Earlier, my father used to play the tabla. In 1935, he became the disciple of Ustad Abid Hussain Khan sahib.
-Did that happen in this house?
– No, we used to live in our original house in Potuatolla at that time. The first person to tie the nara with Ustad Abid Hussain Khan was Hirubabu – Hirendranath Gangopadhyay. His father was a great fan of the tabla. Manmath nath Ganguly was his name. He used to work at the High Court.
– Your father is Pandit Montu Banerjee.
– Yes. We were all very close to Hiru babu’s family. Father was quite small then. Hiru babu said to my father that since he is such a fan of the tabla, he should become a disciple of his ustad. In those days, masters would not take on more than thirty to forty students. The masters would teach tabla or any other instrument or singing only to those who would become their gandabandh disciples. So my father learn from Ustad Abid Hussain Khan for two to two-and-a-half years. Then, Ustad Abid Hussain Khan passed away. Our family was close to Mr. Raichand Baral. He was a friend of one of my uncles. He said, “Ustad Masid Khan sahib is currently staying at my house. Why don’t you train under him.” So, he learn from Ustad Masid Khan. Then, my father ran into Munneshwar Dayalji. Father found him to be a great man. He was attained enlightenment in the world of music. He had a fantastic memory, and a singing style to match. He said to my father, “No one plays the classical harmonium. You should do it”. That was the time father left the tabla and took up the harmonium. The first time he played the harmonium was at the conference at Allahabad in 1937.
Translated by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
Kamalaksha Mukhopadhyay, Harmonium player, AIR
Edited & Designed: Dr. Suranjita Paul
Data processed at SAP-DRS Lab, Department of Instrumental Music, RabindraBharati University
Sati Sadan, 41, Harish Mukherjee Road, Bhowanipur, Kolkata 700025
About Maharaj Banerjee
Son and disciple of Pt. Montu Banerjee [Tabla, Sarod, Harmonium]. Disciple of Pt. Muneshwar Dayal [Harmonium], Ustd. Ahmedjan Thirakawa [Tabla]. He is also a legal practitioner.
Vilayet Khan, 1944-46, Ghulam Ali Khan, Kashinath Chattopadhyay, Keramatullah Khan, Sati Sadan, Desi Todi, Masood Khan Saheb, Bade Mian, Ahmedjan Thirakawa
Maharaj Banerjee speaks :
Vilayet Khan lived in this house from 1944–46.
He was quite young. I was a child. There are photos of Vilayet Khan’s visit to our home in 1945. My father, Vilayet Khan, and I were in the house. Vilayet Khan stayed here. He would practice. And because of him, or maybe it was to my father’s credit, that other maestros like Faiyaz Khan would also visit this place. A very remarkable programme was organised here which carried the name of my grandfather. Shri Kashinath Chattopadhyay was an accomplished Bengali who used to sing. He had trained under Mustaq Hussain and Ashfaq Hussain of Rampur gharana. In that programme, Keramat Khan was playing the table, Ghulam Ali Khan was singing. It is a famous programme. I still remember, Khan sahib had sung the deshi todi. And many people, including Ray babu and Pahari Sanyal had come to hear.
In this house?
I haven’t seen that kind of style in anyone else. Such finesse! Each octave seemed wasy to him. He’d sit in one place and travel to three octaves. He would sing common raagas, not unfamiliar ones. In the mornings, he would sing todi, deshi todi etc. Then he would sing shuddha sarang, jaunpuri and other famous ragaas og his. At night, he would sometimes sing marwa. Or else, he would sing bhupali; later into the night he would sing malkosh, darbari, behaag, kamod, kaushikdhwani. Nothing can be compared to that. And most importantly, he sang effortlessly. That is what mesmerised us. How can a person sit in one place like that and sing!
This was in 1945?
No. That was Vilayet Khan sahib. He was here for three years. Ghulam Ali Khan sahib…since I have been a part of music…I became more mature, I went to see him, and hear him, I got to know him. Then he rented a house in Park Circus. Then he was paralysed, he came to Kolkata and gave several performances. I had accompanied him on the tabla on some of these occassions.
You also played with Khan Sahib?
Yes, I became Therakuya Khan Sahib’s disciple in 1957. There wasn’t a single Bengali or Muslim who wasn’t here on that day. Ghulam Ali Khan was the chief guest. They referred to each other as Bade Miyan. Ghulam Ali Khan sahib said to Therakuya Khan, “Oh Bade Miya, this Maharaj is an exact copy of you!” And everyone else was saying, how can they be compared! But such was his affection towards me! He stressed on the weight ofthe music in accordance with the ragaa.