In conversation with Joydeep Mukherjee winner of Sangeet Natak Academi’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Purashkar

By Ojasvi Kapoor
December 29, 2022
In conversation with Joydeep Mukherjee winner of Sangeet Natak Academi’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Purashkar

Multi-instrumentalist Joydeep Mukherjee is one of the most promising performer and upcoming artists of Sarod and the rare cum extinct instruments The Radhika Mohan Veena & Sursingar. He belongs to the traditional Senia Shahjehanpur Gharana– the roots of which dates roughly to 16th century. Born in West Bengal in 1982, he took to playing the Sarod since 1987 from an early age of four years under the able guidance and tutelage of illustrious Guru.

This is for the first time ever in the history of Sangeet Natak Academi’s awards since 1952, all inclusive the Fellowship, Yuva and Senior awards, someone has received the award for Sursingar instrument. The 39 year old Bengali youth, Joydeep Mukherjee, has created history by bagging this prestigious award in Sursingar instrument apart from Sarod.

In a freewheeling chat with,He spoke about his musical journey.

Q1.Hi!Tell us about your classical music journey so far?

I am from a family of music lovers but not from a family of musicians. I started my musical journey at the age of 4 years under the tutelage of Pt. Pranab Kumar Naha, one of the remarkable and seniormost disciples of the legendary musician late Pt. Radhika Mohan Maitra in 1987 and still under his supervision till date. I am also studying rhythms and their usage under Pt. Debasish Sarkar, a tabla maestro of the Farukhabad Gharana. Apart from Sarod, my Guruji has given me knowledge about other musical instruments which enabled me to revive some of the extinct musical instruments of India. Being held from a "non Gharanadaar"  family I had to head for a job. So music and education went side by side. Over the time I have achieved gradations from AIR & DD & became empanelled with ICCR and also parallely had achieved 1st class distinction in my Engineering and also became a topper in my MBA from Symbiosis, Pune. Concerts and job went side by side for 11 years till in 2019 I left the corporate world and ventured full time into music.

From 2014 onwards I started working on reviving rare and extinct instruments and started to bring those into the main stream stages with improved sound and superior tonal quality.Thanks to my family for giving me the support, blessings of my Gurus which made it possible.

Q2.Has it been difficult for you to forge a path for this classical music form in today’s day and age?

Honestly yes. Getting a good stage is very very difficult for people like us who don't have a known Guru or family of musical lineage or legacy. But once you achieve that, things are easier. In today's world the audience is very updated and subjective. They have a certain level of expectations from the artists. They want something new, something very different. That's where I come in. I try to experiment with classical music while maintaining the rich tradition. In many stages I play my own compositions - which is very unlikely for the artists of my age.

Q3.As you have won Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar of the Sangeet Natak Academi very recently, how are you feeling about this appreciation ?

This award is the most reputed award in India for any young artist in the field of music and drama. This award is very significant for me because it is encouraging me to do better and better work in the days to come. I like to present classical music in unique ways. I have a lot of things in my mind, I hope the current music organizers and the government will give me the scope to do it and present some unique presentations for the present day audience.

Q4.You have learned Sarod for 33 years and already being established as a Sarod player. Why the idea of reviving rare instruments came to your mind?

My gharana (Senia Shehjahanpur) is very rich in terms of its musical heritage and experimentations. My Dadaguru, late Pt. Radhika Mohan Maitra, experimented a lot in
developing new musical instruments. In his lifetime he developed new instruments which are “almost” extinct now a days, that is very rarely heard like Dilbahar (mix of Sitar & sarod), Mohanveena (mix of Sarod, Veena & Surbahar), Nabadeepa ( mix of Surshringer & Esraj). He himself used to play Alaap & Jor in Surshringer & Gat in sarod. Hearing about his inventions from my Guru, I was inspired and thought to bring some of these instruments into the limelight to give the music lovers the taste of tradition and heritage. Being a musician we experiment on several things. Hence as a project I thought to revive the rare & extinct instruments.

Q5.Any exciting projects in the works?

Yes, first I am working to metamorphose Tagore's songs into classical instrumental compositions - a very unique work which is not being done by any current living musicians. I have composed some 30+ well known Tagore songs so far and counting. This project was inspired by the work of Padma Bhushan late Pt Buddhadeb Dasgupta.Secondly, there is more work in the pipeline which I will be sharing in the coming days. Want to keep it secret for the time being.

Q6.What advice do you have for people entering this field now?

Have full passion and don't look for overnight success. Your work will surely pay off - this field demands your 100%.

Try to do something new and innovative - have a good 'packaging' for your project. It must open a horizon. It is the field where you can die but your work will remain immortal.

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