Thursday, 2 August 2007

BEATS OF THE GURU

From New York to Kolkata, disciples adore Pandit Anindo Chatterjee for his mastery over Tabla – the percussion instrument that has been inseparable from the Guru since his childhood. “My uncle Pandit Biswanath Chatterjee had brought music in our family. He made me feel the rhythm,” says Chatterjee. And we are feeling it too.

The Guru loves to be in Pune (India). Recently, his disciples there had gathered to pay respect to Chatterjee on the occasion of Guru Purnima. The audience were enthralled by the rhythms of Tabla as rendered by Chatterjee’s students including Samir, Makrand and Karan. Referring to the that event, Chatterjee affirms, “I love performing in Pune. I have performed in India and beyond. I found the audience of Maharashtra to be very appreciative.” That’s quite a complement from someone who was the first Tabla player to perform at the House of Commons in 1990.

Following Chatterjee’s entry into the world of Tabla, the journey was initially guided by his uncle Amarnath Chatterjee and later Ustad Afaq Hussain Khan. Recalls Chatterejee, “Ustad Afaq Hussain was the finest performer belonging to the Lucknow gharana. But it was Padmabhushan Guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh who has been my mentor since I was a six-year-old. I had been with him till his death in 1997.” Jnan Prakash was the renowned musician and composer who combined different gharanas. After hearing young Chatterjee Guru Jnan Prakash had enquired about the young artiste.The rst followed quickly. “My uncle requested Guru Jnan Prakash to take me under his wings. When Guruji finally accepted me as his disciple, there was no looking back,” Chatterjee says. As a teacher Jnan Prakash was great. “Guruji taught the students as was required for each one them. He brought out the best in numerous students like Kanai Dutt, Shankar Ghosh and others who learnt the art of Tabla from him. I was fortunate to be one such pupil,” he adds.

Over the years, Chatterjee has been performing solo and with great maestros like Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Ali Akbar Khan, Gnagubai Hangal and many more. Chatterjee cherishes all those memories and specifically mentions his performance at Paris in 1975. “I was accompanying sitarist Pandit Nikhil Banerjee. Some members of the audience there thought I was shaking my head to express my dissatisfaction of the sitar recital. Now, as you know it was just the opposite. We Indian musicians do it to appreciate each other’s performance. But in 1975 it was not easy to make Western audience realise that. So, part of the audience left. It was quite funny,” recalls Chatterjee. “But things have changed a lot since then. Now Indian classical music and Tabla in particular is highly respected worldwide. The Western audience, for example, now knows when to clap and how to enjoy the intricate beats of Tabla,” Chatterjee shares his experience. He mentions great jazz players like John McLaughlin and other artistes who have been very appreciative of the Tabla and the effects it provides to any music.

But despite the great attention Tabla has earned, not every tabaliya (Tabla player) in India get their due respect. “Most often you would see the critics writing one or two lines about the Tabla accompanist. Some vocal artistes have an attitude of looking down at the tabaliya. That’s sad,” laments Chatterjee. But there is a bright side also. “Now many organisers ask the vocal performers to have specific tabaliya as an accompanist. “That, I hope, drives the message across to the vocal artistes,” Chatterjee says.

Hope and excellence is also taking gradual shape in the form of Chatterjee’s son Anubrata. The young artiste has been picking up the best of Tabla from his father. “Impartially speaking, I think Anubrata is gifted and intelligent. He has a strong foundation in Farukhabad gharana. In the coming years I see him as an accomplished performer,” Chatterjee sounds confident.

But there are traces of anxiety too. “The young generation of Indians are more happy to be with pop and rock. I firmly believe, we the artistes have a responsibility to promote our musical heritage among the young people,” Chatterjee admits. “We must go to each and every school and demonstrate the richness of our classical music. A 10-year-old child must know how great our music is. And this we should do without thinking of the remuneration one can get from these schools. As musicians, this is our duty,” Chatterjee provides a direction to course of action.

Chatterjee has a simple message to all aspiring Tabla artistes. “If one can put aside ego and complexes….music gives. That’s the joy.” And it is this humility that has endeared him to everyone who has been lucky to know him up close. Despite his international recognition and mastery, Chatterjee remains a down-to-earth person. “Music to me is not about trying to prove anything. It is a tool to go deeper within myself. This is the way to love and respect music,” says the Guru.