-Yes…riwaz…That reminds me; Dipakda once showed me a letter. Dipakda was a student of Panditji around the year 1967. He received this letter from Panditji three or four years lat
er. So, the letter must have been written exactly around late 1960s and early 1970s. Now, as most musicians and even some music admirers know, the relationship between Pandit Ravi Shankarji and UstadVilayat Khan wasn’t exactly friendly. Anyway, their relationship has been extensively talked and written about, and we all understand that. What is interesting is, however, that in the letter – I’m not sure whether or not the letter has been preserved by Dipakda’s sister – but Panditji had written “When playing a Taan, you must listen closely to VilayatBhai’s rendition. Try to follow the way VilayatBhai plays the Taan. A perfect Taanwill exactly belike VilayatBhai’s”.
This is fascinating! Pandit Ravi Shankar Ji may not admit it publicly, but I have seen the proof of his secret admiration. Whether Vilayat Khan harboured similar feelings, I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never learned his style from him. But this is a fact nevertheless.
When Gurujifirst came to Kolkata, he stayed in a house as a paying guest which was in 20C, NilmaniMitra Street, close to Darjipara. He was there for few days. It was on his initial days in Kolkata,probably during 1944-45. Then he moved from that place to someone’s house in Bowbazar. The landlord of that house was a lover of music and dance and often visited at classical concerts. So when that man had a discussion about keeping Guruji as paying guest, the man did not like the fact of having an atmosphere of music in his own house, the fact that someone will sing and he will be seen, though the owner himself visited concerts. So, Gurujiknew that the man did not like to have an atmosphere of music in his house.
The gentleman had asked Guruji if he was into music. Then Guruji had replied “No, no I don’t do all that” otherwise the man would not had let him stay. So finally the man had let Guruji stay. Now, Guruji had to practice or he atleast need to something, how to do that now? So, when the gentleman used to go out of the house, in that house there was water pump, so when the pump used to start then a musical sound used to come out of it, at that time Guruji used to practice a bit. He used to practice completely in a naked voice. Other than that he could not practice at all. In the meantime when it was going on like that, one fine day the gentleman told Guruji that there was a whole night concert, “Would you like to go with me?” Guruji said, “Yes”. Then he took him to the concert.
That was Pathuriaghata Street, house of ManmathaNathGhosh. The concert was held there. First was Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, then was Ravi Shankarji. Both of them did it half-half, whole. At first was Bade Ghulam Ali’s vocal. Everybody was sitting in the hall room wearing Punjabi and dhoti, on those days mug dhoti, and all were lover of music. Guruji was sitting beside the gentleman. When Ghulam Ali Khansahab’s performance was over suddenly Guruji was saying to the gentleman, and before that he noticed that ManmathNathBabu, who happens to be the owner of that place was coming and talking to the gentleman few times. Guruji thought that Manmath nath Babu must be a friend of the gentleman.
(Guruji asked) – “Well, will you please let me sing here? He is a great friend of yours. Could you please kindly request him to let me sing here?” The gentleman said – “You will sing here. What are you saying? Shut up! .Ghulam Ali Khansahab has sung here and you will sing after that. Yes, don’t speak at all. You have come with me so just quietly be seated.” The gentleman got angry and was shouting. In the meantime Manmatha Nath babu was passing that place. Manmatha Nath babu stood and enquired “What’s the matter? What happened?” Meanwhile, some interview was going on and few people from the audience had gone out to have some tea. The gentleman said “Look! This boy is just desperate. He is constantly saying that he will sing. He has never listened to songs, nothing, now he is saying that he will sing”. ManmathaNathbabu said “Does he want to sing? Alright, he can sing but only 10 minutes. People are having tea now. Let him sing for 10 minutes. What’s the problem? But not more than 10 minutes, Ravi Shankarji will sit after that. Guruji said, “ Yes, 10 minutes will be enough”. He agreed. Now, the accompanists who played with Ghulam Ali Khansahab, all of them denied. They said that they don’t know him and what they would play. They said “ Nahi, nahi, hum log nahi bajayenge”. All of them were denying. So a tabla player from the same para who came to see the concert and well known to the gentleman was being told to accompany with him. He was told, “Play with him, he is saying he will sing and all” . Only a tanpura was put in sync, there was no other instrument, a tanpura and a tabla. He sang the Malkauns which he had heard from Abdul Karim Khan sahab. He completed it within 10 minutes. As soon as he finished, all people were extremely, not only when he finished rather when he had begun then only within 2- 1 minute people started coming in with their tea cups and sat quietly. And audience of those days were quite socialist. They were sitting and quietly listening. And after listening they started developing a curiosity “Where did he come from? What is the matter? Such a great voice”. People started going in front of the stage and started asking him, “What is your father’s name?.Guruji’s father ‘s name was quite known to the people on those days. Audience said, “Oh, you are his son!” Ghulam Ali Khan sahab was on backstage . Ghulam Ali Khan asked the organizer to bring the person in front of him whoever was singing. He did not see Guruji then. Then Guruji went in front of him. Ghulam Ali Khan praised Guruji and said “Your voice is very nice and your taans are very clean. You will do well.” He said all that.
