Santoor - Tarun Bhattacharya Flute - Ronu Majumdar
Tabla - Ram Kumar Mishra Pakhawaj - Durga Prasad Majumdar
1 Alap (19.12)
2 Jorh/ Jhalla (9.39)
3 Gat in Jhaptaal (18.59)
4 Gat in Teentaal (6.38)
5 Gat in Drut Teentaal (8.12)
6 Dhun based on Raga Bhinna Shadja (8.38)
This recording brings together two Sense World favourites and long time friends, Ronu Majumdar and Tarun Bhattacharya performing in duet, a playing style popularly known in India as 'jugalbandi'.
Alongside their respective solo careers which have flourished over the past two decades, the two maestros have managed to maintain a potent musical partnership based on their complimentary skills and mutual respect.
Jugalbandi (literally "tied together") is an ancient Indian art form where two musicians with different instruments or styles perform together. It is not always straightforward for Indian musicians, who often spend many years in intensive and often isolated practice, to express their best qualities in a collaborative context. But these two versatile musicians have played a major role in popularising a discipline which holds exciting possibilities for musical growth.
Furthermore, both Ronu Majumdar and Tarun Bhattacharya have played significant roles in promoting their respective instruments at a time when Santoor and Bansuri flute are still relative newcomers to the North Indian classical music stage.
Ronu Majumdar, born in Varanasi in 1965, represents the third generation of flautists in his family, initiated into the art of playing by his father, Dr. Bhanu Majumdar. Later, Ronu received valuable vocal guidance from Pandit Laxman Prasad Jaipurwale, an invaluable skill in an art form which is rooted in vocal music. It was Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao, a scholar and a well-respected performer, who groomed Ronu as a concert flautist. Expert guidance, hard work, and natural talent enabled Ronu to establish himself as one of the most accomplished exponents of his instrument and subsequently a popular concert performer.
His playing style is firmly rooted in the established tradition of the esteemed Maihar gharana, which has produced such luminaries as Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
As well as scores of personal achievements and awards including the 'Kumar Gandharva Award for 2006', Ronu has a history of outstanding collaborative successes with significant contributions to "Passages" with his 'grand guru' Pandit Ravi Shankar and composer Philip Glass. He also performed on Ravi Shankar's inspirational "Chants of India" and toured with him in 1988. He has recorded with legends including Beatle George Harrison who championed Indian music to young people in the West, Guitarist Ry Cooder and Zakir Hussain, the world's number one tabla exponent. He enjoyed a ten year association with the illustrious Indian music composer RD Burman, performing on the Bollywood film score "1942-A Love Story".
In Indian culture, the flute is associated with Lord Krishna, who hypnotised his followers, the 'gopis', with divine music. The Bansuri has to be one of the world's most simple musical instruments. A flute hollowed out of bamboo, with six fingers holes and one blowing hole. Legend has it that it was an insect that pierced the bamboo to hide from the storm, and as the wind roared, the hole in the bamboo echoed with an enchanting tone.
Tarun Bhattacharya has made a significant contribution to the promotion of Santoor with his own distinctive approach. He is the most prominent Santoor exponent of the Maihar School. In his earlier days he featured with his guru Pandit Ravi Shankar on the celebrated "Inside the Kremlin" recording at the India Festival in Moscow. It was his father Robi Bhattacharya, a sitarist and santoor player, who first initiated him into Indian classical music. Tarun grew up in a musically vibrant atmosphere where he also practiced tabla playing, an important rhythmic skill for santoor players. It was Pandit Dulal Roy in Calcutta who gave him his first formal training. Having also received guidance from Shivkumar Sharma, the main bulk of his musical grooming has come through his long time relationship with his present guru Pandit Ravi Shankar, who has been influential in the development of what is a unique style of playing.
The Santoor is an instrument which has its origins in the Middle East. However, similar instruments can be found all over the world, for example, in the United States it goes by the name of hammered dulcimer, and it's called yang chin in China. In the northern part of India, in the region of Kashmir, it is used as a popular folk music instrument. Santoor means shathathanthri veena (a veena with 100 strings).
Tarun has introduced many innovative techniques into his playing including the use of fingernails in picking patterns by hammering with one hand and plucking with the other. An additional innovative technique involves carefully placed palm mutes to produce a staccato effect. Perhaps his most unusual and stirring contribution to the santoor's legacy is a modified string at the bottom of the instrument, tuned to a very low pitch, which he presses on and bends during compositions to provide a meend-like (glissando) phrase ending. He has also modified his instrument to include small blocks beneath each string which facilitate "fine tuning" during performances, since the santoor, with its 90-plus strings, is probably the most temperamental of all string instruments with a tendency to go out of tune.
Rageshri is a popular evening raga which literally means beautiful (shri) melody (rag). For the recording, Ronu and Tarun are joined by two fine percussionists, Ram Kumar Mishra on tabla, and Durga Prasad Majumdar on Pakhawaj. After the initial soothing prelude in the form of Alap, the Santoor and Bansuri are joined by the majestic barrel shaped Pakhawaj for the Jorh and Jhalla section of the recital. The first composition (track 3), set to a rhythmic cycle of ten beats (jhaptaal) is accompanied only by tabla. The Pakhawaj rejoins for an exciting rhythmic dialogue with the tabla in the final movement. Dhun (track 6) is a light classical form, the instrumental equivalent of the romantic vocal form of thumri. This original composition based on Raga Bhinna Shadja highlights a different face of India's musical culture with an exquisite melody which exudes charm and beauty.
Notes: © John Ball : John Ball is a musician, teacher and ethno-musicologist
based at the University of Sheffield, UK.