Born to Sing: Panditya Tripti Mukherjee

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Tripti Mukherjee

I don’t think I will get much push back when I say, one of greatest pleasures of life is the discovery of new music and new artists.   My latest discovery (stumble upon, really) is the stunning Bengali classical singer Tripti Mukherjee.

shishya (pupil) of the mighty Pandit JasrajMukherjee is a flag bearer of the Mewati gharana which rose to prominence in the second half of the last century, primarily through the singing of Pandit Jasraj.

In addition to managing a full schedule of singing and recording Mukherjee spent the first part of her career establishing a number of Indian classical music academies across the United States.  Here is a lovely interview (in English) with Panditya in which she discusses her early life, her relationship with her guru, her role in setting up the academies and of course, her music.

Pandita Tripti Mukherjee, Hindustani classical vocalist and illustrious disciple of Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj, stands bright among the generation of musicians carrying forth the music from great masters of Panditji’s generation. Triptiji is blessed with a mellifluous, divine voice, and with her tremendous passion and dedication, has honed musical skills, which are a seamless blend of somber and rich elements. Triptiji’s vocal renditions are characterized by delicate, refined and intricate qualities, with a tremendous depth in the power and conviction of her delivery. This balance is Triptiji’s unique forte.
Perhaps more unique to Triptiji is her monumental commitment over the past 14 years to spreading India’s rich culture and heritage in their purest forms throughout America. Although Indian classical arts had found recognition in the U.S. in the form of dance or instrumental music, the pure tradition of vocal classical music was not prevalent in America over a decade ago. Realizing this disparity, Triptiji ventured to establish the first institute for vocal Indian classical music in the U.S., in the name of her guru, the Pandit Jasraj Institute for Music Research, Artistry and Appreciationthe Mewati Gurukul. Today the Institute has branches in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In addition, the Institute reaches the community at large through a magazine called JasRangi, which publishes comprehensive articles written by students of PJIM, on history and theory of Indian classical music in a current cultural context. Through her tireless efforts, Triptiji continues to pioneer ways of establishing Indian classical arts in America, providing an invaluable service to the Indian community.
Triptiji has never left behind her primary identity as a performing artiste, carrying forward a musical tradition sculpted by her several gurus: Mrs. Bharatikar Choudhary, Mr. Sunil Das, Mr. Prasun Banerjee, Mrs. Sipra Bose, and of course Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj. Triptiji has been a Grade-A artiste on the All India Radio and National Television, having performed on the national programme. In addition, Triptiji has received great recognition for her stellar performances at the annual Pandit Motiram Pandit Maniram Sangeet Samaroh in Hyderabad, the Hari Vallabh Sangeet Samaroh in Jalandhar, the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival in Pune and the Dover Lane Music Festival in Kolkata – India’s prime music festivals. Besides her many performances in numerous cities in India and the U.S., her concert sites have included Carnegie Hall (New York), Tagore center (Berlin), Nairobi (Kenya), Bahrain Arts Performing Center, and Queen Elizabeth Hall (London).
Triptiji’s major awards include the Amir Khan Memorial Award, the Pandit Jasraj Gaurav Puraskar, the ‘Pandita’ award from a University of Karnataka and the ‘Acharya Shiromani ‘ award from the music students in USA. Most recently, Triptiji was invited to perform at the 2007 Diwali Festival held at the White House in Washington D.C., making her the first Indian musician to ever perform there.
Pandit Jasraj has said of her:
Tripti’s dedication to her art and her gurubhakti is unparalleled. I feel extremely fortunate to have her as my disciple. Her monumental efforts in setting up the Pandit Jasraj Institute for Music Research, Artistry and Appreciation – the Mewati Gurukul in USA and her ongoing contributions to it are a testimony to her devotion and commitment. She has further ennobled the name of the Mewati Gharana … Her voice is soothing yet powerful and so laden with emotion, that it moves even the greatest of kalakars to tears…Most of all, she is a wonderful human being – an epitome of grace and modesty .

I have not much more to say about this wonderful singer.  I’m just excited about her coming into my consciousness and want to share this collection of Bengali semi-classical songs.

