Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik

Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik, a rising star of the Hindustani Classical vocal music, was born in Nogaon, Assam. She started her music lessons at a very early age from Sri Ajit Dutta. Later she received extensive training in classical vocal music from Pandit Sri Biren Phukan of Guahati Assam. Mitali then came to Calcutta where she received lessons from Srimati Meera Banerjee, the renowned vocalist. Since 1983, Mitali is under the tutelage of Padmabhusan Pandit V.G. Jog, the famous violin maestro.

Mitali has performed in several concerts in India and USA. In India she has performed at the Sangeet Research Academy, Bhawanipur Sangeet Samaj, Salt Lake Music Festival in Calcutta, the Calcutta School of Music, the World Bengali Conference, Spic-Macay at IIT Kharagpur and several others.

In USA some of her performances include, Ali Akbar College of Music at San Raphael and Fremont in California, concerts in Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Dallas, Princeton University, Yale University, Rutgers University. Mitali has also been a regular performer at the Hindu Milan Mandir Annual Music Conference in NJ, Sangeet Prabhaat organized by Marathi Viswa of NJ and many others.

Mitali has been gifted with a very strong and melodious voice which is perfectly suited for the Khayal and Thumri style of Hindustani music. Her soulful rendition of the Ragas have kept the audience mesmerized and has won her many appreciations and accolades. She also performs the more lighter forms of Hindustani music like Bhajans, Ghazals and Geets with equal grace and perfection.

Mitali currently resides in Monmouth Junction in New Jersey and teaches music to the students in the area. She and her students have won the prestigious New Jersey Arts Council fellowship grant to continue learning Hindustani Classical music from her.

Mitali has recently released her debut CD album “Vandana”. In this CD Mitali is blessed by her Guruji Pandit V. G. Jog’s violin accompaniment. Mitali performs Khayal in Raga Anandi Kalyan, followed by a Hori Thumri, a Dadra, and a Bhajan.

Here is a Kajri sung by her :

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Moumita Mitra

Moumita Mitra, born on 22nd Dec.,1980 is a Hindustani (North Indian) Classical and Semi-Classical Vocalist. She is a disciple of Lt. Pt. A.Kannan and Sri Anjan Majumdar. She stood first in Khayal and Thumri in The DoverLane Music Competition in the years 2001 and 2004 respectively.

Moumita has received the Championship Award from The DoverLane Music Conference Organization in both the years for being the Highest scorer and Best Vocalist. She was given the honour to perform at the inauguration ceremony of DoverLane Music Conference 2002 on its Golden Jubilee celebration.

Moumita is a National (India Government’s Department of Culture) Scholarship holder from the year 2003. She has been conferred the title of “Adwitiya 2004”for becoming the winner in the Classical round of the music competition organized by Anandabazar & Shalimar, all over West Bengal. Second runner’s up in All India based competition organized by Swar Vilas, Vadodara, Gujrat in 2005. Winner of “Gaan Antaheen”, a Music competition in Doordarshan(National Television Network).

She has also performed in various prestigious Concerts in India, some of them are…. The Dover lane Music Conference, Kolkata in August,2002, Swar Vilas Baroda (Gujrat) in 2004 and 2005, The Youth Conference on Indian Classical Vocal Music in Kolkata, 200 3, The Annual Classical Music Conference by “Aanandi” at Kolkata, 200 5, Shalimar “Adwitiya” title giving ceremony at The Science city auditorium, 7th Aug., 2004. She also has a Music Album from HMV(Saregama) to her credit.

“The girl (Moumita Mitra) who sang on stage just now, if she gets the right opportunity, she will sing all over the country sooner or later. She has a flawless voice.”……..quoted by Pt. Jasraj on stage at the inaugural ceremony of 50th year of Doverlane Music Conference. 22nd Jan., 2002.

I myself highly rate this new and upcoming artist and predict, if I may do so, a very bright future for this young girl.

You can listen to one of her rendition, a Thumri in Tilak Kamod – ‘Ab Ke Sawan Ghar Aaja’. I hope you will enjoy as much as I did.

