Whistles of heart

By bappaditya paul

Tarun Goswami is not known in Kolkata for what he does for a living and he will, probably, take a little more time before he gets famous throughout India for what he does out of passion! And this persistent drive for elevation~ from the mundane to sublime ~ is what keeps this 51-year-old youth moving and restless all the time.Tarun GoswamiMr Goswami is a master of singing-whistling, a very out-of-box form of performing art that leaves a listener mesmerised. To put it simply, he can sign any number of songs through whistling. But don’t consider this as simple as it sounds!

“I rehearse for two-hours every day on my own. Besides this, I rehearse once-in-a-week with my team of musicians; this lasts for more than four-five hours,” he says. “Routine rehearsal is a must to keep the vocal cords smooth for the whistles to flow.”

For a working journalist that Mr Goswami is by profession, maintaining this rehearsal schedule is not an easy task. “One ought to be a strict disciplinarian for this,” he says.

Ask him how he picked up such an unusual passion and Mr Goswami will share an anecdote that will leave you amazed. “I was barely seven or eight year old that I started to whistle whatever songs I listened; it came spontaneously. I will roam about our house at Bhowanipore whistling every now and then.”

After observing him doing this for a while, his mother Shefali-Devi misconstrued the passion. “She thought I was whistling to the classmates of my elder sister who used to visit our house frequently. Maa gave me a solid bashing and warned me not to whistle ever again.”

But on the contrary, this apparent bane worked as a boon for him. Now he became adamant that he wanted to sing through whistle; he began practicing on Bengali songs ~ both traditional and modern alike. “I picked up several songs on my whistles over the next two-three years but those lacked the touch of a melodic fine-tuning. I was feeling the need for a formal training.”

Salil Chowdhury But who will teach you something that anybody hardly practices as an art form? Here came handy a school friend who was a relative of music maestro Salil Chowdhury. “One day he took me to Salil-babu at the latter’s Ballygunge house and told him that I wanted to learn music to be able to whistle in melody. Salil-babu asked me to whistle some songs that I knew; on listening those he said: Tui parbi (you have the potential). I will train you.”

For several years Mr Goswami trained with Salil Chowdhury and began to perform in closed circles. Whoever listened to his whistles, showered praises and advised him to follow this up. Finally, after passing out from college, he joined the team of famous musician V Balsara and started appearing in professional performance.

“I performed with Balsara-ji wherever he went. There was a very memorable performance in Bombay. He used to pay me some honorarium on the basis of every single performance.”

V Balsara

After Balsara’s demise in 2005, Mr Goswami formed his own team with six musicians who now support his whistles by playing background score. These days he performs on a host of occasions ~ at marriage ceremonies, anniversaries, private parties and so on and so forth; the whistles include both Hindi and Bengali songs.

“The money that comes from such performances gives my team sustenance, for barring me, music is the livelihood for the rest of them all,” he explains.

In 2013, Mr Goswami and his team performed at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi at the invitation of President Pranab Mukherjee.

But of all the one performance that Mr Goswami personally enjoys the most is the one that he presents in Kolkata on 7 December every year. For the past few years, Uttam Mancha at Hazra has become a permanent venue for this annual whistling festival. In addition to tickets that are sold through different distribution channels for the event, Mr Goswami personally sends out invitations to those who appreciate good music.

Dipankar Chowdhury, a bureaucrat with West Bengal government and a connoisseur of music, who attended the event themed on Kishore Kumar last December, was totally mesmerised.

Tarun Goswami

“The effortlessness and brilliance with which Goswami ‘sung’ transported many in the packed audience to the melodious and nostalgic past of the 60s and 70s,” Chowdhury observed. “Each word of each song has a distinct whistle-sound, as well as the tone and subtlety; Ek palaker ektu dekha.. and Mere naina sawan bhado.. were rendered with such equal aplomb that one is only left to wonder the amount of time, energy and effort required for such perfect reflections of the original songs.”

No wonder, Mr Goswami is credited for uplifting and popularising whistling from being a lazy time-pass or tease tool of wandering youths to an art form that is inviting kudos from every heart that loves music.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India.)

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