Light Classical Bengali Songs

Track Listing:

  1. Rajoneer Shesh Batiyar, Addha
  2. Jago Jago Lalit,
  3. Baisakh Holo Virndabani Sarang
  4. Ami Eke Bageshree, Dadra
  5. Aa Ji Kushmita Basani, Addha
  6. Koyelia Dake Bhirha Shadaj, Dadra
  7. Nishuti Rate Shivranjani, Addha
  8. Klanto Ganer Bhairavi, Kaharba

Mewati Gharana

Crown of the Universe: Taj Mahal, Vishwamohan Bhatt and N. Ravikaran

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My brother introduced me to Taj Mahal, the American blues guitarist, way back about 40 years or more ago. We all got a kick out of the fact that he had taken the name of India’s greatest icon even if we didn’t really ‘get’ the music he was playing.   Having grown up in India with very narrow music tastes, American roots/blues was a foreign country.

But it didn’t take long to understand that here was a great musician and I’ve been a huge fan of Taj’s ever since.  Like his old mate and one time Rising Son, Ry Cooder, Taj is somewhat of a musical explorer.  We may consider him to be essentially a man of the blues but he’s really interested in all the streams of  music that have contributed to the African American experience. Hence, he’s gone off to the Caribbean and explored calypso, slave songs and early American hill songs.

Among his most delightful albums are the ones like today’s share where he’s collaborated with non-American musicians. If you’ve not had a chance to hear his album done in partnership with the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar you are missing a rare beauty.  It is stunning.

This album, Mumtaz Mahal, was made several years before CMCZ (and just a couple after Ry Cooder‘s own Grammy-winning collaboration with Vishwamohan Bhatt) and is equally intriguing. And satisfying.

The pace and feel of this collaboration is laid back and informal. Taj is definitely the driving force. He has selected an excellent, varied set of songs from the Jamaican classic, Johnny Too Bad, to the gospel gem, Mary, Don’t You Weep to the blues standard Come On Into My Kitchen and he delivers them beautifully.  You feel as if you have been invited into a small room with just Taj and a couple friends to hear the master sing from his heart.  Each song is unhurried and intimate. Case in point the introduction to the final track. The singer and his accompanists, some of India’s finest, are clearly enjoying exploring the melodies and playing off each other.

Whereas his album with Cooder is orchestral in its conception and elegant beauty, on Mumtaz Mahal, Bhatt plays a more subtle role. He fills in the gaps and nudges each song along.  While Taj lets loose with his voice Bhatt brings in the East reverb that somehow fits perfectly into the atmosphere.

This is a slow burner. It’s not as blood rushingly good as Bhatt’s collaboration with Cooder but it is as nuanced and beautiful filling the listener with joy and wonder and delight.

 

I love it. Hope you do too.

Mumtaz Mahal

Track Listing:

01 Coming of the Mandinka

02 Come On In My Kitchen

03 Rolling On the Sea

04 Mary Don’t You Weep

05 Stand By Me

06 Johnny Too Bad

07 Curry and Quartertones

TAJ

 

 

Tom Alter’s Top Ten

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American-Indian actor Tom Alter

Tom Alter, to some extent, must bear partial responsibility for the way my life has turned out.  This passion for Hindi film music, especially the voices of Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi, are as deeply embedded in my soul as that for Bob Dylan. This idea that somehow my destiny is to be a gora Hindustani. This pagalpan that time can be freeze-framed around 1971, and that this moment constitutes the golden era of Hindi cinema. My faltering attempts to recite the shairi of Ghalib with the same effortless fluency with which I heard Tom regale the ladies at a function 30 years ago in some historic Delhi churchyard.  (To read the entire article and hear Tom’s 10 Ten All Time Favourite Hindi Film songs)

Sunday Sounds: a new weekly feature

Dear readers and followers and friends,

I have mentioned from time to time that I write a weekly column on South Asian music for India’s award winning online newspaper Scroll.in. I’ve been doing this for over a year now and have developed a bit of a following, including among others Salman Rushdie and A.R. Rahman.

As the format is different from this blog, and always includes several videos, I’ve decided to post the article here on this blog every week as well.  So to get the ball rolling, here is this week’s feature. It is an interview with Indian jazz/rock/Carnatic guitarist Prasanna.

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http://scroll.in/article/731210/meet-prasanna-the-guitarist-ar-rahman-calls-a-living-hope-for-quality-music

Hope you enjoy it!

He’s a bloody good musician and fine person to boot!