Friday, November 26, 2010

About! The Kotali Gharana

The musical heritage of Kotali Gharana emerges from a unique historical background, that spans beyond a millennium. At that time King Chandra Burma used to rule over a wide area of southwest Bengal during the reign of emperor Samudragupta. Kotalipara in the Faridpur Zilla of East Bengal (presently Bangladesh) owes its origin to “Chandraburmankot”, erected circa 315 AD, the remains of which are still extant. “Kot” stands for fort, “Ali” signifies “wall and area surrounding the fort”, and “para” means a settlement or “a neighbourhood”.  Kotalipara was known as the second ‘Naimisharanya’ of India. It was inhabited predominantly by the Brahmins and was like a hermitage fostering advancement of the Sanskritic culture and philosophy in its various aspects. In the beginning there was a dearth of Sagnik Brahmins in this region. In 1019 AD Shyamal Burma (or Samal Burma), the king of this region invited Yashodhar Mishra, the son of Maheedhar Mishra of Kanyakubja and gave him 14 villages to settle down. In the following period on Shyamal Burma’s request Yashodhar  Mishra brought thirteen more Sgnik Brahmins from Kanauj. According to the “Vaidik Kuladeepika” Yashodhar Mishra retained Kotalipara, Samantasar and Chandradweep in his own account and settled there with some Brahmins of other Gotras. He distributed the other villages among the rest of the Brahmins to settle down.  He gave him fourteen villages for settling down. As far as history is concerned he retained Kotalipara for himself and settled down there. Gradually Kotalipara became a nucleus of musical and other cultural practices. Harihar Mishra, the 18th generation of Maheedhar Mishra received the title “Chakraborty” on performing the “Goshthipati Yag”. (Photo: Tarapada Chakraborty performing at 'Basanta Utsab', Mitali Sangha, Kolkata).
Various forms of music have been practised in this gharana from ancient times. Vaidik samgan, Marga/Natyageeti [Magadhi, Ardhamagadhee, Sambhaavita, Prithula and Dhruva] Prabandhageeti and many other kinds of ‘geet’ were in vogue. Later Biswambhar Chakraborty, a descendant of Harihar Chakraborty came in touch with the famous Veenkar and Rabaab player of his time, Saadik Ali Khan, son of the renowned Zafar Khan, a direct descendant of Tansen. Biswambhar learnt some dhrupad ‘Bandishes’ and ‘alaap’ as well as some Khayal bandishes through his  association with Saadik, his nephew, Kasim Ali Khan and his disciple, Ganesh Vajpeyee [Source: Kalidas Chakraborty, son of Nyayaratna Ramchandra Chakraborty]. Since Biswambhar Chakraborty was directly involved with the mainstream Hindustani classical music he was naturally drawn to Dhrupad and Khayal. A near contemporary of Bishwambhar Chakraborty and a descendant from another stream of this large family Taraprasanna Chakraborty became a disciple of Jadubhatta of the Bishnupur gharana. The two streams of Seni and Bishnupur gharana from these two sources were carried forward through Biswambhar’s son Sheetalchandra Chakraborty, and his sons Ramachandra (Nyayaratna) and Kulachandra. Ramachandra (Nyayaratna) during his official sojourn in Berili received Taalim from Jahur Khan of Khurja gharana. Jahur Khan in turn took lessons in Sanskrit from Ramchandra. Kulachandra too joined these musical sessions for a short time. Nyayaratna Ramachandra Chakraborty was the Dwar Pandit (court scholar) and a court singer at the state of Natore. Kulachandra had three sons the younger two being Tarapada Chakraborty and Haripada Chakraborty. Their elder brother died at a very early age.

Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty (1909-1975),
a phenomenon in the world of Hindustani Classical Music, is reckoned as one of the great musicians who dominated the field of Hindustani Classical Music in the middle of 20th century. Through his voice India heard a radical rhapsodic advent of a musical Renaissance in that era. The ethereal nuances of his voice enthrall listeners beyond time. His gayaki of khayal and his intrepid representation amongst the giants of the musical world those days such as Abdul Karim Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Omkarnath Thakur and figures alike enthroned him as the idol of modern Bengal. Born in April 1, 1909 Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty’s initial training  was  based on the inheritance of his family tradition- a tradition that dates back over a millennium to the reign of emperor Samudragupta. His ancestors, invited to settle down in the region that later came to be known as the Faridpur Zilla of East Bengal, presently Bangladesh, brought with them from Kanauj (U.P.) the mother forms of Hindustani Classical Music i.e., sham gaan, natya geeti and other forms of geets which were carried through ages in his family.
Tarapada’s preliminary training was under his father Kulachandra Chakraborty and uncle Nyayaratna Ramachandra Chakraborty. The latter was the Dwar Pandit (court scholar) and a court singer at the state of Natore. Later in Calcutta, Tarapada came to receive ‘taalim’ from Satkari Malakar, a pre-eminent exponent of the Gwaliar and Banaras gharana. He finally received taalim from Girija Shankar Chakraborty.  Girija Shankar Chakraborty was trained in various gharanas like Betia, Rampur, Jaipur, Seni, Banaras, Kirana, Agra, Delhi, and so on.

Manas Chakraborty, the son and disciple of Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty is a living legend in the realm of Hindustani Classical Music. With his multifaceted talent, creativity, intellectuality and philosophical views and research on other classical Gayaki of musical traditions, semi classical and folk-forms of India, in alliance with his own tradition opened a new vista in the Kotali gayaki. The Kotali gharana was named after the name of the place of its origin in the phase following 2000 by him in accordance with his father’s wish.

Pandit Bimalendu Chakrabarty, the son and disciple of Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty and father of Biswabrata Chakrabarty.
Shreela Bandyopdhyay, an able disciple and the eldest daughter of Sangeetacharaya Tarapada Chakraborty received training under her elder brother Manas Chakraborty too. She established herself as an outstanding vocalist of the Kotali Gharana. Haripada Chazkraborty and his elder son Bimalendu Chakraborty also received Taalim under Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty. Evidently Manas and Shreela were the prime ambassadors of this gharana who with their recitals kindled the light, essence and the multidimensional gayaki of this gharana in other parts of the world. Currently the vocal and instrumental artistes of this gharana are widely appreciated and established at home and abroad.

Biswabrata Chakraborty is the present generation of this great tradition. He was introduced to classical music by his grandfather, the legend Tarapada Chakraborty, in his early childhood. He started vocal training under his guidance; later on he was guided by his father, Pandit Bimalendu Chakraborty, uncle, Pandit Manas Chakraborty and aunt, Srimati Sreela Bandopadhyaya. He also studied tabla under the guidance of Pandit Basudev Mukherjee a disciple of Ustad Keramatulla Khan.
In the age of twelve years he was introduced to Sitar by his mother, Late Srimati Meena Chakraborty who was a fine Sitarist and was the student of Sitarist Pandit Santosh Bandopadhyaya, the disciple of Ustad Dabir Khan of Seni Gharana (school). He took his early lessons from his mother and Santosh Bandopadhyaya. Later on he started taking lessons from the Sitarist Pandit Ajoy Sinha Roy, the disciple of legendary Ustad Allauddin Khan and his son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. In this period Biswabrata explored the styles and applications of these two great Gharanas (schools). But his father Pandit Bimalendu Chakrabarty consistently trained him and played a great role in the formation of this unique style what he is playing now. He was also deeply inspired by the experimental approach of his uncle Pandit Manas Chakraborty, who's constant training & guidance is invaluable in his making. .

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