Live Recording at Mahajati Sadan, Feb 8, 1975
Photo & Recoding Ira Landgarten, New Jersey
Sound Restoration by Lee Boice, Soic Art Studio, NY
With so many recordings of Indian Classical Music flooding the market, it's a real pleasure to take a trip back in time, to February 8, 1975, to 166 Chittaranjan Avenue in Burrabazar, the heart of Calcutta -- yes, it was still 'Calcutta' then, not 'Kolkata.' To the "House of the Nation" -- Mahajati Sadan, that venerable bastion of Classical Music, so closely associated with the cultural heritage and political history of Calcutta. A well-worn patina of age and an aura of countlesss waras permeated this Sangeet mecca, whose very architecture epitomized the "Bengali style".This is a unique live recording of Pandit Manilal Nag and PanditShankar Ghosh, over 30 years ago, performing on that hallowed stage before some of Calcutta's most stalwartrasikas.Sitarist Manilal Nag, son and disciple of Sangeetacharya Gokul Chandra Nag, doyen of the famedVishnupur Gharana, had begun performing in his childhood, and had been accompanied by virtually every elite tabla player in India.
Shankar Ghosh, the extremely innovative and eclectic disciple of Jnan Prakash Ghosh, the legendary teacher/musicologist and exponent of the Farrukhabad tabla gharana, had regularly toured with and accompanied a veritable 'Who's Who' list of musicians.This performance reveals the two artists both in their primes and perfectly matched in skill and temperament. They had performed many times together and seemed capable of anticipating each other's every musical move. Seamless from first note to the last, there are no false moves...the rasais indelible and intense, sitar and tabla at their absolute best. Shankar's own enjoyment of Manilal's flawless, inspired playing is unmistakably audible as one hears his exuberant utterances and encouragements.For this memorable recital, Manilal chose raga Madhuwanti, a relatively modern late evening raga, similar in structure to ragas Multani, Bhimpalasi and Patdeep.He beautifully renders the traditional alap, jor, jhala, followed by medium and fast gatsin teental.
Ira Landgarten's Voice
How this recording came about is somewhat interesting. I had become obsessed with sitar while living in Amsterdam, and a meeting with the late Pandit Nikhil Banerjee during one of his European tours encouraged me to journey to Calcutta, "if I really wanted to learn about sitar." Thus I arrived in Calcutta on Holi Festival 1973 with a burning desire to learn the rudiments from a genuine guru, and in fairly short order, as luck would have it, I was introduced to Gokul Nag. Actually, the very first time I travelled to the Nag quarters in North Calcutta, Gokul Nag was out and I met Manilal instead; a few strokes on his sitar convinced me -- if he could play like that, then Gokul Nag was the "real deal" and I had come to the right place.Living virtually like a sadhu, I faithfully practised all the beginner's exercises as well as attending every classical performance I possibly could. After several months my taalim was interrupted by the unfortunate realities of visa regulations and I was politely requested to 'Quit India.' I headed for Kathmandu, Nepal with the intention of returning to Calcutta as soon as humanly possible but karmic events were such that many of my plans were derailed. Still, I managed to bring Manilal to Nepal several times and I would spend what time I could in Calcutta during the 'music season.' So, I found myself once more in the thick of things in February 1975.
As a part of Manilal's small entourage, I was permitted to sit on the dais with the artists and partake of the musical ecstasy with a unique intimacy; I was thus able to carefully place the little microphone of a portable Sony cassette deck right in front of the musicians and let the tape roll. A generous music loving traveller had loaned me the recorder trusting that I would capture some "really good performances" during the 1975 winter music season. Finding good quality, fresh cassette tapes was a challenge, however -- in those days they were hard to find plus the market was flooded with bogus cassettes [recycled computer tape in a plastic shell] from Southeast Asia. Somehow I did locate a scant few sealed Memorex cassettes -- their memorable motto "Is it Live or Memorex" seems somewhat relevant here...Miraculously, this tape survived the vicissitudes of time and space, and with the advent of modern digital sound restoration [and help of my fellow sitar aficionado, Lee Boice and his Sonic Arts Studio] this music comes to you virtually as pristine as the day it was recorded.
(Mita Nag, daughter and disciple of Manilal Nag expresses her heart felt gratitude to Ira Landgarten and Lee Boice for their voluntary co-operation in restoring the music as an archival treasure.)
Manilal Nag - born in the Bankura District of West Bengal - is recognized in serious music circles as one of the most talented and serious exponents of classical sitar. He comes from a family of musicians who have evolved the Vishnupur Gharana, a style of music that originated nearly 300 years ago. His grandfather, Govinda Nag, and his great-great-grandfather, Bauridas Nag, were both distinguished sitarists in their times.
At the age of four, Manilal was initiated in the art of sitar playing by his father, the famous sitar master Sangeetacharya Gokul Nag. After 10 years of strict musical studies and practice, Manilal made his stage debut in the All-India Music Conference, accompanied by Pandit Shanta Prasad on tabla. Since then he has become one of the most popular and sought-after concert sitarists, performing regularly in music conferences held throughout India.
Manilal's style retains the depth, resonance and sensitivity of the Dhrupad Ang in the alap, followed by an extensive range of taans, gamaks and tihais in the jor, and the use of subtle and lilting phrasing in the jhala. Through this combination, he brings to perfection the delicacy and sentiment of every raga. He is a master of improvisation and possesses the rare ability to breathe life and originality into a classical theme, thereby molding it into a living and captivating form.
Manilal has also had the unique opportunity of maintaining close proximity to such great musicians as Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, Majid Khan, Amir Khan, Kanthe Maharaj, Ahmedjan Thirakwa, and many others with an open mind and heart.
Raag : Madhuwanti
Gats in Teental
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