Sangeet Ashram's Pranam with Sur-murchhana

Sangeet Ashram, the post-retirement creation of Vijay Kichlu, offered a musical pranam to its recently departed founder-director. The evening began with a beautifully rendered guru stotra by Sanjukta Biswas and Sabina Islam and set to tune by their guru Subhra Guha who, as an SRA scholar, trained with both Sunil Bose and Kichlu. An audiovisual screening of a short documentary on Vijay Kichlu showcased his life, passion for sports, devotion to music, and various aspects of his persona. This vast collection was excellently planned and edited by Supriyo Dutta, a steadily rising techy-vocalist disciple of Kichlu who later guided him to Arvind Parikh to help retain the beauty of his original Indore gayaki.


Sarod maestro Tejendra Narayan Majumdar and tabla maestro Tanmay Bose staged the grand finale. Majumdar presented an overwhelmingly emotive Shuddh Kafi alap. The tabla expertise of Bose rose to the occasion. But very soon, they indulged in extra fast jhala, and nothing existed except metallic cacophony. For an event dedicated to a traditionalist like Kichlu, such mature musicians could have sidestepped this skill show.                

Indranil Sen, Information and Cultural Affairs Minister of West Bengal, better known as a renowned Rabindra Sangeet exponent, had respectfully given Sangeet Ashram access to Shishir Mancha of the classy Nandan Complex to host the event and, despite his hectic schedule, took time off to officially launch the biography Vijay Kichlu the Sculptor of Talent to the delight of Kichlu’s admirers, keen readers and collectors.


Suromuchhana: Across Continents

The next day, the same duo (Majumdar and Bose) was featured in the half-day-long A Kanan and Malabika Kanan Memorial Festival 2023, presented by Sanjay Banerjee under the aegis of his organisation Kolkata Suromurchhana at Uttam Mancha. As the evening’s penultimate artists, Majumdar played Sree (alap jod jhala), followed by gatkaris in Gauri Manjari, a beautiful melody invented by Ali Akbar Khan. The placement of Majumdar’s two chosen ragas in elaborate alap and gatkaris, along with the style of their treatment in slow, medium and high tempo, with Bose as his alibi, was similar to that of their previous evening’s show dedicated to Kichlu. As expected, it entertained the invitees of Suromurchhana, who came from across continents and all walks of life. 

Since the 1980s, almost all of Kichlu’s beneficiaries travelled, by turn, with him to the USA for concerts organised at his initiative by his contacts there. SRA-groomed Sanjay Banerjee was one such aspiring vocalist who was picked up by Kichlu around 2001-2002, especially to look after his USA-based organisation. The smart and hard-working musician diligently polished his art while teaching there and gradually owned it as his own music school ‘Suromurchhana’. He has emerged as a mellowed vocalist and successful organiser now, who, following the footprints of Kichlu, judiciously balances star artists along with the debuts of his talented teachers and students. He proves it by organising contests and events, including offering melodic oblation to the legendary Kanans, his gurus, both in Kolkata and New York City every year.

Banerjee invited veteran tabla maestro Sanjay Mukherjee to play a solo. For the sake of aspiring musicians, Mukherjee, a highly respected guru, wished to display the silsila or step-by-step progression of an ideal tabla solo of Farukhabad Gharana. This turned out to be a collector’s item with exemplary peshkar, kayda, and rela, followed by priceless traditional compositions. His worthy disciple Hiranmay Mitra, a noted harmonium player, provided steady naghma that gave a firm ground to the master for the desired rhythm-play.

Eminent vocalist Sanjeev Abhyankar, the final artist of the event, chose Gorakh Kalyan but initially took time to unfold this beautiful raga that offers numerous delicate chords. After a while, with tabla maestro Samar Saha’s inspiring support and Mitra’s sensitivity, he took the reins and gave a sterling recital that concluded with a soulful Kabir bhajan.   

Earlier in the afternoon, the commencement with a neat tabla ensemble featuring Archishman Singha Roy, Arka Ghosh, Anchit Maji and Iraban Jha, four talented teens groomed by Tanmay Bose, set the tone of the event and welcomed Shreya Gonugunta (Bangalore), the topper of the Suromurchhana Music (khayal) contest. Superbly supported by two young Turks, Suprabhat Bhattacharya (tabla) and Jyotirmay Banerjee (harmonium), she sang raga Multani with élan. Later Shreya, along with the runners-up Adya Mukherjee (Benares) and Sumoulika Sarkar, were duly felicitated for their top three positions. Subsequently, Namami Karmakar, a teacher with Suromurchhana, New York Branch, gave a vocal rendition of raga Shyam Kalyan with an eye for symmetry and flair for taans. Bivash Sanghai’s dexterous tabla played a significant role by adding refined rhythmic embellishments. With Jyotirmay on the harmonium, the concluding bhajan gained melodic fortification.  

Photographs: Shilpi Ravi, Prashant Arora, Shambhu Hazra