Padmabhushan Nikhil Banerjee (1931-1986) was one of
the greatest sitarists of this century. His music earned deep
respect among India's classical music aficionados as well as gaining
him a devoted international following. He was the disciple of
the two greatest forces in 20th Century Indian classical instrumental
music, Padmavibhushan Allauddin Khan and his son Maestro Ali Akbar
Khan. Though he recorded many LPs, few were of live concerts,
in which his leisurely, majestic raga development was unsurpassed.
Mr. Banerjee disliked being recorded, feeling that the process
distracted and somewhat compromised the inner meditative quality
of his music, and high fidelity live recordings are rare.
To preserve his legacy and show the full scope of his musical vision, Raga Records is reproducing a series of live concert masters. This radio broadcast, by KPFA Berkeley, was made during one of Mr. Banerjee's earliest visits to the US, performing and teaching, sponsored by the American Society for Eastern Arts.
Pandit Mahapurush Misra (1931-1987), a disciple of Pandit Anokhelal, was renowned for the clarity and sweetness of his tabla solos and accompaniment. He has performed and recorded with many of India's foremost musicians.
Rag Chandrakaush belongs to the deep of the night. Closely related to Rag Malkaush, Chandra-kaush has a pentatonic structure, completely omitting the second and fifth notes of the scale, and using a flattened third, natural fourth and flat sixth. Its scale differs from Malkaush in using a natural seventh. Chandrakaush shares with Malkaush a mood of devotion and peace, with added elements of the romantic and the heroic. Ali Akbar Khansahib has said that there's also a feeling like that of a monkey that can't keep still. Indian classical instumental music is derived from vocal music, and the design of the sitar has evolved to allow it to mimic this age old style with a range extending over five octaves, with the musician playing notes that can slide through the best part of an octave by bending the string sideways. Sympathetic strings tuned to the notes of the raga being played ring out when those notes are struck on the playing strings. There are also many strings tuned to the tonic. This performance begins with the alap proper, a floating, freeform solo exploration of the tonal materials and structure of the raga, including one of Mr. Banerjee's signature kharaj sections, going into the lowest notes of the register. The jor (counter 11:50) begins with the introduction of a beat. From here on, the tempo steadily builds toward a
climactic jhalla (18:10).
Mr. Banerjee often played rag Khamaj after intermission at his concerts. After a short introductory alap, the tabla joins in, with a gat in rupak tal, a rhythm cycle in seven beats (2:43). During the sitar solos, Mahapurush keeps track of the tal by playing theka, a characteristic series of drum strokes that define the tal: "tin tin na, dhin na, dhin na;" with a flat sound from the bass drum for the first three beats, and a deep whoomp sound under the fourth and sixth beats. A fast gat in 16-beat tintal follows (23:26).
Mr. Banerjee recorded more than two dozen albums, on the Indian EMI label, and for Sonodisc in France, Harmonia Mundi and Chhanda Dhara in Germany, Amigo in Sweden, and for Capitol, Connoisseur Society and Musical Traditions in the US. Many of these recordings are available through the AACM Store (415 454-6264).
Released by arrangement with Mrs. Roma Banerjee and the Pacifica Foundation. Special thanks to Subrata Chowdhury; Ron Nierenberg (research), consultants Bob FitzSimons and Bob Bielecki, Charles Amirkhanian and David Mayers at KPFA, Bill Thomas and John Thompson at Pacifica Archives, and to National Video Industries for digital studio facilities. Recorded in KPFA's Studio B September 7, 1967 by George Craig and Wayne Wagner. As no further editing, mixing or equalization was necessary, the program remained in the digital domain after transfer from the original 15 ips masters. Cover photo taken in Mr. Banerjee's Calcutta music room in 1973 by Associate Producer Ira Landgarten. Produced by John Wilton.