Kaushiki Chakrabarty

Blessed by prodigious natural talent and a cool temperament, Kaushiki has not been distracted for one moment by all the accolades and acclaim she has justly received at such a young age. Her last Sense World Music recording ‘Pure’ received worldwide recognition beyond the circles of traditional classical music listeners and confirmed a level maturity and depth in her singing which defies her years.

Following on from her success at the BBC World Music Awards in 2005, this unique collection of both studio and live concert recordings demonstrates why Kaushiki has become the great hope for the future of Indian classical vocal music, giving us an invaluable insight into the full range of her musical prowess.

Kaushiki was born in 1980 in Kolkata, the cultural capital of modern day India. Her parents noticed that she could reproduce complex musical and rhythmic phrases at the age of just two years. Being an able teacher her mother Smt. Chandana Chakrabarty took care of her ‘taleem’ (music training) adopting the role as her first Guru. Subsequently, Kaushiki had the fortune to become the youngest Ganda Bandh disciple (or shishya) of the renowned Bengali educator Guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh when she was just ten. Ganda Bandh is a traditional knot tying ceremony which cements the relationship between guru and student. Later on, after intermittent ill-health, Jnan Prakash Ghosh ordered Kaushiki to continue further training under the tutelage of his most successful disciple, her father Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, one of the most creative and influential Indian vocalists of the modern era.

The guru-shishya system of teaching is the most intensive and effective route of musical learning in North Indian Classical music. Based on the oral tradition, it embodies the living and learning relationship between master and pupil, involving the complete emotional, intellectual and spiritual surrender of the ardent shishya (trainee) to the guru (teacher).

Here is a sample of Kaushiki’s prowess in singing :

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan can be described as an artist who has had the maximum impact on the 20th Century Hindustani Classical Music scenario. Born in 1902 into a great musical lineage from Kasur in the Western Punjab, this great savant amalgamated the best of four traditions, his own Patiala – Kasur style, sculpturesque Behram Khani elements of Dhrupad, the intricate gyrations of Jaipur and finally the robust behlavas (embellishments) of Gwalior. But what actually characterised Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was an effervescent melodic quality which was concertised in a masterly flow of ideas which were delivered with a unique sense of alacrity, aided by one of the most pliable and dextrous voices ever heard in living memory in this land.

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan had a relatively short career span. He blazed the trails of Calcutta in 1938 and in the 1944 All India Music Conference in Bombay, was virtually anointed Lord of all he surveyed in the field of Indian Music. But 24 years later, he was dead, prematurely at 66, having given the World less of himself than it would have wished to have. The maestro’s approach to khayal was essentially traditional – as seen in the medium pace of his vilambit Khayal presentation and his style of straightforward sthaibharana avoiding permutations. The character of his Gayaki was derived from an inclination towards looking beyond the traditional method of intoning a Swara to discover unchartered facets of beauteous melody, often achieved by very subtle inflexions of notes. This approach was bom of a mind which always strove to find that beauty in Indian Music which went beyond the Raga itself.

For Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, ‘Taleem’ was but a means to a greater end where sheer melody and freedom of movement became unified His music was the joyous expression of an unfettered musical psyche. In ‘Thumri’, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan looked beyond the tradition of bol-banav where verbal and musical expressions are unified. He saw in Thumri an avenue for playing with notes with even greater abandon than was possible in the raga-restrained Khayal. From this perspective was born the now well-established Punjab-ang of Thumri.

Here is a rare live recording of the maestro in Raga Pahadi :

Zarina Begum

She was the last of an era that was. Zarina Begum was once the star attraction at royal mehfils and marriages, singing thumris, dadras and ghazals. Today, she wonders where her patrons have gone? Khush hoon ki mera husn-e-talab kaam to aaya, Khaali hi sahi meri taraf jaam to aaya…The sound of her captivating voice draws you up a narrow staircase, wide enough for just one person, broken at places, to reach her abode. There is nothing in the impoverished surroundings of that one-room hovel to indicate that it has ever seen better days. But Zarina Begum, now nearly ninety, has. Among the last of Lucknow’s famous mehfil singers, she retains all the graces of a Lakhnavi courtesan as she sits up with a scowl on her face, straightens her khizab-dyed hair and arches a brow to question you.

