Ali Akbar Khan, Kala Mandir, 1980’s, light-man, sarod, flattened nails.
Samir Chatterjee speaks:
This is about Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Sahab. In the live performance at Kalamandir and sometime again inmid 80’s. Khan Sahab was in his winter visit to Calcutta. He had an extensive tour in Bangladesh before coming in Calcutta. (At Kalamandir), hall was naturally packed so there wasno way I could get a ticket…high priced…I was a student at that time…so I had to ask for a favor to the light man. I had a connection with the light man of Kalamandir…Manu Da….he said,” Ok, but no seat, you will have to sit on the stage”. I said that would be such a privilege. Manypeople refused that position because that couldn’t see the face but I didn’t need it…I was there to hear music.
Khansahib started alapa. That was probably Raga Shree and either Swapanji or Mahapurushji (SwapanChowdhury or Mahapurush Mishra) were on Tabla — most probably SwapanJi — pin-drop silence –. When Khan sahib was playing alapa— there is no sound anywhere….just the sound of Tanpura and Sarod. But, after few minutes I heard a human voice….very low….. it could be anything…. and sometimes it happens….people whisper among themselves or may be technicians are talking outside the stage. It happened here again a minute later….and then again and again…..by third or fourth time I was able to understand actually what was been spoken….a slang…..a Bengali slang…… ??? ????! — out of frustration, meaning that—you know ‘es eich I t’ (shit) as they say. I thought who could do that! When Ali Akbar Khan Sahab is playing rag Shree alapa….who has the audacity to say something like that in appreciation? Then I found, Khan Sahab himself was saying that! Every time he was trying a meend and his finger slipped ….nails slipped…so he was saying that. After 15 minutes, he got so frustrated that he stopped (playing); said,” After playing 22 concerts in Bangladesh in 25 days my nails are even worse than my bald-head. I am sorry, I am missing notes”. We just roared of laughter…..the whole auditorium even….they were so honest and genuine and very open…..they were put every thing open on to the table without any excuse…