The UK has witnessed the first Raaga Gharana Festival, this year, during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Arranged by SurBandhan, an organisation focusing on Indian classical music and founded in 2011, has been running the successful Raaga Festival in London since 2017.
This year the incorporation of the Gharana Festival and Maestros of Bengal Festival was described as a beautiful journey by viewers and has received the warmest applaud from audiences and world-class exponents of Indian classical music alike. Pandit Satyasheel Despande, disciple of Pandit Kumar Gandharwa, has praised the organisation for authentic information and performances. Deshpande, a classical music artist, has also occasionally sung for Bollywood films. A favourite by many would be “Joothe Naina Bole” in Lekin… (1991).
Ustad Salauddin Ahmed, a leading authority of Kazi Nazrul Islam has commended the work on Kazi Nazrul Islam in the Maestros of Bengal section.
It all began on the 5th of December 2020 when outstanding maestros, disciples and exponents of direct lineage of various gharanas performed vocally on instruments and with dance on the SurBandhan Facebook page and YouTube.
With beautiful descriptions and demonstrations of gharana, explanations of history of Dhrupad, Khayal, Instruments and Dance, the festival was a complete music lovers paradise that lasted for two and a half months before it had to wrap up on 20th February 2021.
Phenomenal artists and exponents of gharanas included: Ustad Salauddin Ahmed and Sanhita Nandi of Kirana gharana, Pandit Indrajeet Banerjee of Senia Maihar gharana & Pandit Goursihankar of Delhi, Lucknow and Punjab tabla, Pandit Omkar Dadarkar of the Gwalior gharana and Vidushi Alif Laila of the Senia Maihar gharana, Pandit Sanju Sahai, torchbearer of the Benares table gharana, Vidushi Jaiymini Sahai of the Lucknow thumri dance gharana, Satyasheel Deshpande, son of Pandit Vamanrao Deshpande, author of A study of the Aesthetics of Hindustani music and Ustad Shauqat Hussain Khan of the direct lineage of the illuminary Agra gharana.
It was the first time ever that a gharana festival was held in the UK, which created curiosity and discussions and was delivered to audiences of over 150,000, featuring educational and entertaining content. With an abundance of performances of the highest quality, all made free of charge due to the pandemic was a treat for music lovers everywhere. Recordings can all be found on the SurBandhan Facebook page and dedicated website.
Maestros of Bengal: Kazi Nazrul Islam
The Maestros of Bengal section covered the development of Bengali music. The incorporation of Indian classical music was also explored. This year, Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Khayal Thumri and raag-based works were demonstrated by world-class exponents of Nazrul sangeet, both vocally and on sitar.
Piya Mayenin, co-founder, chair and artistic director of SurBandhan explains that Kazi Nazrul Islam took Bangla music further by fully incorporating the Hindustani classical base, which is why his works have become so celebrated. Shahadat Hussain Masum, co-founder of SurBandhan, states that Surbandhan is not considered an organisation but rather a movement designed to spread classical and raag-based music amongst the different communities in the UK.
The leaders of the organisation, Piya and Masum, are both students of Indian classical music. Having learned from various teachers, they are passionate to share what they have learned. Piya, a full-time solicitor has had her heart in music for many years. Raised entirely in the UK, she learned from the late Ustad Haridas Ganguly, as well as Ustad Fida Hussain Khan and Ustad Mahmudur Rahman Benu, and is still learning with Vidushi Sajali Roy of the Bharati Vidhya Bhavan in the UK where she achieved a first-class diploma in Bengali music and continues to study. She says every one of her teachers has impacted and inspired her, but it was Mahmudur Rahman Benu who gave her the realisation and instilled the confidence in her so that she could play a part in contributing to the world of music.
Masum is a student of Mahmudur Rahman Benu having learned from various teachers in Bangladesh previously.
Surbandhan continues its work to shape the future of classical music in UK and across the world as it vows to continue the Raaga Gharana and Maestros of Bengal Festival as a signature annual program to continue their journey of exploring the complexity, depth, and beauty of Indian classical music. Readers can visit their website for news and dates for further events.