Murad's Music Hub 2010 May - Murad's Music Hub

Archive for May, 2010

Death of Nikhil Ghosh

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Death of Nikhil Ghosh

Nikhil Ghosh Passes Away

By Mohan Nadkarni

Bombay, March 3rd, 1995: One of the most dynamic personalities in the world of traditional music passed into oblivion with the death of Pandit Nikhil Ghosh in the early hours of today. He was 76 and in indifferent health for some time.

He leaves behind his wife Usha, sons Nayan and Dhruba, and daughter, Tulika, on whose shoulders fall the onerous responsibilities of carrying forward his Sangit Mahabharati’s affairs has now fallen.

Nikhilbabu and Sangit Mahabharati had become synonymous to all those who knew about the immense and seemingly insuperable task that Panditji had undertaken and pledged to make a reality. Initially, it was a modest school, where Nikhilbabu, as its principal, imparted musical education to aspiring youngsters way back in 1956.

Side by side, he toyed with the idea of giving shape to his own idea of the field, and set about the task of its propagation in several ways. That is how the original Arun Sangeetalaya began to undergo a transformation to emerge as Sangit Mahabharati today.

Nikhil Ghosh

Nikhil Ghosh

The institution now has a building of its own in the Juhu-Vile Parle belt in the northern suburbs of Bombay. Even a casual visit to the institution anytime during its work hours is enough to convince one of the kind of work in progress there – teaching, research and documentation, in addition to providing for courses leading up to diploma and post-graduate levels on the basis of a competitive curriculum formulated by Panditji himself.

To facilitate his own method of teaching, Nikhilbabu wrote a definitive book, Fundamentals of Raga and Tala with a New System of Notation, for use in his institution. The idea was to prepare the ground for future performers, who would emerge from scholastic education courses into worthy propagators of guru-shishya parampara.

Looking back, one would be inclined to say that Pandit Ghosh was one stalwart who strove to realize, singly, the combined ambitions of many of his confreres in the field – as a vocalist, instrumentalist, percussionist, musicologist and educator.

He was the younger brother of the late flute maestro Pannalal Ghosh. Born in Barisal, now in Bangladesh, in 1919, Nikhilbabu derived his inspiration from his sitarist father Akshyakumar Ghosh, and achieved quite a command over the sitar. Later, at the instance of Pannababu, he secured tutelage with octogenarian singer, harmonium player and percussionist Pandit Gyan Prakash Ghosh.

Although, under his mentor’s guidance he learned singing and tabla playing, the disciple was deeply involved in the latter and soon earned name and fame as a master percussionist. He became a favorite accompanist of many all-time greats like Omkarnath Thakur, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, and last but not least, his brother Pannalal Ghosh.

On coming to Bombay in the 1940s, he benefited from guidance in percussion music from maestros of the eminence of Amir Hussain Khan and his elder gurubai, Ahmadjan Thirakwa. After the untimely death of Pannababu in 1960, Nikhilbabu it would seem, chose to gradually withdraw from the concert circuit to devote himself completely to teaching and propagating Hindustani music through his institution.

Honors and accolades came his way in the form of the Padma Bhushan and the Hafiz Ali Khan Smriti Samman, besides several others. His children have already made their mark at national and international levels in their own way – Nayan as a percussionist and sitarist, Dhruba as a sarangi player, and Tulika as a vocalist

Courtesy: Times of India

Nayan Ghosh (Sitarist): Son of Nikhil Ghosh

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Nayan Ghosh (Sitarist): Son of Nikhil Ghosh

Nayan Ghosh on Shree Rag

Ira Landgarten: People sometimes have different descriptions or interpretations of a rag – its implications, its mood, the way it’s performed – that’s why we’d like to hear specifically about Shree rag directly from you.

Nayan Ghosh: Shree rag is definitely one of the most revered among ragas. It has a gravity, an intensity that is really difficult to match. The rag itself has a very strong inherent strength. It is a dusk-time rag. My uncle (Pannalal Ghosh) was one of the two or three artists who were almost synonymous with Shree Rag; the others being Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and D.V. Paluskar. My father used to mention about his meetings with Mamman Khan, the uncle of the Sarangi legend Bundu Khan. Mamman Khan always brought in references of Shree Rag to whatever he spoke about. That was everything for him.

