He received the President of India Award as the ‘Best instrumentalist’ at the age of 15 and had the privilege of learning from the legendary maestros of Indian classical music like Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Saheb and Pandit Ajay Chakroborty, he happens to be one of the most promising young musicians of today,who have collaborated with  many international musicians to explore creativity across genres. Purbayan Chatterjee the eminent sitarist of Senia Maihar Gharana talks to loudest.in about his stint in music, and the journey which brought him to where he is today. Some excerpts …

He was put to do riyaz at an early age by his father Pt. Parthapratim Chatterjee who was his first guru, although he was more inclined towards cricket in his childhood years.Purbayan Chatterjee reminisces about his initial transformation saying, “My father had put me to practice at an early age and a small sitar was given to me at the age of 5. I grew up as a cricket buff and it was the time when west indies visited India and Sunil Gavaskar was playing against Vivian Richards, they both being my heroes. It was till the age of 12 that my father forcefully made me practice, till one day when I heard Pandit Nikhil Banerjee play sitar that I was absolutely mesmerized, which opened my eyes and I decided that I want to play like him.”

“Eventually my father took me to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Saheb, and also made me learn vocal music and Khyal bandishes from Pandit Ajay Chakraborty. Over the years I started exploring music with many western musicians, which has become a long enriched journey, which seems as if it just started yesterday,” added Chatterjee.

Chatterjee enlightens about the key elements and techniques of the Senia Maihar Gharana and the Baaz (instrumental style) saying,” Baba Allaudin Khan Saheb founded this Gharana which was later taken forward by his son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Saheb, Pt. Ravi Shankarji and Pt.Nikhil Banerjee. This is a Dhrupad based Gharana and is known as  ‘Beenkaro’ ka Gharana who used to play the ‘Been’ a string instrument. This Gharana is also called ‘Senia’ because it’s connected with Sangeet Samrat Tansen. Ustad Wazir Khan Saheb who was the guru of Baba Allaudin Khan Saheb was himself a ‘Beenkar’ (one who plays a Been) and was a direct descendant of Miyan Tansen. His repertoire of Alaap and Jhala was adapted by the Dhrupad style which is the key element of this Gharana. But, in the current context after hearing Pandit Nikhil Banerjeeji whose style was greatly influenced by the legendary Hindustani vocalist Ustad Amir Khan Saheb and the great sitarist  Ustad Vilayat Khan Saheb, as he imbibed the Gayaki Ang ( vocal elements) have been included in the overall style of playing of Senia Maihar Gharana. Thus, I also have tried to incorporate the Gayaki Ang into my music.”

Chatterjee throws light on the process and what goes while a sitarist plays a bandish in the Gayaki Ang, so does he sing the bandish within, while he plays it on the instrument and how does the coordination takes place to which he answers, “Someone once said that the right hand of a sitarist is like the breath as it keeps the pace, and the left hand is like the vocal cords, and the same goes with the harmonium. We try to make it as much as vocal as possible because in Indian music everyone is trying to reach the  expression or an appeal what vocal music does.”

Sharing who has been the inspirations behind his music Chatterjee says, “I have heard Ustad Ali Akhbar Khan Saheb being my guru and Pt.Nikhil Banerjeeji who has been a major influence. I have heard Ustad Vilayat Khan Saheb a lot through his recordings and feel blessed to have met him in person. Ustad Rais Khan Saheb, Pandit Ravishankarji, Kishori Amonkarji, Pandit Jasrajji, Pt.Shiv Kumar Sharma,Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Amzad Ali Khan Saheb are all whom I have been listening and following unconsciously, like from some you imbibe the Ragadari and some you follow for their Layakari.”

So does the concept of Gharana still persists in the present age, Chatterjee says, “Gharana is a sense of belonging and a legacy for an artist. We are today living in a global world and we are exposed to different styles of music. The classical world is opening up slowly and yet we are figuring out a mode of communication so that it becomes much easier for all of us. ‘Ek khushboo rehni chahiye  apne gharane ki’ i.e it’s important to have the very essence of your Gharana, but one needs to be open to imbibing various other elements of different gharanas too, that helps to enrich our music.”

Purbayan recently did  a vocal-instrumental duet with Ustad Rashid Khan Saheb at the Raymond MTV India Music Summit 2019, so what runs in his mind while he goes for a Jugalbandi (duet) performance tells Chatterjee, “When I am doing a jugalbandi with a vocalist I have to showcase my instrumental techniques, but at the same time I have to do something that is relevant to what the vocalist is doing and that is the thought that goes constantly in my mind. Every time it is a learning experience, and performing with Ustad Rashid Khan Saheb is not an easy task, I tried my best to play with him.”

Having collaborated with Kaushiki Chakraborty how has been the experience performing live with the Diva, any new projects coming up, Chatterjee says, “ Kaushiki is my childhood friend and since I have learned from her father  Pt. Ajoy Chakroborty, our thought process is very similar and there is has been a great repo between us. So performing with her is always anticipated and it’s a great honor to perform with her she being an accomplished artist and a youth icon of the country today. We are coming up with a single together. Also, there are lot of new things coming up on my Youtube Channel, so stay tuned.”

Chatterjee has worked on several fusion projects like ‘Life is music’ with Taufiq Quereshi and Luis banks, ’Trialogue’ –A 3-way conversation, ‘SitarScape’, ‘Nirman’ to list a few. He has collaborated with Shankar Mahadevan with his band ‘ClassyCool’ and on MTV Unplugged while Mahadevan has also sung the title song “Dwo” in Purbayan’s super-hit fusion album, ‘Stringstruck’ which was released by Times Music. Chatterjee has had successful musical interactions with Pat Metheney the Jazz guitarist. His band ‘Shastriya Syndicate’ was the first Indian Classical Band with a contemporary touch, which has performed across major festivals like Roskilde Festival, Denmark, OzAsia Festival, Australia, Traumzeit Festival, Germany and many more…

Talking on exploring across genres Chatterjee adds, “I am not genre agonistic and I work with so many international artists and guitar players. I have had the blessing of playing with Ustad Zakir Hussain Saheb in the concert ‘Crosscurrents’ with a set of African musicians, where we got an opportunity to interact musically. I have played for all the major music composers in India and have done some compositions for the Bengali film industry.”

So what takes it to create a unique musical statement and how much he loves the art of composing Chatterjee says, “I feel sometimes like whatever things I have absorbed in my system they all get mixed up into one thing and I try to make one musical statement at the moment. Although I love composing, I truly love performing live at the moment, maybe when I get old and don’t want to travel anymore to perform, I’ll start to compose more.”

 

Author

A Hindustani Classical Vocalist and a Musicologist. Pursuing Ph.D. in the same from Delhi University. Presently working with exchange 4media writing across domains ranging from Digital, Marketing, Advertising, Events, Music, Artforms, Artists and lots more... Getting better with time!

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