-yes, he used to play, he was a renowned Pakhawaj player he used to accompany with Dhrupad. There was also Subodh Chandra of Janai, who had the nickname of Kebol Babu. I can’t remember now whether he was called Subodh Bannerjee or Subodh Mukherjee.yes, Subidh Chandra Mukherjee, he also used to play Pakhawaj.
It was in this very house where Durlabh Babu died in?
Yes, He died while he was playing the instrument. The condition was perhaps called Apoplexy. He got a cerebral stroke while playing the instrument- when suddenly his fingers had become still. He was most probably playing by the side of Dhrupadiya ,Mahim Mukherjee. When he was sick that day, he was brought here to lie down. He couldn’t be taken to a hospital for treatment even. He was treated for three or four days at this home. He drew his last breath after the third day and he died here.
When did it happen? During fifties?
No, this happened way before the fifties. I have with me the biography of Durlabh Bhattacharya, which had come out in a magazine. The magazine itself dated back to 1939, so we can naturally induce that he died in the 1930s. In either 1938 or 39, some newspaper had printed a special edition on his life and his biography was in that newspaper. His grandson is still alive, Chanchal Bhattacharya.
A lot of people used to come to Radhikaprasad to take music lessons. For example, there was Girija Shankar Chakraborti, Yogendranath Bannerjee who was a famous Dhrupad singer, Amarnath Mukhopadhyay who too was a Dhrupad singer. I have seen him in person and have also heard him sing. There was also Mohini Mohan Mishra, father of Nirmala Mishra, who used to be frequent at our house. He used to play the Veena. Have you ever seen a Veena? How could you even… But you must know Nirmala Mishra? I had met her just a few years back. I knew Mohini Mohan to be a very irate person, though he always interacted with us in a friendly manner. So I asked him once, whether his father was a man of temper, and he replied in affirmative to it. His older brother, Murari Mohan Mishra, who died very young, also was a brilliant singer. It was after him, that the Murari Sangeet Sammelan would be held in this very house. Here, we used to have a picture of him, and unfortunately I have no clue now about where it is now.
Once, Nirmala Mishra said to me that there is a picture of her brother, and she wished to see it.
I wasn’t aware that the picture had already been destroyed by then, and I said, “Yes. But don’t you too have a picture of him at your place?”
“No, actually I have never met my own brother and have never come across a picture of him even. No, there is no picture of him at our house.”
In shock, I said, “What! He was your own brother, and you don’t have a picture of him at your household?”
I could not show her the picture, though I remembered that I had seen the picture. He used to sing really well. He died so young, and in his memory, the Murari Sangeet Sammelan continued, which I too have attended. Later, it was reduced to a very private program. But I have heard, that when it had started, renowned artists of Kolkata also used to come to the Murari Sangeet Sammelan.
Someone by the name of Nalin Chandra Malakar had come with Pandit Jnanendra Prasad Goswami. I have met him a lot of times. He lived a long life too. In the decade of the 1980s, he died. He used to come almost every day.
Whatever incidents happened here, he was a witness to everything. He used to sing, and was a disciple of Pandit Jnanendra Prasad Goswami. He also served his Guru, as was the rule of those days. He used to live in this house with Pandit Jnanendra Prasad Goswami and his wife Radhika Prasad Goswami and also serve them.
Radhika Prasad Goswami brought his nephew Janendra Prasad Goswami in this house. Rabindranath Tagore came to this house often, stayed here and sometimes put tunes to his lyrics. He was very respectful of Radhika Prasad. Later he took him to Shantiniketan with him. But Janendra Prasad Goswami remained here after his uncle left for Shantiniketan. Earlier Radhika Prasad Goswami lived in Raja Manindra Chandra Nandi’s house in Kashimbazar. Before that I don’t remember the name of his residence. But he took his nephew from Bankura and returned here to live.
