At Chowringhee, near the Lords Bakery, there was an open space, where the Sadarang Conference would be held. There would always be a huge crowd at the conference. Tickets were priced at Rs. 4 or Rs. 5. There had come to perform in the morning session, a Baiji, who was not very acclaimed at that time; referred by Kanai Da. The Baiji had said, “I do not prefer to be accompanied by a Bangali Babu…” And Kanai Da had assured, saying, “Oh, don’t you worry… I will play with you.”
Dabir Khan Saheb said, “Hey what are you doing? This is such a trouble!”
But the Baiji continued, saying “No no… I won’t allow a Bangali Babu…” (voice not clear)
Thus, Khan Saheb had to play, though the Biaji was not an infamous one.
That day at the morning session…
Do you understand, Kanai Dutta was refused!
No no, just see the way of talking- “I won’t allow a Bangali Babu…”
These Bangalees are the one who were famous Tabla Players.
Pandit Sankha Chattopadhyay is a reputed Tabla player from Kolkata. His style blends three leading Tabla Gharanas of India, Farukhabad, Delhi and Punjab.
Listener, Ravi Shankar, Alluddin Khan, Keramatulla khan, Anokhelal Mishra, Ashish khan, Vilabit, Theka, Programme, Rangmahal Theater Hall, Allarakha Khan, Rupak Tala, Kalika Cinema Hall, Tansen Conference, Late 50’s, Samta Prasad
This is a very old story from a long time ago. I was then a student of Khan Sahib, and perform very little. I was still not out professionally in the market, but everyone important knows that I can play. Because I used to carry the bags of Keramat Khan sahib, followed him with my tabla set, sat beside him, tuned the table, and as a result, I was a known face.
At the Tansen Conference, when Vilayat Khan got ready to perform, Shailen Da told him, “Today, Kanthe Maharaj Ji and Thirakwa Sahib would play with you… a duet.” Vilayat Khan said, “They are both big names, elephants in their own right, why not give them a turn? Not together.”
Shailen Da replied: “No, we decided for a duet today.”
But they didn’t agree. They said, “We shall perform separately.” Kanthe Maharaj ji took the first turn. I was near the stage at the time. I went with Keramatulla Khan Sahib and was allowed at the first row, and I was watching the fun. Out of nowhere, Vilayat Khan took up a complicated tune. Maharaj was known for the uniqueness of his technique.
Hafiz Ali Khan Sahib was playing along. In this context, I must say that the beat he chose was Tintala but the Theka was surprisingly balanced, making it a astonishingly beautiful rhythm. Dha Den Na Ke, Ta De Na Ke, Tin Tin Na Ke, Dha Dhin Dhin Dha, Dha Dhin Dhin Dha… went on fading bol.
So, he was demonstrating the rhythm with a movement of his feet, and Vilayat Khan found it extremely offensive. Suddenly, someone from the audience made a taunting noise. And at that time the rivalry of Vilayat Khan and Ravi Shankar was akin to that of the much publicized rivalry of East Bengal and Mohan bagan football teams. Suddenly, Vilayat Khan dropped the sitar with a bang and walked out. “No, I won’t play. They’re all agents of Ravi Shankar. I won’t play.”
Karamat Khan Sahib stood up. “What are you doing, my brother?”
Vilayat Khan: “No, Keramat bhaijan, they’re taunting at me.”
Karamat Khan Sahib: “No one is taunting at you.”
Vilayat Khan understood, and then came back on stage after a few smokes. His performance was first class. And then it was Thirakwa Sahib’s turn.
-Allow me to interrupt, I have a question. Around what year did this happen? Was it in the forties?
-No, abruptly 1954 or 55.
-Where was this musical conference held?
This was, as I feel… The program was explosive. But there was that one interruption. Music is music, after all. Vilayat Khan, with his electrifying music, would often throw out challenges to the crowd while he played. “Is there anyone who can play like me?” That’s what he used to do whenever he performed.
Anyway, then Thirakwa Sahib took his turn. What music it was! Kanthe Maharaj had already performed, but Thirakwa Sahib was another matter entirely. It was pure passion. What else would you call it? Keramat Sahib went inside again. “What are you doing, my brother? They taunted him so much, but no one said a word to you.” He was always obsessed with taunts from the crowd, whether it was his own group that was responsible for the taunts.
Anyway, Khan Sahib coaxed and persuaded. It was Dabir Khan’s turn next. And after him, someone else took his arm and sat him down at the stage. Thirkua sahib performed. I was new to Kolkata then. I came to Kolkata at around fifty and that happened around in fifty five.
– That was around fifty five?
– Fifty four or fifty five I guess.
– So it took place either in Indira hall or Basusree Hall.
– Could be Indira or Bharati hall as well, I can’t remember clearly.
We were collecting anecdotes on classical music-related happenings in Kolkata, an effort to frame some kind of oral history. As the music is kind of omnipresent in all parts of India the speakers many a times got drifted and started talking about the incidents happened in other cities of the country. We also received some anecdotes of the incidents those happened outside India. As this mapping project is only limited to Kolkata or Calcutta, we found it difficult to map it under this project. But, we realized that these anecdotes are also priceless and should not be kept aside. So, we thought of creating a small archive that can preserve these anecdotes. These are the anecdotes those may not directly fit in this project but otherwise opening up interesting history. These may be anecdotes those are connected to the musical personalities those are very intimately connected to Calcutta / Kolkata.
We named it ‘Stub Repository’.
Note: To reach the contents under this repository please click on the ‘Stub Repository’ category on the right pane.
I had heard this incident from Pandit Ajay Sinha Roy, whom I used to call Ajay Kaka and he was also my second Guru. Ajay Sinha Roy had told me that once a musician from the western part of India had come to the recording studio of Megaphone Records to record a Raga. Among the people present in Megaphone Records during the recording, there was also Kaji Nazrul Islam; he used to work at the studio at that time. But he failed to recognize the Raga that the Western singer had performed. So he had said, “You couldn’t recognize this Raga? This is an Indian Raga after all… it is the Bangal Bilawal.
Kaji Saheb couldn’t shrug off the fact that a Western singer had challenged him. So he had said, “No no. Who said that we couldn’t recognize the Raga? It is a very common one, and we all know it here. It is so popular that we even have Bengali songs on it.” Saying this, Kaji Nazrul had at that very moment composed a Bengali song based on the Raga, and sung it to the Western singer, to show that the Raga was known to him. This proved that we Indians are in no ways lacking behind Western singers.
This incident was narrated to me by my Guru Pandit Ajay Sinha Roy, whom I used to call Ajay Kaka.