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Revelling in raags



Ajoy Chakrabarty

AJOY CHAKRABARTY is in the news again. Not just because he was the man of the show at the raga and film based programme by Manabendra Smaraney in the city recently, but the Hindustani vocalist of the Patiala Gharana is being conferred a Fellowship by the Chief Minister of Punjab for the "Survival of Patiala Gharana" by the Kolkata-based musician, on March 6 at the State Capital.

Last year Rajasthan felicitated the vocalist for his painstaking research into the 24 versions of raag Maand that have its roots in Rajasthan. "The nuances had to be unearthed from the folk numbers of several interior villages of Rajasthan and analysed," Ajoy had said at the Sangeet Natak Academy in Jodhpur.

Although predominant with the Patiala style, Ajoy has been trained under several gurus and his music is known for novel-blends to represent a style of his own. His foray into Carnatic music is too well known, as his sights into country music and jazz at the University of Tennessee and New Orleans in the U.S. "Raag minimises the gulf of world culture," says Ajoy, as we catch up with the Kolkata Pandit for an interview.

While you are being honoured here, your daughter too will receive an award at BBC?

I am really excited that Kaushiki, my daughter and first student, has been chosen by BBC for a World Music Award for her album "Pure." There is so much of difference in the way each one perceives music. And Kaushiki has an adaptable mind and voice, so much in tune with the modern generation she belongs to.

Your music is multi-faceted. Perhaps it is a reflection of your personality.

Just as the perfume in each variety of flowers is different, music also has to be sensed to understand its richness. Be it in Bengal, Tamil Nadu or beyond the Indian shores. People in Pakistan too could relate to our music and culture in my concert... the encore was unbelievable. I handle khayal, tumri, drupad, geet, ghazal, bhajan, sanskrit slokas, film songs... all on sturdy tracks of the raag.

Personally I am very religious too. I have learnt Sanskrit and Vedas from the pundits. I do Durga and Kali pooja myself and Sanskrit takes me a step further for getting my pronunciation perfect, be it in slokas or Hindi elucidation.

How did you get interested in Carnatic music?

While I was with the Sangeet Research Academy, I would listen to Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, M. S. Gopalakrishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman and so on. When I was barely 30, I had an opportunity to sing a duet with Balamuraliji and that set the ball rolling... today I am his student and I feel proud to be learning Tyagaraja's "Nadhatanumanisam," Dikshitar's "Vathapi Ganapathim," as much as I get charged to know the nuances of Balamuraliji's four-swar Mahati raag or his Kuntalavarali thillana.

What are the finer aspects that you appreciate in Carnatic music?

Carnatic music has a highly appreciable structured pattern of learning lessons devised by Purandaradasa. Further, the fixed compositions (krithis) with sangatis usher you in to a treasure house of ragas, and give room for improvisations too. The tala pattern with multiplications and fractions makes it a one-of-its-kind music.

How unique are the lessons at your music school Srutinandan?

I have taken the cue from Carnatic music. I have set hundreds of Hindustani swar-raag-taal patterns over the years so that children get a strong base with better visualisation. I have tried it on 800 children and 350 adults there, and it has worked wonders. Well, with Kaushiki, it has paid off too!

I want children to realise that music is like the resplendent swan depicted with Mata Saraswati which separates milk and water — recognising and absorbing the good from every region.

Your childhood years...

The only rich associations I can recall during my childhood years were music and my parents' love. My family was involved in traditional weaving and we would go door to door to sell mats and saris. Later my father took up academic teaching.

I was trained in harmonium and tabla too. My brother is now into serious research in music. My wife also teaches at Srutinandan.

Lightly classical

"PILU, KAMACH, Jhanjuti, Bagesri, Yaman, Bhairavi... these were some of the popular raags chosen by yesteryear music directors in Hindi films. The raag was decided according to the situation, story and stress the lyrics demanded," said Sarita Sethi, the compere in ``Raag Roop Aur Rang, Tumri Se Sang" presented by Manabendra Smaraney - an annual obeisance to the Bengali musician Manabendra Mukherjee at the Music Academy this past weekend. Steered by the classical vocalist of West Bengal Ajoy Chakrabarty, the film numbers were handled by Mahalakshmi Iyer and Javed Ali. The message in the conceptualisation of the programme seemed to throw a two-way advantage to the classical conformist and the film music enthusiast. The former could analyse the lighter aspects of the musical-scale dealt the filmy way, while the latter could get a peripheral reflection of the raga in the film song. The evening, however, offered a delightful raga medley of "Bharatiya Sangeet" as the Special Guest of Honour, Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna had wished for.

Sample these truly enjoyable moments of the programme.

* In the song "Tere Mere Sapne" from the film ``Guide," there is an eclectic mix of the traditional and modern facets. Although S. D. Burman has set the song in a rare raag, Gaaraa, the saxophone in short spells for a Jazz effect by Manohari Singh in the original added novelty. Manohari Dada, going strong with half a century of association with the industry, was present at the programme to perform live for a thundering applause from the audience.

* Raag Maand (known as Hemant too) has 24 versions of it sung in the desert land of Rajasthan, and Pahadi originates in Jammu's folk songs, said Ajoy.

* Raag Keeravani was mirrored in many forms: Rafi's "Yaad Na Aaye" was brought to life by Javed Ali, while Ajoy gave a Hindustani touch followed by Carnatic and then traversed the scales effortlessly for a jazz configuration.

* Reliving C. Ramachandra's music in Bhairavi was Mahalakshmi and Javed in "Kaise Avoon Jamuna Ke Teer" while Ajoy brought it out in tappa, khayal, tumri and the Iranian and Afghanistan versions in different taals.

RANJANI GOVIND

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