Every progressive stride
springs from a dream. The Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) was the
awakening of a vision a renaissance of Hindustani classical
music. For centuries legendary exponent like Ustad Alladdin Khan and
Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Kha, not to mention Emperor Akbars
unforgettable court singer, Tansen, were all nourished by regal
patrons who themselves connoisseurs of this ancient sangeet
In the 20th
century the Indian princely states were short of their luster.
Classical musicians and vocalists stepped out of their cloisters to
perform in public concerts for a livelihood. The repertoire of
Indian classical music was now available to the masses. A tragic
fallout of this sea change in the scenario of Hindustani music was
the gradual decay of an illumined performing art form. In the 1970s
the ITC Limited, a Kolkata based tobacco conglomerate laid the
foundations of an Indian classical music training centre. It was
designed on the traditional system of the guru-shishya parampara
(master and pupil tradition). This centre specializes in the vocal
medium which even the maestros acknowledge is the direct
manifestation of the soul.
It is surprising that
Kolkata was chosen as the home of this Academy when there are many
cities in the country which boast of a long tradition of musical
talent. Of course one reason that is cited is that Kolkata brims
with talented enthusiasts. This can be judged from a comparative
look at the number of music conferences held annually Delhi
25, Bombay 6, and Kolkata nearly 200.
Gifted scholars and
renowned gurus were invited to join the faculty. The beginnings were
encouraging. Soon the Academy acquired five more buildings within
the boundaries of the 10-acre sylvan complex. The masters and their
pupils are housed in comfort. The fare served at the lunch table is
What is pleasantly
inconspicuous (at this conservatoire) is a premeditated framework
which cramps the masters and their disciples. Knowledge of music
permeates unshackled, evocative of the centuries-old guru-shishya
parampara spirit. A team of professionals reviews a rendition by
anyone student and grades his attainment. The pincer-like probes can
be unsettling on occasions but these brainstorming gatherings end up
drawing the element out of a scholar. Interestingly, a free-for-all
Wednesday evening concert is thrown open to man-on-the-street music
Blended into SRAs
untiring hunt for the obscure traces of classicism are its academic,
empirical and scientific research process. The origin and
development of age-old compositional forms encompassing the
Prabandha, Dhrupad, Khayal,
Thumri, and Tappa are delved into.
Concentrated studies pry out data relating to existing sub-traditions
which are then skillfully rationalized and documented.
Treasured in Sras
archives are rare recordings of this centurys Indian classical
wizards. Moving to the specifically science-oriented areas one comes
across an audiometric facility which employs state-of-the-art gadgets
like the Spectrum Analyser and a Digital Sono-graph. Working to
perfect music training standards these equipments electronically
thread through the timbre and melodic movements of an array of vocal
pieces and musical instruments sifting aside distortions which have
crept in down the ages.
In the years since its
establishment the SRA has acquired a credible reputation. During the
winter concert last year, over 100 of the cream of Indian classical
performers came to Kolkata.
With the passing away of
stalwarts like Latafat Hussain Khan and Ishtiaq Hussain Khan the
guruku mantle is destined to pass over to the shishyas.
The SRA experiment is unique and one hopes that the Academy will be
able to revive the buried nuances of Hindustani classical music.