Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ranadhir Ray

My rendezvous with Instrumental Hindustani music has been recent. But proximity with many instrumentalists since childhood, presence of eminent sitar, sarod and sarangi players in the multiple concerts I used to visit during the winter months in Calcutta and the radio broadcasts that Baba used to listen to everyday marked my vocal music dominated world with a few exceptions. I did not like to listen to Classical music like most other kids of my generation. But a few incidents that I am not conscious about transformed my perspective towards Indian music as time passed by.

Today when I try to bring back those distant memories, I am confident about one evening that stands out clearly as one of those few incidents that laid bare the sheer beauty Indian Music possesses. It was a recital of Raga Sindhura by Ranadhir Ray, a musical genius forgotten not only by the multitude but also by the music community.

Pt. Ray used to play a near extinct instrument called Esraj, whose origin can be traced back to more than two centuries. In the north of India, this instrument is popular as the Dilruba, Esraj being a more accepted name in the east. Esraj had its high time when Rabindranath Tagore chose it as accompaniment for his songs. This situation arose out of the India liberation movement when it became very unpopular to use anything that was of Western influence. Santiniketan, his highly evolved artist community, could still be called the home of the Esraj.Ashesh Bandhopadhyay, an Esraj player from Vishnupur, was invited by Tagore to live and teach in Santiniketan. Ranadhir Ray was a disciple of Pt. Bandopadhyay and started experimenting with the instrument by building a bigger body, adding another bridge and succeeding in adding volume and a stronger presence. Thus, an intrument solely used for accompaniment was transformed into a solo one.

Personally, I feel that this instrument has more appeal than Sarangi, whose sound is closest to the Esraj. Esraj's sound makes me more desolate, shades of similar emotions seem to be expressed more than any other medium. The very very few Ragas that I have heard on this instrument have been their best portrayals. Ragas Miyan Ki Todi, Tilak Kalyan, Sindhura, Sindhu Gandhar, Jaijaiwanti, Bihag and Jaunpuri. I have been fortunate enough to listen to the Jaunpuri by Pt Ashesh Bandopadhyay himself, who's recorded only a couple of discs.

The Jaijaiwanti haunts me quite often. I haven't heard explorations of the Raga the way Ray has portrayed it. It was recorded in 1988 just before he passed away from a heart attack at the age of 45. Other than my not being able to listen to Pt. Mansur live, not receiving an opportunity of being a part of his audience is perhaps an equivalent loss.


Rangakrishnan Srinivasan said...

DD: wow!!! wonderful.. loved this post. I must admit that I never knew abt Ranadhir Ray... just drives the point home.. there is so much to learn, assimilate, understand, appreciate... and what not.

a good beginning to this concept...

DD said...

thank you. ranadhir ray is mostly forgotten. i am trying to get all the recordings in a digitized form very soon.

please listen to the tilak kalyan piece whose link i have provided in the post.