This is wonderful incident that he showed the courge to sing after Ghulam Ali Khansab’s performance. And after Guruji’s performance the gentleman was quite proud. The gentleman said “Yes. He lives in my house.” Actually, everybody was enquiring “Who brought him? From where?”. The gentleman felt very proud.
This was perhaps in the beginning of 1983. One day, Dipakda said, ‘come when Guruji, Ravi Shankar, is here, and I will introduce you to him’. I had always nurtured this dream of seeing him from a distance, never thought I would have the good fortune of offering my Pranaam to him. Anyway, one day Dipakda took me to Sridharji’s house in Ballygunge where Ravi Shankar ji was practising. When we got some time, Dipakda said, Guruji, ‘this boy is playing well, please listen to him some day’. Ravi Shankarji took a look at me and said, ‘it would not be possible this time, come next time’.
He came to Kolkata again about 6 months later. At that time, I used to come to Kolkata from Chandannagareveryday, took lessons from Guruji, did Riwaz , gave some tuitions here and there and went back home at night. I got news that Panditji had come to Kolkata. At that time we did not have the advantage of mobile phones. So I could not call up Dipakda to ask if I should come since he was here. I decided to go there directly. At that time I used to play with Protyush in his home classes, where Buddhakaku used to teach.
On that particular day, Buddhakaku had not come, but his senior student Debashis Bhattacharya, a very good friend of mine, was there. I played in the class, we did Riyaz andpractised together after the class. I was in two minds over whether to go back home, but decided in the end to go to Shridharji’s place. When I reached there, the gatekeepers initially prevented me from entering, due to the disheveled state I was in .So I asked them who else had come, and if a bearded man had come. As they answered in the affirmative, I understood that Dipakda was there. I decided to wait. After waiting for half an hour, I suddenly saw Dipakda coming out. He saw me and said, ‘Oh, Arup, you are here! Have you brought your Tabla?
I was astonished. How could I have brought a Tabla along?
So he asked me, “Can you arrange for a Tabla from anywhere?”
I said, “Tanmay( renownedTabla player tanmoy Bose ) stays nearby, but I don’t know if he would be at home now, it would be a waste of time.”
Dipakda said, “It’s your bad luck then, Guruji would be sitting with me today, if you had your Tabla with you, you could have made him listen to how you played.”
I went in with Dipakda, to find Ravi Shankarji alone, tuning his Sitar.
Dipakda said to him, “Guruji, he has come but he did not know you would be practising , so he did not bring his Tabla.”
Ravi Shankar ji was in the middle of his tuning, he opened his eyes to look at me, then closed them again. Some moments later, he asked me. “ Do your hands sweat? Do they sweat when you play?”
I said, No they don’t.
Then he said, “ Alright, bring me the Tabla case from the corner.” I did so.
He asked me, “ Do you know whose Tabla this is?”
There was no name on the case, so I said no.
“Kumar, Pandit Kumar Bose had come to play in the morning, he will come again tomorrow, he has left his Tabla here.”
Just imagine my good fortune.
Ravi Shankarji told me, “Alright, you play on that Tabla, but be alert that your hands do not sweat.”
So this was the first day I played before him. Playing with him was like a dream come true for me. Then he said, “Come here tomorrow at ten.”
I went home at about 1:30 in the morning. When I came back the next day, everyone was there, Jog saheb, our Bade Guru Jnanprakashji, Anindoda, Kumarda, Indranil Bhattacharya everyone. And he introduced me to everybody like this, “This boy has played well, all of you please give your blessings so that he turns out well in life…”
It was a great achievement for me to have received his blessings. Later, I had the opportunity of playing with him at many places.
Kolkata residence of Dr. Rajib Chakraborty, Swinhoe Street, Kolkata 700019
About Dr. Rajeeb Chakraborty
Dr. Rajeeb Chakraborty is a renowned Sarod player, a music composer, and also involved in a large number of experimental projects internationally. He received several awards for his experimental work in music.
Ravi Chakraborty, Riyaz, Inspiration
Dr. Rajeeb Chakraborty speaks :
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