TALAASH Purbayan Chatterjee is a sitarya - a sitar player with a signature playing style that is bedded in tradition. He is the product of generations of tradition carriers, having undergone an awakening in a particular style of musical interpretation and tutelage. That is how it ought to be. Furthermore, the way Purbayan Chatterjee plays is also how it should be, with him unfurling his own, progressively distinctive voice. An interwoven system of Artistic lineage is deeply engrained in Northern Indian life and culture. It is this principle, like the master-apprentice relationship in Europe's guilds and trades that was and still is applied readily to diverse activities such as sports, Ayurvedic medicine, sculpture or the transmission of musical skills. Purbayan Chatterjee in turn is demonstrating that he too has a great deal to hand on. He too has a personal vision bedded in a singular tradition. These unbroken lineages have enabled and permitted teachers to hand down knowledge, experience and skills of a passion and potency that have existed and been refined from teacher to pupil, from generation to generation. Depending on their faith, these gurus (teachers) are typically known as pandits or ustads, depending on whether these masters are, respectively, Hindu or Muslim. In Hindustani or Northern Indian musicology, the direct transmission of knowledge from teacher to pupil (shishya) is called guru-shishya parampara. In olden times this form of tuition was primarily, if not exclusively, an oral tradition. No matter how venerable a tradition is, little is immune to change or re-interpretation, for factors like literacy, magnetic tape and the microchip have all coloured how things are done in modern times. As an overriding principle however, the guru-shishya parampara permeates Northern Indian music. Purbayan Chatterjee's first guru in a musical or sitaristic sense was his father, Parthapratim Chatterjee, himself a shishya of Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and later Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. In the case of Ali Akbar Khansahib, the possibility of meeting a greater, more discerning musician-teacher is the stuff of improbability (if not delirium). For Purbayan Chatterjee to be welcomed to study in depth with such a maestro speaks volumes. Purbayan Chatterjee leans towards one particular gharana's style. Gharanas are Northern India's foremost system of regional and site-specific lineage systems. The root of gharana is 'house' or 'home'; by extension it means a school and style of playing. A bygone European analogy might be the various Flemish or Italian schools of painting that flourished, with skills of an aesthetic and a practical nature handed down from master to pupil. Back in those times before the satellite dish, compact disc and steam locomotive, any musician's artistic vision was determined by geographical isolation. Over the centuries the relative isolation led to styles that were as distinctive as the finest penmanship. Every flourish, every suspenseful pause, every rhythmic tension or exuberant dash reinforced the gharana's signature style, reminding everyone which gharana they were listening to. Purbayan Chatterjee belongs to the Senia gharana. It has produced some of the subcontinent's most celebrated sitar players or beenkars (derived from been or bÃ-n, a cousin word to vina or veena, a generic word for a stringed instrument) as sitar players are often known in the gharana. An alphabetical sprinkle of names such as Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Pandit Debu Chaudhuri, Ustad Illyas Khan, Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan, Pandit Rameshwar Pathak and Pandit Ravi Shankar gives a hint to the immortality of such music, especially now that in this technological age art can be retrieved and twirled for scrutiny over and over again like some faceted gem. When Purbayan Chatterjee plays a standard repertoire item like Puriya or the far rarer Malgunji, each rÃ£g (raag or raga) receives a 'very Senia' interpretation. How he plays is certainly to do with the application of refined melodicism. It also involves a variety of tempo and rhythmic solutions and the Senia gharana has long revelled intelling stories in melody that use laya (tempo) and tÃ£l (taal or tala, rhythm cycle) to supply added insights into each musical journey even when travelling down the same route, that is, rÃ£g. That is why his gÃ£ts in particular are such joys. The French, as is often the case, have a luminous word for it. In viniculture terroir, from terre (earth), is used to denote a specific place's soil or, by metaphorical extension, it's taste. A terroir's grapes can be said to be to wine what rÃ£gs are to a gharana's palette. Thus even the same variety of grape if planted in a different soil produces a subtly different fruit, harvest and finish. What is frequently overlooked is that terroir like rÃ£g is more to do with soul than soil, site or situation. That soul quality is what Purbayan Chatterjee establishes here so convincingly and authoritatively. Still, that is what forming a link in an unbroken chain of musical lineage is all about. In this performance recorded by probably the now most influential Indian classical producer Derek Roberts, the beauty of this music can be fully appreciated in all it's glory. Without such sonic clarity and consideration in recording and mastering it is difficult for the listener to fully appreciate the instruments and music and to feel a close connection with the musicians playing; it would be like trying to see a beautiful view through a dirty window. In this CD Purbayan is joined by the tabla maestro Subhankar Banerjee. At the age of five this musical prodigy placed under the tutelage of Shri Swapan Shiva, celebrated artiste and teacher of the Farukhabad tabla gharana. Since then he has been dedicating himself to the study of tabla, successfully absorbing material from maestros belonging to other gharanas and traditions of tabla playing. This deviation from the distinctive style of one gharana is not uncommon once a musician has learned thoroughly within a tradition and can bear very interesting fruit if the musician has strong roots.
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