Category Archives: Music

KALIKA PRASAD: MUSIC FROM THE PERIPHERY FALLS SILENT

By Bappaditya Paul

“When the news rang in, it felt like the earth beneath my feet had vanished, and I was falling into a bottomless abyss of darkness,” says Mon, from the ancestral house of noted folk singer Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya at Silchar in Barak Valley.

Mon, in her mid-20’s, is the cousin sister of Kalika, who passed away today morning in a terrible road accident at Gurap in Hooghly in West Bengal. They grew up under the same roof of the illustrious Bhattacharya family located at Silchar’s Central Road: albeit when Kalika was in college, Mon was barely a toddler.

Like Mon, no member of the large joint family could at first believe that Prasad (family and friends called him by this name) was actually no more.

“How could one come to terms with a crude reality like this? He was only 47, and yet had to take leave in such a terrible way,” wailed Prasad’s octogenarian uncle Madhusudhan Bhattacharya.

“He has been the brightest star of our family,” he adds. The statement could not have been more apt, given that the Bhattacharya family has a legacy to boast of. Silchar Sangeet Vidyalaya, one of the oldest institutes of Barak Valley, was set up by this family before Independence.

Kalika’s father Ram Bhattacharya was a known cultural organiser of Silchar; his uncle Mukundadas Bhattacharya was a famous danseur mostly known for his rendering of Sukanta Bhattacharya’s Ranar, and another uncle Ananta Bhattacharya had dedicated his entire life to collect and preserve the folk music of Barak Valley.

Kalika was born in Silchar in 1970, and just about the time he had started to drift away from breast milk to solid food, his mother gave birth to a daughter. This robbed him of the care that a kid is entitled to get from his mother as she was now engrossed in taking care of the new-born.

“But this, turned out to be a blessing for Prasad. His spinster paternal aunt, Anandamoyee Bhattacharya, took charge of him. She has all along been a very good singer (has been the principal of Silchar Sangeet Vidyalaya) and thus, started imparting music lessons to Prasad from a very tender age,” recalls Madhusudhan.

By the time, Kalika enrolled at Narsing Higher Secondary School in the town, his uncle Mukundadas Bhattacharya, had earned kudos as a danseur. Kalika would often play tabla as his uncle performed in Silchar and elsewhere.

Mukundadas was also an activist of the Communist Party’s Indian People’s Theatre Association, and this made several Communist leaders visit the family quite often. This introduced Kalika to the Left politics.

It did not take long for him to become an active member of CPI-M’s student wing SFI and in due course, its unit secretary in Silchar. At Guru Charan College, where Kalika studied BA, he was elected the general secretary of the SFI-led student union in 1989.

Just as Kalika was finishing college, his folk music collector uncle, Ananta Bhattacharya, passed away, leaving behind a treasure trove that he had accumulated over two decades. Kalika eventually took charge of the collection and started dusting them off. Until then, he was hardly into singing.

In 1996, Kalika came over to Kolkata to study master’s in Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University. He found accommodation at his elder cousin sister Bhabhani Chakraborty’s house at Santoshpur in south Kolkata.

By 1999, when Kalika completed his master’s by securing a gold medal, the popular music in Bengal had been taken over by music bands. With music in his blood, how could he not become a party to this? He did, but with a difference.

“Prasad decided to form a group to take the Bengali folk music from the periphery like Barak Valley to the centre stage in Bengal. He gathered a few others hailing from Barak Valley who lived in Kolkata due to professional obligations, and then went to a teacher of his at Jadavpur University requesting him to suggest a name for the group. Thus was born Dohar in 1999,” Madhusudhan tells.

Over the next few years, Kalika went on performing folk music in different parts of Bengal, many a times in fusion with other singing forms. In this, he largely benefited from the collection he had inherited from uncle Ananta Bhattacharya.

Dohar was yet to click the way it did a few years later, that in 2006, Kalika married Ritacheta Goswami, a JU junior from the Bengali department. Ritacheta, a native of Raiganj in north Bengal, is a school teacher by profession.

To run the family, Kalika took job with an FM radio channel in Kolkata in 2007. He quit the job in 2010, as this was affecting his music. Subsequently, he dedicated himself completely for Dohar, not only ending up earning the legendary status as a proponent of Bengali folk music in the recent times, but also got some commercial success.

He bought a flat at Santoshpur and lived there with wife and five-year-old daughter Ashabhari until today morning. Around 07 this morning, he went out in a hired Innova car  with his team to perform at a college in Birbhum’s Suri.

Around 08.50 am, the speeding car hit the railing of Durgapur Expressway at Gurap in Hooghly and then onto a culvert. The car was then flung into the air several feet below into a ditch and got almost twisted. Apart from Kalika, his team members Rajib Das, Sudipto Chakraborty (Kalika’s nephew), Niladri Roy, Sandipan Pal, and driver Arnab Rao were in the car.

Residents of the area rescued them and with the help of cops from Gurap police station, rushed to the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital. Kalika was declared brought dead; others are still under treatment.

Kalika’s demise has brought down a pall of gloom over Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee paid her last tribute at Nabanna when his mortal remains were transported to Kolkata from Burdwan around 4 pm.

The mortal remains were then kept at Rabindra Sadan, where, who’s who of Bengal’s music fraternity, offered their tribute. From there, the body has been taken to Keoratola Crematorium in the city for cremation with full state honours this evening.

Kalika’s younger singer Indrani Bhattacharya has flown down from Silchar to attend the cremation far away from his place of birth ~ a land that has given blood for Bengali language, more than once.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 7 March 2017.)

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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.)