The Shree Rag as my father taught me – he used to teach me more the alaps and the actual rag, and the first time I received my training in Shree Rag was very interesting. It was at a hill station near Bombay; no cars go up it, you have to walk all over the hill station. There are ponies and hand-pulled rickshaws and all that. It’s a beautiful hill station and one evening he took us to an edge of that hill station, on the cliff, and we were facing the west side and in front of us between our mountain and the opposite one was a deep valley. It was evening, sunset time and the swallows and the birds were returning home. A very light breeze was there and for some time the breeze stopped; he told us to stop talking – all of us, the whole family was sitting there – and he said, “Just listen to the silence.” We listened to it for about twenty minutes or half an hour, and that was a very great experience! Then he started humming the Shree Rag, and I, my mother, my brother Dhruba and my sister Tulika gave the backdrop, the sa and pa – we created the tanpura effect by humming. And my father was very inspired; he was looking at the pink sky, the setting sun, and he went into the alap of Shree. That was the first time I heard Shree; I was maybe ten or twelve years old and it had a very deep impact on me. He sang and he sang for half an hour and we all lost consciousness of things happening around us. Everything was still. After he finished singing there was a long silence then he told us, “Always sing to the mountains, to the ocean.” I don’t know how much all that meant, but he said, “Sing to the mountain; you don’t know what response and blessing you’ll get.” The next morning again we were at the same spot, the next evening, too – we were there for a few days – and we just had fun singing open-throated and the voices would go to the mountain across and come back echoing a couple of times. And we sang Adana; one night we went there in absolute pitch dark . . . Oh, what an experience it was! And we sang Shankara, open-throated Shankara, with the same thing – sa and pa humming. These experiences . . . but Shree was the first and even today I remember it so vividly – the birds returning and even the breeze stopped for some time. The sun had set and the sky was absolutely glowing pink. So whenever I play Shree, I imagine that. That whole landscape comes in front of me; it’s very intense. Then, of course, I try to invoke my uncle, or Ali Akbar Khan and all these people when I play Shree. Those are the people who I have heard play Shree, I still haven’t heard any other artistes play or sing Shree. So those impressions are deep.

Mallar Ghosh, Nayan Ghosh. Photo by Ira Landgarten

Mallar Ghosh, Nayan Ghosh. Photo by Ira Landgarten

Isn’t Shree considered one of the ‘Adi’ ragas?

NG: It is one of the Adi ragas. My father once just by the by casually mentioned that there is another way of classification of ragas known as ‘Janaka-janya’ ragas, that is, ‘father and son’ or ‘father and children’ ragas. Just as there are ragas and raginis; that’s another way of classification. For example, he said Shree is the father and Desh is the son. I asked how, so he said, “Sa ri ma pa ni sa ri – Shree.” He said they have the same features, the shades of notes are different. Then Shree comes back – ri ni dha pa dha ma ga ri, ri pa ri ga ri sa. Desh comes back – ri ni dha pa dha ma ga ri, ri pa ri ma ga ri ga ni sa. A little different at the end, at the very end, but he said Desh is the son; he must have read it somewhere. So Shree is a janaka rag and Desh is one of the many sons, he said.

That’s very interesting; the Adi rag system predates the ‘thaat’ system of Bhatkande.

Yes, the thaat system dates just from the beginning of the 20th century.
About the structure of Shree; what is the vadi? The samvadi? The aroha and avaroha?
The vadi is komal ri; in fact, ati komal ri, and the samvadi is pa. The aroha is – sa, komal ri, tivra ma, pa ni sa. The avaroha is – komal ri, ni, komal dha pa dha ma ga ri, ri pa ri, ma ri, ga ri sa. The chief phrase is ‘pa ni sa ri’ or ‘dha ma ga ri.’ These are the two main characteristic phrases of this rag. And ‘ri pa,’ of course, which stands out from all the ragas of the same scale – Puriya Dhanashree and all those. ‘Ri pa.’ It’s one of the most solid ragas for that time, the dusk time, like Marwa.

