NIKHIL BANERJEE sitar * ANINDO CHATTERJEE tabla * Live · Munich, 1980
Gyan Prakash Ghosh on Nikhil Banerjee
The dramatic increase in the number of Pandit Nikhil Banerjee's appreciators during the last two decades of his life is ample testimony to his prowess with the sitar. His total mastery over all the nuances of sitar playing, his ability to flawlessly analyze each raga and apply it in his music, makes him the best among the best in his field.
Starting his lessons from his father Pandit Jitendranath Banerjee as a child, Nikhil Banerjee received an extensive musical education from Ustad Mustaq Ali Khan, one of the prime exponents in India during his time. Later, Nikhil Banerjee perfected his music under the tutelage of such eminent musicians as Pandit Birendra Kishore Roychoudury and Radhikamohan Maitra. He capped his learning under Ustad Allauddin Khan and also under Ali Akbar Khan, two maestros who need no introduction. Association with these two great sarod masters helped him gain a new insight into the potential of the sitar as a solo instrument.
Pandit Nikhil Banerjee enjoyed the recognition and appreciation of many, both in India and abroad. He was associated with Bob Brown's American Society of Eastern Arts in Berkeley. Unfortunately for all music lovers Pandit Banerjee passed away in 1986 at a premature age of 55. However, the legacy of the music that he left behind will keep alight the flame of remembrance in the hearts of all who had an opportunity to listen to his music.-Translated from Bengali by Tulsi Sen Gupta
Anindo Chatterjee, recognized as one of India's most eminent tabla players, was born into a musical family in Calcutta in 1954. He was inspired to take up tabla by his uncle , the sitar player Pt. Biswanath Chatterjee, beginning when he was four years old. At five, he was All-India Radio's youngest artist. At six, Anindo became a disciple of Padmabhushan Gyan Prakash Ghosh, and studied with him for over twenty years. Gyan Prakash Gosh is celebrated for his extensive knowledge of all the tabla gharanas, as well as his own Faroukhabad gharana. His long discipleship gave Anindo's art a firm foundation. As an accompanist, he is known for his sense of balance and proportion, crisp tonal quality, modulation of sound production and rapport with soloists. The photo above shows him in Nikhil Banerjee's Calcutta practice room, where he spent much time as a young player. He has gone on to record and to tour India and the world with Mr. Banerjee and other great musicians. He has received numerous honors including the 1970 All-India Radio Music Competition President's Award. Anindo was the first tabla player to perform in the House of Commons, in 1990.
Notes on Malgunji by John Campana:
Malgunji has many elements of Rageshri, Bageshri and a few subtle touches of Jaijaiwanti. It is popularly described as being a combination of Rageshri (in the ascent) and Bageshri ( in the descent). Any raag, however, defies such facile descriptions which should be taken as simple mnemonic devices which help to evoke the general atmosphere of the raag. Rageshri is definitely a dominant feature of Malgunji (especially as played by Mr. Banerjee), and Bageshri exists by virtue of the elusive Pancham and the gentle pathos of the komal Gandhar (flat third).
Scalar pitch material: D. n. S G m D N S., S. n D P m G - m g R S.
Characteristic movements: G m g R S, D. - n. S R G - m.
The raag allows for a variation to its usual ascending scale of five notes. This occurs only in the chalan, where the Shuddh Rishab (natural second) has limited ascent to the Madhyam (fourth). It is for this reason that Malgunji is also referred to as a "shadav-sampurna" raag; that is, having six notes in ascent and seven in descent. It is essentially an "audav-sampurna" raag: five and seven.
If traditionally Bageshri evokes feelings of separation from the lover, and Rageshri represents reunion, Malgunji depicts the initial realization of the reunion. The feeling is repeatedly reaffirmed, constantly made present, by the ascending thrust of the Rishab (lacking in both Bageshri and Rageshri) and the blissful lingering on the Madhyam - the vadi (dominant) of Malgunji, Rageshri and Bageshri.
Nikhil Banerjee reviewed in Fanfare, Nov/Dec 1996:
Raga Records has made available an important live performance by the late sitarist Nikhil Banerjee. Rag Malgunji is disarmingly delicate and light, only to surprise you with its hidden depth. Banerjee plays it in seventy-nine minutes, the proper length for a raga. Well recorded and annotated, it is both a fitting tribute and reminder of what Indian classical music has achieved. Banerjee's mastery of sitar technique, musical and rhythmic forms, and ability to convey music's emotional and spiritual content ought to shame Western instrumentalists, who seem like well-trained machines by comparison. Raga is planning more releases of Banerjee and Manilal Nag, the latter of whom embodies a profound tradition still managing to exist in our commercialized, vulgar world.--Allan Evans