jayanta Da there.

Several people from the media were also present, including Music critic and vocalist Meena Banerjee, student of Srikant Bakhre, So, perhaps, her review will be out this Saturday in the Marquee (The Statesman).

Some moments from that concert (photo courtesy Vinayak, my student)-



Please visit the following link if you wish to know more about Hindole Majumdar -

Other links that you may wish to see -

Monday, 2 February 2015


The raga Charukeshi's origin is shrouded in mystery.
Some believe that it's the raga Zilaf composed by Hazrat Amir Khusru and it belongs to the Bhairav Thaat.

However the fact remains that Charukeshi, in it's present form, entered Hindustani Classical music from Carnatic Classical Music only recently. And a majority of Ustads haven't performed this raga until recently. Traditional vocal compositions are also rare to come by in this raga in it's present form.
There is also a disagreement among musicians about the time of performance of this raga.

However, if we can keep all these aside, Charukeshi is such a beautiful raga.
For me it's 'sukoon'.
My absolute favourites in this raga are Ustad Amir Khansahab's 'laaj rakho tum mori gusaiyan' in Madhyalaya Teental, my Ustadji's composition in Rupak and Ustad Rais Khan's composition in Drut Teentaal.

Here, is a clip from a concert of mine where I have played that composition of my Ustadji set to Rupak taal.
Many musicians were there in the audience and their 'daad' at the right places made it even more enjoyable.
On the tabla is the young Unmesh Banerjee, disciple of his father Pandit Sunil Banerjee, Vidwan S Sekhar, and Pandit Shankar Ghosh.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Gat-Toda and traditional Todas

A few days ago, I had shared this video of mine on Facebook.

After listening to it, a few of my Facebook friends had wanted to know more about this type of composition and it's provenance.

Well, this is a type of composition which we call Gat-Toda.
Gat-Toda is a purely instrumental baaj where matching Todas come with the Gat like a bouquet. They are often composed with phrases from the Gat itself.

To explain, let me quote a passage from an article at the ITC SRA website (since it is nicely written)-
"During the formative period of sitar music, techniques were borrowed from the 'been' and 'dhrupad',
and 'gat-toda' emerged as the first instrumental music style as opposed to vocal music. From this evolved the Masitkhani baaz.."

Now, I came across a photo of Ustad Enayat Khan on my friend Adrian Mcneil's FB Timeline. Adrian is a noted scholar of instrumental music history and a sarod player himself. It is a rare photo of Ustad Enayat Khan from the proceedings of the All India Music Conference - Lucknow 1925 published in a book. The caption says 'Inayat Khan (son of Imdad Khan; Sitar-player; Gat-Jora, Jor Alap Style; Indore State)'. Here, I suspect there has been a typographical error. I feel it's Gat-Toda and not Gat-Jora. One thing we have to keep in mind is that the people at the printing press are not musicians in general.

I have learnt from Prof. Amlan Dasgupta that there was a time when connoisseurs waited eagerly to listen to those Todas which were synonymous with an Ustad's music and if the Ustad chose not to play those, often requests were made to play those specific Todas in Mehfils.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Bageshree and Char-taal-ki-sawari

At the Salt Lake Music Festival, I played Bageshree with compositions set to Char-taal-ki-sawari in the vilambit laya and Teentaal (one in madhyalaya and another in drut).
Bageshree is such a majestic raga and I am absolutely in love with the raga.
Some believe, it has it's roots in folk music of the north-west and at the hands of the Ustads it has received the final shape of the raga that it is today.
Once, Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan and me were going somewhere by taxi in Kolkata. Kolkata is noted for slow traffic movements in the evenings. While inside the taxi, Ustadji showed me so many compositions on Bageshree that the sluggish traffic movement was more welcomed than hated for a change. In fact, to be honest, I wanted the traffic to stand still for the whole evening!
Out of those compositions, very interestingly, was one which had it's Sam on Pancham.
Incredible isn't it!
The Gat from the shared clip is a composition of Ustadji and the Gat starts from a very difficult but beautiful point on the time-cycle. It is very important for the amad and upaj, taans, todas and tihais, to end just before that point to bring out the true colours of this composition.
My Ustadji keeps on saying that a musician should be at ease with all the other taals as he/she is with Teentaal. And from the very beginning he has introduced me to compositions based on all kinds of taals and that has made me appreciate and enjoy laya and taal even more. I have learnt and heard quite a few beautiful compositions in Tisra-rupak, 5and1/2, Asta-rupak and other not-so-popular time-cycles. At the hands of Ustadji they sound as grand and beautiful.

Here is an excerpt from my concert -

I wrote about this concert in a previous Blog post -

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Different colours of Hari Om Tatsat

who better than Khansahab to say Om.. Om is for that being who utters it from his/her very core..
it's not a property of a specific group of people..
in Khansahab's voice it does sound Maha-Mantra

....Spontaneous creativity, technical virtuosity, soul-touching voice...
so many years after his death, it's still so full of life.
one gets transported instantly to a by-gone era

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan - Hari Om

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Excerpt from a concert held at Pandit Sankha Chatterjee's house

It was an honour to perform at tabla maestro Pandit Sankha Chatterjee's house with him in the audience. And he showered me with much love by sitting through my performance, although he was not keeping well. For the rest of the evening and night he listened from his room. His words of appreciation still ring in my ears. Surely it was his love, as I am not worthy of such appreciation.
On the tabla was one of Panditji's foremost students Sri Subhajyoti Guha. He is a wonderful tabla player and a gentleman! It was an enjoyable evening with him on the tabla and many brilliant musicians in the audience.

I had played a traditional Gat-Toda of the Etawah Gharana. My Ustadji had told me that it was composed by his grandfather Ustad Wahid Khan sahab. Beautiful matching Todas are played with this Gat.
This excerpt contains one of my favourite gats in Shyam Kalyan. It is a madhyalaya-drut gat composed in Ektaal. This is Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan's composition! I had played a Drut Gat after this, which has been made famous by Ustad Vilayat Khan on Sitar.

Could not resist myself from sharing this historic photo of Pandit Sankha Chatterjee performing with Ustad Vilayat Khan in 1968. This has been 'lifted' from Panditji's Facebook Cover photo album.

And here is Pandit Sankha Chatterjee accompanying the great Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan as he sings Raga Yaman with Ustad Munawar Ali Khan giving him vocal support.

To get in touch with Pandit Sankha Chatterjee you can visit -
To get in touch with Sri Subhajyoti Guha you can visit -