It is heartening to see excellence in performing arts like classical music, which demands total and lifelong dedication, being recognised with due approbation. One experienced such feeling of satisfaction when Kesari Nath Tripathi, the Governor of West Bengal, conferred the prestigious MLK Award upon Pt. Anand Gopal Bandopadhyay and Pt. Samaresh Chowdhury for their lifetime contribution in promotion and dissemination of Indian classical music. The serene ceremony was organised at the Vivekananda auditorium, Kolkata, by Pracheen Kala Kendra (PKK), the premier institution dedicated to promotion, preservation and dissemination of art and culture since its inception in 1956. The MLK Award that carries a cash prize of ₹51000, a shawl, citation and a memento was instituted in memory of their esteemed founder Late Guru Madan Lal Koser.
The award ceremony was followed by remarkable recitals by the two maestros. Remarkable in the sense, that they had to squeeze their performance in short duration due to the late arrival of the chief guest.
Pt. Anand Gopal Bandopadhyay on tabla with his son Pran Gopal in tow, opened his brilliant tabla recital with Teentala. The nuanced Baaj of Banaras Gharana in the expert delivery of the tabla maestro matched phrase by phrase by his disciple and son in action and motion; proved that the family tradition was intact.
One knew Pt. Anand Gopal Bandopadhyay, the ace tabla player and guru from the days of the ITC-SRA, when he was a prominent figure at the SRA as a tabla accompanist at all the ITC music conferences, but it was a good opportunity to talk to him this time. When asked what took him to Pt. Mahadev Prasad Mishra, who is known more for his Purab Ang Thumri Gayaki, he disclosed the fact that originally Pt. Mahadev Prasad Mishra was a tabla player only, the Guru-Bhai of Pt. Anokhe Lal.
One came to know from him that the Banaras Gharana has two streams, the Kabir-Chaura and the Rampura one. Pt. Kanthe Maharaj and Kishan Maharaj were from the Kabir Chaura branch known for the pakhawaj and dance influences and Pt. Anokhe Lal and Guru Pt. Mahadev Prasad Mishra were from the Rampura branch with stress on tabla bols. Both the stalwarts learnt under Pt. Bhairon Prasad.
“My father Radha Gopal Bandopadhyay was an amateur vocalist working for the Railways. He was the one who taught me a few thekas so that I could accompany him.
When he saw that I was good at tabla, he took me to his Guru Pt. Mahadev Prasad ji and requested him to teach me properly. I am a ‘Ganda-Bandh’ shagird (disciple) of Pandit Mahadev Prasad ji from my childhood only.”
Thus one could see that the melodic inputs of music were there in his upbringing from the very beginning. This seems to be the secret behind the unusual musicality in his tabla.
He came to Delhi to work with the Song & Drama Division and later joined the Music Faculty in Delhi University. Pt. Amar Mishra and Pt. Vijay Kichlu, the first executive director of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) invited him to join the SRA, thus he shifted to Kolkata and rest as they say, is history.
This evening he opened with ‘chalan’, the nuanced gait of Teentala, as practised in his Banarasi baaj instead of the Peshakara, one usually comes across in a solo tabla recital to open with. Then he proceeded to the Banaras ka Quayeda and baant from where the famous laggi of ‘Dha tin Nada’ originated. Then came the unique piece where Jhap-tala, Drut-Ektal and Adi-Chautal were all incorporated in the frame of the basic Teen-Tala. There was no end to his varied repertoire presented in slow, medium and fast tempos of Teentala and the technical flair compressed in the given time.
Pt. Samaresh Chowdhury, assisted on vocal support by his son Rishabh, Hiranmoy Mitra on harmonium and Debashis Adhikari on tabla, presented a melodious rendition of Yaman.
The significant feature of his mesmerising performance was the clarity in the conception of the raga. The gradual elaboration of the evening raga through the Sadarang composition, “mero man bandh lino…” set to slow Ektal and the variety of sargam and Aakar Taans in the famous chhota khayal, “Main vari vari jaun…” in medium tempo Teentala heralded deafening applause. It was difficult to believe that all this he offered in just 20 minutes. Pt. Chowdhury laughs it off
“My Guru Pt. Ravi Shankar’s all round training has enabled me for all this. He would ask us to assimilate the whole material in a given time frame of 5, 7 or 10 minutes. Ud Amjad Ali Khan had once reacted to my one such presentation with an encouraging comment, “Samaresh, you have given me the satisfaction of listening to this raga as if for half-an-hour in just seven minutes.”