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Captivating Melodies On The Sarod By Pandit Debojyoti Bose

Shuchita Rao

It takes a good ear, a long, committed apprenticeship under a good Guru and years of dedicated practice to develop the skills needed to create high caliber classical music that can engage an audience. Pandit Debojyoti Bose visiting from Kolkatta, India presented a Sarod concert at Learnquest Baithak on Friday, September 30 and created a powerful listening experience for Hindustani classical music listeners.  He was accompanied by Pandit Hindole Majumdar on the tabla. 

Pandit Bose, who learned to play the sarod under the renowned Ustad Amjad Ali Khan of the Senia Bangash gharana for 12 years in the Guru-Shishya tradition is a fourth generation musician of an accomplished family of musicians. Born to Pandit Biswanath Bose, a renowned tabla player (who was the disciple of the legendary Pandit Kanthe Maharaj of Benaras gharana) and Smt. Bharati Bose, a sitar player (disciple of Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan and sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan), he is the youngest of three brothers who are reputed musicians in their own right. Pandit Kumar Bose, the oldest brother is an internationally known tabla maestro(disciple of Pandit Kishan Maharaj) who earned name and fame for his concerts with the sitarist, Bharat Ratna, the late Pandit Ravi Shankar and sarodiya, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. His other brother is a well known vocalist, Pandit Jayanta Bose (disciple of Pandits Ranjan, Sajan Mishra and Pandit Vijay Kichlu). 

The three hour concert featured the presentation of two main evening/night ragas, Bihaag and Durga and ended with a lilting Bangla melody. The beauty of the first tone that Pandit Bose struck on the Sarod impressed the listeners. The sarod is a fretless instrument and the fingernail is used as a fret on a metallic sound board.  â€œI never compromise on Alaap, Jod and Jhaala” said Pandit Bose as he began the presentation of the first raga, Bihag. The skilled musician slowly built the form and personality of the raga in a 30 minute long, slow alaap section that featured pure sound without rhythm accompaniment. The musical phrase patterns were congruent/symmetrical and the frequent use of meend (glide) ornamentation to travel between multiple octaves created a large canvas on which the colors of Bihag created an arresting portrait. Once the artist had established a wonderful mood and ambience in the alaap section, he proceeded to play the “jod” and “jhaala” sections where the rapid and rhythmic strumming of the sympathetic strings with his right hand alongside the creation of melodic musical patterns with his left hand created a haunting effect. 

When the tabla entered into play in the first gat (composition), the dance of musical and rhythmic phrases “on the beat” and “off the beat” showed the command of the performers on the rhythm aspect of the rendition. The tempo was raised a couple times during the rendition and taans(fast melodic movements) were played with dexterity. Sometimes the “sum”(main beat of emphasis) landed on the nishaad note in the middle octave, sometimes on the nishaad note in the lower octave and sometimes on the nishaad note in the upper octave. A boquet of fast compositions, one from the famous Etawah gharana of Ustad Vilayat Khan, a couple by his Guru Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his grand Guru, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan of the Senia Bangash gharana futher unfolded the raga and revealed its depth and range. “Would you like to listen to more music?” Pandit Bose asked the audience in a casual, conversational way after the thorough presentation of Raga Bihag. “Pandit Hindole Majumdar has requested me to play Raga Durga because it is a special day today – it is Mahalaya, the first day of the nine day Navaratri season that happens in Autumn. I will play after a short intermission” he said to the audience.

In the presentation of the pentatonic Raga Durga, the unmistakable impress of his Guru, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan could be experienced. The slow alaap section had swift touches of taans every now and then to create a dynamic form of the raga’s overall image. In the gat (composition) presentation, there were spirited exchanges between Pandit Bose and Pandit Majumdar. One of the strings on the Sarod suddenly broke during the performance and Pandit Majumdar competently filled in the gap with a tabla solo till another string could be re-strung on the Sarod instrument. When Pandit Bose resumed, he led the listeners on a wonderful journey through the ragas Khamaj, Bahar, Basant and Kaushik Dhwani. Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite bhajan “Vaishnava Jana tho” was one of the recognizable tunes played in this ragamala. Pandit Majumdar’s skill in anticipating what Pandit Bose was planning on playing and matching the thought with his own creative ideas was a treat for the listeners. In course of time, Pandit Bose deftly led the listeners back to the main melody line in Raga Durga and concluded with a brilliant jhaala.

The program ended with a light, Bangla composition where the sounds of Sarod soared clear and high over the sensitive, modulated sounds of the tabla. The listeners left with a feeling of joy at having experienced a masterful presentation of two beautiful ragas in a baithak (chamber) style setting where listeners sat in close proximity to the artists. Dr. Pradeep Shukla thanked the artists and the audience and promised to bring back the artist duo to Boston very soon.

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