One really doesn’t hear that sort of scale in the west, and the mood it creates is very unusual…What ‘rasa’ or mood is attributed to Shree?

Shree basically is ‘vira’ ras; vira means ‘brave, warrior, heroic.’ But it is certainly extremely, entirely meditative in nature – I think for an evening prayer or evening meditation, Shree is more suitable than any of the other evening rags. It’s spiritually very intense. And therefore the bhakti (devotion) ras is also dominant. Marwa has a different flavor; some people say it is vira, but no, it’s more karuna (longing). There is a feeling of loneliness in Marwa because the ‘sa’ (tonic) is used in such little quantity; you feel something is missing! You feel something is missing, and finally you get it but as soon as you get it, it’s gone again from you! It’s fleeting. So Marwa makes you feel lonely.

Introduction: Nikhil Ghosh

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Introduction: Nikhil Ghosh

NIKHIL GHOSH (1919-1995)

Courtesy: Aneesh Pradhan

In-depth training and a rich repertoire are two of the many essential prerequisites that are demanded of a serious practitioner of Hindustani music. Tabla maestro Nikhil Ghosh had the distinction of being a recipient of both, thus making him a repository of traditional tabla solo compositions from the Delhi, Ajrada, Lucknow, Farrukhabad and Punjab gharanas. This inheritance was largely because of his tutelage under three gurus, namely, Gyan Prakash Ghosh, Amir Hussein Khan and Ahmed Jan Thirakwa. Among the three, Gyan Prakash Ghosh had studied under Maseet Khan and Feroze Khan, Amir Hussein Khan had learnt from his maternal uncle Munir Khan, and Ahmed Jan Thirakwa had been a disciple of Munir Khan, though he had also learnt from his uncles. To go further into the past, Munir Khan was said to have learnt from twenty-four gurus following the major styles of tabla playing. This legacy was handed down to Nikhil Ghosh by his gurus over several years of training.

Nikhil Ghosh did not come from a family of musicians, but his father and grandfather had studied music. It was however his elder brother Pannalal Ghosh, who first took up music as a professional pursuit. Known for his contribution to bringing the bansuri (bamboo flute) to centrestage in Hindustani music, Pannalal Ghosh was accompanied in several concerts and recordings by Nikhil Ghosh. Having had an exposure to raag music since as early age, Nikhil Ghosh also learnt vocal music. This passion for the melodic aspect of Hindustani music remained with him forever more, leading him to befriend vocalists and instrumentalists and to acquire traditional vocal compositions from leading senior vocalists.

Nikhil Ghosh

Nikhil Ghosh

However, it was the tabla that he focused on and went on to accompany a host of vocalists and instrumentalists. His solos were marked by an emphasis on traditional compositions and an adherence to the spirit and structural framework of the taal. For him, mathematics played a secondary role, as he laid greater stress on the language of the instrument presented through various compositions. He freely employed dynamics in his solos and accompaniment, often lending a dramatic element to the performance. He was equally open to experimenting with presentation, as is evident from his handling of the repertoire or even the manner of producing melody from the bayan (bass drum).

Nikhil Ghosh also had a brief stint as Assistant Music Director for Hindi feature films and had composed songs for non-film commercial recordings.

His tabla solo was released by His Master’s Voice and his accompaniment to vocal and instrumental music was also featured on some commercial recordings. He was also a regular broadcaster on All India Radio

Parallel to his professional commitment, Nikhil Ghosh was also an educationist. In fact, he focused more on this aspect in the later years of his life. He established a school for music and dance called Sangit Mahabharati, where music was notated as per a system devised by him. This system addressed in particular the specific needs of instrumental music and is explained in his book entitled Fundamentals of Raga and Tala with a New System of Notation.

Nikhil Ghosh was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India for his contribution to the field of Hindustani music.

Nikhil Ghosh on Tabla

Nikhil Ghosh on Tabla

Among his disciples are his children Nayan Ghosh, Dhruba Ghosh, Tulika Ghosh and others like Eknath Pimple, Datta Yande, Karodilal Bhatt, Aneesh Pradhan, Gert Wegner and Keith Manning.