On 9th December 1934 All Bengal Music Conference started. Ustad Alauddin Khan came with his Maihar Band. There was also Pandit Timirbaran and Faiaz Khan perhaps. I couldn’t remember whether Pandit Omkarnath Thakur came that year or not but the inaugural song was Vandemataram. In later years whenever the conference started the inaugural song was sung by Pandit Omkarnath Thakur. The full song was sung by him and there was a CD of his voice singing the full song. Now the part of it is regarded as the National Song. Later when he could not come or sing his disciple Bijanbala Ghosh Dastidar would sing the song. She had a sweet voice and she sang kheyal.
Afterwards Pandit Binayak Rao Patbardhan sang the inaugural song. Binayak Rao stayed in this house many times. Anyway, it was a tradition to sing Vandemataram as inaugural song in the conference and someone had to sing it. I couldn’t remember all their names. But it was a tradition to start the programme with Vandemataram.
The programme always started with Dhrupad. There were many great Dhrupad singers then. Ustad Nasiruddin Khan sang once, I remember. Ustad Abdul Karim Khan came just before the year he passed away. He departed this life in 1937, so it must be in 1936 that he came. He was invited the next year but unfortunately, he passed away. This was his sole visit to Calcutta.
Nasiruddin Khan was the father of great Dagar brothers Ustad Mainuddin Khan and Ustad Aminuddin Khan. He was himself a great Dhrupad singer. But he also performed just once because he passed away after that. Alladia Khan Saheb came here to perform once. He was very old then. It was common gossip that he was almost a centenarian then. The organizers who invited him was in constant fear whether they could send him back to his place safe and sound. I heard it from Bhupendra krishna. I didn’t know how he performed at his age. But he was a great musician. He was the Guru of Moghubai and Kishori Amonkar’s mother’s. Moghubai sang here but not Kishori Amonkar. I don’t remember the year when Moghubai performed. Alladia Khan Saheb, Nasiruddin Khan Saheb and Abdul Karim Khan Saheb all visited and sang only once in the music conference.
Pt. Nikhil Banerjee was scheduled to play Shyam Kalyan at a programme, the announcements had been made, but he was yet to fix the strings. The string was to go along the bridge could not be fixed. This was because his eyesight had deteriorated so much and he had just recovered from his stroke. I can vaguely remember the date to be possibly 1981. We were sauntering around, but were not allowed inside. Rabindra Sadan has two greenrooms; one of them is visible from the Car Park but only if the windows are open.
On a previous occasion, Ravi Shankarji had almost taken a class before a programme, flanked by Anindo Chatterjee on one side and Dipak Chowdhury on the other. We were privy to everything from what he would play to how he would come on to the stage, thanks to Rabin pal, Ravi Shankarji’s organizer. He had kept a window open just a little bit and had told Partha Majumdar, a friend of ours, ‘Stand here and you’ll get to hear everything.’ Partha had taken me there. We two had stood there and seen a lot of how he demonstrated the Taalas.
On this occasion, we had used a similar opening to stand outside pt. Nikhil Banerjee’s greenroom. Ravishankarji was more conscious about these things, Pt. Nikhil Banerjee more oblivious. So through the open window I could see him having difficulties in fixing the string. Anindo Chatterjee asked him, “Kakababu (he used to call him that), can I have a look at that?” He said, “ No, not at all. I will do it my own.” Hiren Roy’s son, Amit Roy, or Bachchu as he was called, tried to lend a helping hand, but was allowed very little. He fixed the string till making the last kink at the end, allowing him only to fix the last gauge of the string with the left hand tuning pegs. Then he told Amit, referring to Hiren Roy, “Your father has not done the Jawari well this time.” which had been done the previous day.
Nikhilbabu preferred a jawari that was neither too open nor too closed, something in between. This produced an outstanding sound, and when he performed Taans, there was a singular sound and you could hear just what was being played. I’ll take no names, but there are many taanbaaz Sitarists, who perform Taans at a blazing speed, at 8-times, sixteen-times or twenty-times even, but then the other strings start to respond and there is too much noise. This I had never heard from Pt. Nikhil Banerjee.
