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Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty - Indian Classical Vocal Concert

Rahul Ray

Vocal raag-sangeet concert by Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty to celebrate 150th Birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore

On June 13, 2010 Swaralipi, a Rabindrasangeet music academy based in Wayland, MA organized an Indian classical raag-sangeet concert by Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, the much celebrated vocalist from India at J. Sleeper Auditorium of Boston University.  This event was co-sponsored by Learnquest Academy of Music and Boston University School of Medicine.    

The concert was organized to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Sir Rabindranath Tagore, poet, novelist, artist, statesman, philosopher, spiritual leader and Nobel prize-winner.  Tagore is a cultural icon and a ‘god-like’ figure to Bengali-speaking people around the globe.  Yet he has remained largely a ‘regional phenomenon’ in India.  The organizers of this concert hoped to re-introduce the musical genious of Rabindranath Tagore, particularly to an audience comprised of non-Bengali-speaking Indians and Westerners.  

Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty does not need an introduction to the connoseurs of Indian classical music, being one of the most talented and versatile vocalists of India today and a prime exponent of Patiala Gharana and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khansahib.  Importantly, Pandit-ji, a Bengali is most well-suited to bridge Tagore’s music (Rabindrasangeet) with Indian raag-sangeet.  He achieved this feat with masterful eloquence and a superb performance.   
The program began with a choral singing of three Tagore’s songs by a large group of vocalists and instrumentalists associated with Swaralipi under the direction of Swapna Ray.  This was followed by felicitation of the centerpiece artists with traditional Indian ‘Baran’ and gift-giving.  

Then Pandit Chakrabarty and his team (Jogesh Samsi-tabla, Ajay Joglekar-harmonium, Brajeswar Mukherjee-Tanpura and vocal support) took the center stage of the auditorium, decorated with large pictures of Tagore.  Pandit-ji began his recital with a dhamaar in raag Shri which morphed into a Tagore composition in the same raag.  During the concert Panditji occasionally paused to explain to a more than 350-people audience the raag-based roots of Tagore compositions.  Dhamaar was followed by a kheyaal in raag Megh based on a bandish composed by Padmabhusan Pandit GyanPrakash Ghosh, a vocal and tabla maestro and Pandit Chakrabarty’s guru.   

Panditji was keen on giving demonstration of various forms of Indian raag-sangeet.  Therefore, in the second half he started with a tappa based on a composition by Kazi Najrul Islam.  This was followed by the soulful thumri ‘Babul moraa’, and finally ending with his own composition based on a South Indian raag Kirwani and a presentation mixed with South and North Indian styles as well as New Orleans jazz.  

Pandit Chakrabarty charmed the audience with his mastery of taankaari and a superb gayaki.  Other musicians wonderfully complemented Pandit Chakrabarty.  Pandit-ji aptly noted that these young and up-coming musicians are to be watched as future torch-bearers of Indian raag-sangeet.

In a private interview Pandit-ji confided that his mission is to bring Indian raag-sangeet in a palatable and systematic form to young people who are largely turned away from it.  However, he emphasized that mastery of this music will require rigorous discipline and devotion in the part of the student and a scientific method of teaching and training in the part of the teacher.  He noted that Shrutinandan, a music academy in Kolkata that he has founded is hard at work in achieving that goal.   

Finally, Swaralipi, as an organization needs to be commended for eliciting the appreciation for Tagore’s music, and Indian raag-sangeet in general via a spell-binding performance by Pandit Chakrabartyi and his team.  It is a unique undertaking by its own merit.

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