I had never heard of the Behala festival. The Kolkata blind school in Behala has this festival every year; this was its fourth year by the time I got to learn about it. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan was the artist of the fourth and ending grand gala session. For a long time, I have not listened to Ustad Amjad Ali Khan play in this mood as Kolkata listeners, all in hoodies, eagerly waited for his recital ignoring the chill of the 9th January night. The entire festival was dedicated to the memory of Ustad Ravi Sankar. The artist paid tribute to Ravi Sankar and mentioned a performance in California, USA where he was invited by Ravi Sankar for his birthday. There he had played two pieces and he played them again in his memory. I missed the name of the first raga, but it was a vandana to the setting sun. The second piece was his own discovery a raga based on Kalyan that. Then came a beautiful piece in rag Jayjawanti and followed by a drut lay in Rageshree. It made my Kolkata trip worthwhile.
I was attending the Jodhpur Park festival held in South Kolkata and for the second year it was being held for ten days' in a row. This year, one day had been dedicated solely to Bangladeshi artists, which included Akhi Alamgir, Bhagirothi Malo, Ayub Bachchu and humble self for 8th January. The inaugural session was attended by Rezwana Choudhury Bannya and ending on tenth January by Showpnil Shobuj who also coordinated the Bangladesh part. The program started with a reception to the Bangladesh participants along with honouring them with Annanya award, given out by eminent poet, novelist, resident of Jodhpur Park area Sheershendu Mukhopadhay, followed by songs by Lalon singer from Faridpur Bhagirothi Malo, myself, Akhi and Ayub Bachchu, it was a win-win evening.
Again, on 25th January, the Michael Madhushudan Academy, brainchild of Dr. Bidhan Dutta, a renowned scholar writer on Madhusudan, was held in the Darbhanga Hall of Calcutta University. This year, it was adorned by three Bangladeshi participants. Rummana Chowdhury, eminent writer and recipient of Michael Award in 2014, myself (recipient in 2017) and Sharmini Abbasi (recipient in 2018), it was quite a feat from the Bangladesh side. Matching Indians in writing, singing, batting, bowling; was all in good humour. Rummana's new book titled Modhukobi je pothey hete jay was inaugurated by the Registrar of Calcutta University, Prof Rajagopal Dhar Chowdhury, followed by a receipt of the Michael Madhushudan Award of the writer Sharmini Abbasi and one for me for my musical attainments. The entire hall was adorned by pictures of great scholars, Professors and those who were VCs. The pictures were in multicolour, if maintained, could have been compared to those hanging in the walls of the Louvre Museum. It was an eerie feeling, sitting there, feeling the presence of my grandfather who mentions singing in Calcutta University!
From this event, I rushed to attend the Dover Lane festival in Nazrul Mancha, caught only the tail end of the famous bhajan Bhavani Dayani Mahavakya Bani by the songstress Parveen Sultana. I first heard this song in the late 70s when former Indian HC Mr. Muchkund Dubey was posted to Bangladesh. He had gifted two long playing records to my father; one of Pandit Jasraj (Rag Sudh Nat) and Perveen Sultana. After this rendition there was an unusual presentation by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and his student. After the raga ended, he referred to the Indian Republic Day and played Bande Mataram in his Mohan Veena, which was a unique rendition and caught the emotional upheaval of the Indian citizens and all present as they embarked upon a new dawn marking the start of another Republic Day. This was the 66th Dover Lane Festival and 71st Republic Day! The end was marked by the 87 year old Pandit Jasraj. The audience was spellbound as he walked to the stage in off white kurta and dhoti (with red border), the whole presence lighting up the audience who stood up in salutation. Atma and parmatma joined together said Panditji and sang his Raga Lalit inviting the new sun. As he ended with his famous Kali bhajan Mata Kali ka… the whole dome reverberated with his tune, jay was the only word which echoed on my mind. New year, new beginning and words of Nazrul (also a Kali fan) Joy hoke joy hoke shantir joy hoke, was all I could hope for (Let peace prevail).
Nashid Kamal is an Academic, Nazrul exponent and translator.