After the 80s, he became a bit slow, owing to ill health, but came to terms with that. He had mentioned this to some persons somewhere, while praising Ustad Vilayat Khan Sahab, of whom he was a great admirer. While listening to a Taan by Ustad Vilayat Khan Sahab, he lamented, “ Ah, I could have done such taans at a time, but my health has stopped me. I cannot perform them anymore. He had acquiesced not to perform taans beyond a certain Laya himself.
But the greatest thing about him was the sense inherent in his head. He used to travel alone, without any accompanist. I have heard it from people who used to plan his programmes abroad, from many other people including Tejen, that he was scheduled to play, say, at two programmes in Amsterdam with Zakir Hussain, one at London with Swapan Chaudhuri five at sundry locations with Anindo Chatterjee. But they were not travelling together, he travelled alone, and this with a high optical power, resulting from myopia and the surgery on the eye which was affected by the second or third stroke. I do not know how he did it, but he did so religiously.
Maybe it was Anindo Chatterjee who reminisced about the time when they were to play in a programme at Paris. They were very particular about the time, about the exact duration of the programme. Ten minutes before the programme, the strings had not been fixed, they kept breaking off repeatedly. But Pt. Nikhil Banerjee was adamant about doing it himself. And after that, he was to play Shyam Kalyan on PanchamSawaritaala, which ran to an hour and a half. But he never compromised about the time, that is to say, if he played Alaap for one hour here, he would do so for an hour abroad also. He was not concerned about what the audience was willing to accept or not, he would endeavour to elevate the audience to his level. This is one instance I remember among many.
Let me tell you about another experience. Nikhil babu played Kaushik Bahiron at the Uttarpara Sangeet Sammelan in the late seventies, 1977 or 1978. Me and two or three of my friends were sitting in the empty pandal, all the people had left, well after seven in the morning. The reason being, even after the playing had stopped, and the audience had left, the effect of the music lingered on. I can quote many such experiences from my memory if you wish.
Shyamal Lahiri’s Residence at Chandi Ghosh Road, Kudghat.
About the speaker
Renowned Vocalist, Son of Legendary Musician Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri
Improvisation, Silsila, Raag, Rag, Shyam Kauns, Nand Kauns, Shyam Ranjini, Shubhra, All Bengal Music Conference, Lala Babu, Alauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Sarodia, Suresh Chakraborty, Nanda Babu, Suddha Gandhar, Komal Gandhar, Jog kauns
My father Pundit ChinmoyLahiri did much musical improvisation that can’t be counted. He not only improvised existing ragas but also created new ragas as well. He named them as Shyamkosh, Nandkosh, Shyamranjani and Shubhra.
Baba performed this raga in All Bengal Music Conference and then Lalababu asked him the source of this new raga. Actually, it was Allauddin Khan Saheb who wanted to know that from where it derived . So, my father told them that it was during a tour with Suresh Chakraborty, a person named Nandababu was with them. He was a learned person and an enthusiast. They daily discussed about the use of twin gandhar in raga Jog, there’s also raga Jogkosh with the usage of both gandhar. From all these discussions my father found the seed of a new raga and he created it with all the finery of Bistar, Taan and Bandish. But he insisted that as Nandbabu was the first to open the thread, thus the raga was named after him, hence Nandkosh.
Note: Contradictions are not uncommon in Indian Classical Music. Some old timers like Pt. Radhika Mohan Maitra used to believe that the raga Nanda Kauns was originally composed by Pt. Suresh Chandra Chakraborty. One can find the reflection of the same idea in Bangalapedia. – Editor
Reference: Banglapedia http://en.banglapedia.org/index.php?title=Lahiri,_Chinmoy accessed on 07 June 2017.
Data processed at SAP-DRS Lab, Department of Instrumental Music, Rabindra Bharati University