“You want to interview me. I hope you will not label me a nautch girl. Before talking to me you must understand my art. Then I will tell you all you want. Even today people remember me with respect”, she said.

Zarina Begum’s musical journey began as a child. Her earliest memories are of being locked inside a cupboard by her younger brother, “Sister, you may sing now,” he would say. “And I would start off, from inside the cupboard, trying to sing my best. Outside, the children would clap.

The sharp eyes have softened as she travels back in time. “It was my father who first realized I had a gifted voice. He made sure I took professional training. He was as strict as I was naughty. The morning would start with cries of ‘Where is that upstart Zarina. Why hasn’t she come for riyaz,’ she laughs. “I did not like being tied down. So they lured me with promises of new clothes and bangles. Only that would tempt me to sit down with my ustad and learn the difficult Persian couplets.”

Zarina Begum trained under her father, Shahenshah Hussain, and later under Ghulam Hazrat of Firangi Mahal. “I was obsessed with Begum Akhtar. My favourite ghazal was Deewana banana hai to deewana de. We would riyaz for seven hours at a stretch. Then one day at the age of nine I was told, “Today is your big day. Today you will sing at a proper mehfil.”

Her eyes mist over. “I sat beside my father in the rickshaw, huddled in my black shawl with which I had covered myself. I was very nervous. We passed a large gate and then came to a huge hall. There was a white chandni and masnad prepared for us. When I sat down on the floor all I could see in front of me was a huge gathering of very rich looking people, mostly men. They wore fancy clothes and jewels and I felt a thousand eyes were piercing into me. I was so scared that I just closed my eyes and concentrated on my singing. I did not let my father down. After I finished, they heaped rewards on me. I just bent low and kept doing salaam. My father was very proud of me that day,” she says.

She was soon to audition with the All India Radio, Lucknow, and was approved as an artiste. “In those days we were summoned to big mehfils to sing, at royal gatherings and marriages. But never unescorted. My father and a faithful chaperone always accompanied me,” she says, adding, “I was taken to this meeting of classical singers at Vardha. The man singing before me was reciting pure khayal. Then it was my ustad’s turn, I told him, ‘Let me go. Only a female voice can break the magic of his spell.’ And I did.”

It was at one such mehfil that Zarina met her husband, Qurban Hussain. “Don’t go by the way he is now. My man was quite a sparkler in those days,” she says coyly, I was wanting for a tabla player and he volunteered to play for me. We’ve never been separated since. His fingers worked magic on the tabla,” she says.

Lying on the mattress beside her, Qurban Hussain looks up at her and flashes a toothless smile. “That’s because you sang like a koel, my dear. No one could match your voice. I still remember that song you were singing that day – Ka leke jaaye gawanwa morey Ram. And I knew I was lost.”

Today, Qurban Hussain no longer accompanies his favourite Zarina when she sings. A broken hip, in an accident four years ago, has put paid to that. It is with great difficulty that he props himself up to play for her when she croons his favourite thumri, Bahut din beete, sainyya ko dekhe, then lies down, wiping the sweat on his brow. “I get dizzy now, sitting up too long because of the pain.”

With few calls for mehfils nowadays, it is left to their lame son Ayub to play the tabla and dholak with local qawwals and help run the house on his meager earnings. Her daughter Rubina still awaits her rukhsati for want of proper dowry. “How can I send her off from my house in just the clothes she wears?” Zarina laments. Once the star of many a glittering mehfil, Zarina has only tales from the past to relate now – of royal mehfils with an inebriated Maharaja swaying to her thumris, zamindars requesting her to sing a fast song, to enable them to do a quick twirl with their English memsahibs… of lavish dinners and elaborate feasts. But it’s been a long time since she’s attended any of these.

Rubbing her fingernail against the falling plaster on her walls, she sighs, “All that is in the past now. There have been no calls for me for nearly a year. I wonder what curse has befallen the people of this city. Have they lost their taste in music or do they not throw parties any longer? It’s not easy managing the finances without a regular income” she quips. “Will you tell them, Zarina Begum still sings, maybe they will call me then,” she says, her eyes full of hope.

A sample of her singing talent can be heard in Muzaffar Ali’s album Husn-e-Jaana. Listen to the song ‘Nihure Nihure‘ from the same album :

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