Thursday, 8 May 2008

Announcement: Prof Kalyan Mukherjea

I cannot express how difficult it has been to write this post. It's not just that news of this magnitude does not occur every day. It's also the elation, the excitement, that I want to share. Team member Arnab showed this blog to his mentor Prof Kalyan Mukherjea, 'Kalyanda' to friends and acolytes. And Kalyanda was so appreciative of our efforts that he agreed to contribute his own writings!

This is all the more significant because Kalyanda is not an easy man to please. He has himself consistently striven towards the highest standards of academic and aesthetic integrity, and brooks little compromise in others as well. And that he has chosen to identify with us implies that he approves of at least intention behind our endeavour. Welcome aboard Kalyanda, this is a truly memorable occasion for us youngsters!

I wish I could say "Prof Kalyan Mukherjea, of course, needs no introduction". Sadly that is not the case, he does require an introduction for most people. And that he does is surely a telling commentary on our times. Kalyanda is one of those rare individuals who have made authoritative contributions in in two distinct areas. People with a fraction of his accomplishments in even one field tend to become Page 3 fixtures. And yet he remains largely unknown to the public, deriving contentment from his vocations rather than the recognition they have brought him.

Kalyanda is by training and profession a mathematician. He studied at Cambridge and Cornell, taught at UCLA for some time before shifting to the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. In addition, he has been involved with Indian classical music from a very early age, and has studied under the likes of Pt Radhikamohan Maitra (Radhubabu) and Pt D T Joshi. Indeed, his approach to music is a consequence as much of the tutelage he received as of his own temperament.

Radhubabu was a singular figure in the annals of our music. Though a scion of a prosperous Zamindar family, he was no dilettante and could hold his own against any professional musician of that era. In addition, he was an articulate, erudite man with degrees in both philosophy and law. His highly evolved intellectual and aesthetic sensibilities instilled in him an impressive grasp over both theoretical and practical aspects of music. This is a rare combination, and one he has passed on to his disciple as well.

It is not surprising that Kalyanda's grasp over theory is considerable. Anyone of his academic outlook inevitably and naturally tends towards a theoretical understanding of music. However, his extant recordings also reveal a superbly developed musician in the technical and performative sense. His technical proficiency differs from the aggressive if empty speed-binges that are becoming the norm these days. Rather it is understated, and subordinated to the cerebral and aesthetic requirements of our music.

In 1995, he suffered a paralytic stroke that effectively ended his career as a performer, and restricted his involvement with music to teaching and research. By his own admission, his concert engagements prior to his stroke were few. His brand of music had no place in today's musical world, neither did his dogged refusal to appease market demands.

Our friend Mandar Mitra has uploaded a few of his recordings here. In addition, an autobiographical essay may be accessed at this link. Kalyanda's begins his contribution to this blog with a lengthy biographical article on his mentor Pt Radhika Mohan Maitra published in several parts. We hope this will be followed by many, many more.


james said...

Many thanks to Prof. Mukherjea for this interesting article. I am looking forward to more. I would be interested to hear more about vishvamadeb chatterjee, d.t. joshi, tarapada chakravorty, girija shankar chakravorty and perhaps pyare saheb, who despite having recorded so many 78rpm. records seems to have a mysterious history. Could Prof. Mukherjea also confirm that Ustad vilayet Khan did not receive talim from d.t.Joshi. This was stated by Sri Arvind Parikh who said that this is what Khansaheb had told him. BTW the recent cd releases of the megaphone 78 rpm recordings of vishvamadeb chatterjee and tarapada chakravorty (only 2) are outstanding. James

Abhik Majumdar said...

James, thanks for your comment, but there are a couple of things I find mystifying.

First, Prof Mukherjea has had very little to do with the vocalists you mention. He is not a historian of music, only an authority on the sarod.

Secondly, the issue of whether DT Joshi taught Vilayat Khan is controversial. VK's is possibly not the most reliable opinion in the matter; several extrinsic criteria, gharana and khandan pride being one, could well have fuelled that statement irrespective of its veracity.

In any case, would Prof Mukherjea be in a position to authoritatively confirm or deny your supposition? I doubt it.

james said...

sorry, I was thinking it was Kumar Mukherjee who had written the articles. My mistake. And Kumar Mukherjee is dead, isn't he? I hope that someone writes an anecdotal history of that period and the group that revolved around Radhubabu. As to the D.T. Joshi/ Vilayet Khan issue, I had specifically put the question to Shri Parikh because after a detailed listing of teachers and influences of Khansaheb, D.T. Joshi's name was conspicuously absent, contrary to what I had thought. If we cannot take Khansaheb's assertion as fact, how does the controversy play out? James

Arnab Chakrabarty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arnab Chakrabarty said...

There is no real controversy here. I don't think VK names any other student of his father among his teachers either. It seems to be a tradition in this family to avoid mentioning one's father's student among one's gurus, even if one has taken taleem from such a person. Rais Khan takes it a step further and claims "my father's disciple is by default mine too!" This way, he uses the few classes VK was forced to sit through at Mohammad Khan Binkar's house (in exchange for a roof over his head) as proof of VK's discipleship of his dad, and hence himself! Coming back to D T Joshi, ANP merely tows the "official" line!

james said...

sad really if the "official line" becomes the "official history" at the expense of the great d.t. Joshi, if that is the case - hyperbole aside.