SailashekharMitra is a mine of old stories, he is a record collector lives in Bagbazar. He told me that in early days of gramophone records one had to put his face almost inside a huge cone like microphone to record a song. Presently in an upcoming film about Gauhar Jan which we have seen in a press show, announces that Gauhar Jan was the first recorded voice of India. But it is not true. In 1902 or 03 when foreigners came with recording equipment they could not find any female to sing through their instruments. Someone suggested them to go to theatre where women artists used to sing. So they went there and recorded the voice of Shashimukhi first. Then on Friday they recorded the voice of Indumukhi.
After then on Monday it was the voice of Gauhar Jan that they recorded. So, she was not the first woman, she became the third woman as far as I know. I asked him, how could you remember whether it was Friday or Saturday? He answered thatit is all printed in the outer cover of the disk, time, date everything. After they recorded Gauhar Jan they returned back to London and then to Germany where the discspublished. Later in 1911 they again returned and recorded a few more. They were quite famous then and it posed no problem to find voices. This is the first recording stories of gramophone.
It was a unique experience I want to share. I went to perform in a glass temple in Baranagar in 2004 or 05. The pakhwaj player wanted atta (wheat flour ) to put in his instrument and they gave him some. But a little while later he did not feel the desired effect and it was quite oily, so we asked about the flour and they answered that it was dough made for luchi. So we had to remove all oil and then put the correct flour and then perform.
Another experience was that I was playing veena in Vivekananda society in Maniktala in 2004-05. It was a hurriedly assembled lot of musicians, a tanpura, harmonium and pakhawaj player was their own. Sarat Ghoshal in pakhawaj, Sudip Ghosh in tanpura and I can’t remember the harmonium player’s name. I play in G sharp scale, it was quite high but the other instruments collided and kept a lower scale. I played raga Maya Vasant and recorded it on my own player. I came home and replayed it and I heard Raga Kafi was being played. I did not play that raga. I know it but I did not play it. So, I heard quite keenly and still it was raga kafi. Because of the scale difference the other instruments became prevalent and I played with their scale and I played raga Kafi.
A Report on the ban on the usage of Harmonium by all A.I.R studios. Stalwarts like Sir Raza Ali, Dr. Rabindranath Tagore, Dr Zakir Husain, K.V.Krisnaswami Aiyar and L. Muthla expressed their logical views against the usage of harmonium as the accompanying instruments.
“Amrita Bazar Patrika [Daily]. Vol: 72; Issue:61 (02 March 1940).” Accessed October 20, 2016. http://eap.bl.uk/database/large_image.a4d?digrec=4262810;catid=226630;r=16827.
Identified by Rajeswary Ganguly Banerjee, Project Fellow.
Data processed at SAP-DRS Lab, Department of Instrumental Music, Rabindra Bharati University.
Residence of Pt. Manilal Nag, 13G Gobinda Mondal Lane, Kolkata 700002
About the speaker
Manilal Nag is a renowned sitar player and an exponent of the Bishnupur Gharana of Bengal. His sitar recitals have been featured in many National Programmes of Music & Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan since 1954. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including Sangeet Natak Akademy Award in 2001 and
Government of West Bengal’s Highest Civilian Award, Banga Bibhushan in 2015.
Gokul Nag, vocal music, dhrupad, sargam, riyaz, practice, repetition, bol, sargam, right hand, left hand, reflex action, Mita Nag, 6-7 year old, beating, 1945, 1946
Father used to teach us how to sing before he would teach us how to play the sitar. We learnt Dhrupad. Once we picked up the raaga, he showed us the sargam on the sitar and asked us to play. That is, he asked us to do riyaaz. We had to play the same thing for a long time, accompanied by bol or sargam. So, for instance, in case of sargam it could be: “g? re s?, g? re s?, g? re s?, m? g? re m? g? re m? g? re, p? m? g? p? m? g? p? m? g?, s? re s? g? re s?, re g? re m? g? re, g? p? m? g? p? m? – inverting it – s? g? re s?, re g? m? re s? g? re g?, s? g? re g?, re m? g? m?, re m? g? m?…”
– How long would you play these?
– For a long time.
– Two hours? One hour?
– No, not one or two hours on every occasion. Forty times, thirty times. Then we changed it again. It’s not like we played the same thing for an hour.
– Was the riyaaz different for your left hand and right hand?
– No. If the right hand moves, the left hand will move automatically.
– The rule is that if the right hand moves well, the left hand will follow suit. I didn’t do anything special for the left hand. If the right hand moves, so will the left.
– You know, I think it is reflex. For every person, the matter of riyaaz is different depending on the reflex.
– I wanted to find out about his.
– I think reflex is the main factor.
– How old were you when you father was training you?
– I was around six or seven years old.
– Even at that age you had a rigorous riyaaz?
– Yes. Otherwise we’d get a beating. I’ve been beaten up many times.
– Beating doesn’t aid in the process of development.
– He was kicked from the first floor and fell to the ground floor because he played football. Such stories are there. He still has a mark on his arm.
– I used to play football. There was a rajbari in Uttarpara where there was a football ground. I was addicted to sports. I played football. At that time Salil Manna’s shots were famous. I stopped that shot. My wrist was dislocated. I had to figure out what I had to do next. I couldn’t go home and say I broke my wrist playing football. If I said that then father would get angry and give me a good thrashing. So, I came up with a plan. I was already quite mischievous by then. So, I made a loud noise and screamed that I had fallen down. Otherwise, I would have received a sound thrashing!
My first guru was my elder sister Mira Sil. Our home had a heritage of music. My elder sisters were all very talented. My eldest sister was a good singer while middle sister was a disciple of Chhabi Bandyaopadhyay. She sang many devotional songs and Kirtans. My elder brother Dr.Arun Sil was the mastermind behind these learning processes. He once decided to send my sister to learn from Birendra Kishore Roy Chaudhury. I remember the incident clearly. My sister asked my brother whether he knew the legendary musician and my brother took out the telephone directory and called the maestro and fixed the time for her to learn from him.
It was in 1968 that my sister was married and went to live in London. Then I started to learn from Birendra Kishore and continued till his death. He passed away in 1974 or 75, I think. Then I got transferred to North Bengal and discontinued learning. I used to learn sitar from him also, as learning Sitar would help mastering the skill of playing Veena with ease. Birendra Kishore used to follow Dhrupad style of Seni Gharana. He taught me Sitar and Veena both.
I was quite young then, must be 20 years of age, so I didn’t understand a lot of his teaching, I think. He used to sing the things. Gauharbani, Dagarbani and Khandarbani were the fundamentals of my learning. Gauharbani had long Meends and then comes Dagarbani, he used to teach me between Dagarbani and Khandarbani which was typical of Seni Gharana. At first, he taught me small ragas and I passed Prabhakar from there. He used to sing the ragas and had to copy it down then I had to render it through the instrument. I cannot express the teaching learning process more explicitly than that.
I had to go away due to my job, as I told you earlier. When I returned I started learning from Panchanan Roychaudhry. He was a disciple of Birendrababu for sixteen years. The year was 2005, I think. I learnt from him for a period of five years until his death. Before that I used to practise the learnt ragas and my own compositions.