Interview: Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya; The Santoor Maestro who Aims to Make Music a Way of Life for All

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya is one of India’s most celebrated Santoor players who has learnt under the tutelage of Pandit. Ravi Shankar and other legendary musicians. Pandit. Bhattacharya has to his credit over 100 albums of which the album Kirwani had also been nominated for Pre-Grammy. Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya along with his wife Guru Sanchita Bhattacharya who is an Odissi Dance exponent also runs the school Santoor Ashram where deserving musicians are given music lessons absolutely free of cost in the Paramparic Gurukul format. Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya along with Rotary International actively takes part in various Social activities thus spreading the message of peace and universal brotherhood with his soulful music. Pt. Bhattacharya in a candid chat with Sholoana Bangaliana shared some snippets from his extensive musical journey. Excerpts:

Sholoana Bangaliana: So let us start right with your formative years… You have learnt music from your father Pt. Rabi Bhattacharya, so can we say that music came in naturally as it was in the family… Also, even as a child did you only want to become a musician or were there other dreams that you wanted to pursue?

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: As my initiation into music was as early 3 years, so naturally Music became my dream and passion right from the beginning. I must say like any other child and being from a smaller town Howrah, I was attracted to nature and liked playing in the open fields and was a naughty child stealing fruits from other’s gardens, playing football in slushy monsoon fields, trying to avoid studies to the extent of being reprimanded by guardians. Over all it was a musical childhood in an ambience pervaded by musical notes at home and perhaps the seeds of being a musicians were germinated very early in my life.

Sholoana Bangaliana: Today young musicians do not practice as much and believe in taking shortcuts, as a young musician how many hours did you devote to practicing and listening to good music?

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya:I disagree with you on the first count. I believe those young musicians who are devoted to music take no short cuts and are equally zealous about their music and practice it as hard as we did in our younger days. In all generations we have had serious and non serious musicians and it hasn’t changed. In my younger days 8-9 hours were spent practicing music and we also followed with discussion about music with our masters/teachers. Also I believe listening to music of all forms is as important for the development of a musician. A good student must keep his/her ears open to good music from across the globe and all genres.

 Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya

Sholoana Bangaliana: As a musician what was your earliest achievement that might have strengthened your will to take up music as your profession too?

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: Performing first time on stage at function emboldened me to take music because it was much appreciated by the listeners.

Sholoana Bangaliana:You have learnt music under the tutelage of the legendary Pandit. Ravi Shankar.. Please share some snippets from your days with him that had the essential elements of the Guru Sishya Parampara..

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: Those days remain the magical days for me, I just did not learn the finer nuances of music and perfected my art of being a musician but also learnt so many facets of life. He not only nurtured and honed my skills as a musician but also tutored, mentored me the way I should present myself on stage, how I should deal with my organizers and also social etiquette and more. Of course his humor was an art in itself. Overall Guruji gave birth to Tarun Bhattacharya as a complete musician. Though I am still learning but surely he gave a new lease of life as a musician.

Sholoana Bangaliana:You have invented the ‘Mankas’ that helps in tuning the Santoor and have also improvised on the Santoor, what led you to these experimentations and inventions?

 Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: This was an invention out of necessity. A technical flaw in the instrument in Santoor did not allow it to glide at a lower octave and “mankas’ helped to attain this. Gliding at a lower octave helps the instrument to perform various musical notes and also increase its versatility. This also facilitates in the playing of Krintans, Ekharatans and Boltans broadening the utility of the Santoor in various traditional forms of musical artistry.  Today most of the modern day santoor artistes play with “mankas”

Sholoana Bangaliana: You have over 100 audio CDs to your credit, do you have a favorite that you enjoy listening to time and again?

 Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: Kirwani remains my all time favorite. This was also nominated for Pre Grammy.

Sholoana Bangaliana: You have a Music School called Santoor Ashram…..We would like to know about the guiding principle or thought that governs the modus operandi of this school… Also, how do you select your disciples and what kind of goal setting do you do for them?

 Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: I prefer to call my instrument ‘Shata Tantri Veena’, the original Vedic name. It is my   mission to realize my dream to revive the age-old Indian name of this  very traditional classical instrument, (reference of which has been found in the ‘Vedas’), instead of the derived Persian name.

I believe that   Indian    Classical     Music    is like    a therapeutic     (positive)     drug . The  early introduction of this ‘drug’ in  schools and colleges shall help in bringing forth and developing the sensibilities of  a young adolescent mind, making him/her more humane. I don’t  believe  in  making a musician out   of every   individual, but strongly believe  that   through  the   power of music, individuals   can   be   made compassionate, peace loving and of course musical. I believe in the continuance of legacy and rich heritage of the Indian classical music and in the Guru-Shishya parampara. To further the dream and belief I built Santoor Ashram, a traditional   ‘Gurukul’   in a   village   near  Calcutta. I dream that one day, quite soon, Indian    Classical    Music    will    be introduced at the grass root level, in schools and colleges too.

The Ashram provides them free stay and hospitality, instruments and of course music lessons thereby maintaining the purest form of Guru Shishya parampara. Santoor Ashram,     situated     amidst     the  tranquility   and   greenery of rural Bengal, has helped shape the careers of some of the recognized musicians of today. Despite financial constraints I try to develop and shape young, promising  classical  music careers continuing our rich musical heritage.

 Guru Sanchita Bhattacharya

 Sholoana Bangaliana: What other projects are you currently working on?

 Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: I am presently working on a project of 15 city tour of USA in March 2014. I have taken up a very noble mission of raising funds for Shankara Eye Foundation’s Vision 20/20 along with my wife Guru Sanchita Bhattacharya ( Odissi Dance Exponent) and hope to do justice to the cause. I am preparing for this hectic schedule. I am also working for a few film background scores and presently am in discussion with a few more.

Sholoana Bangaliana: Apart from music what else do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: Social work through Rotary International ( I am their ambassador for the Polio Campaign), watch television ( news and features), watch movies occasionally.

Sholoana Bangaliana: Kolkata will soon hear you in the concert Confluence 2014… Please tell us more about this concert; primarily what can the audience expect to hear from you on this musical evening?

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya: Am very excited to be part of Confluence 2014 featuring another musical stalwarts Pdt Vishwamohan Bhatt and Pdt Pravin Godkhindhi.

I shall perform a few traditional ragas, Folk and Bhajans.

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya will be playing the Shata Tantri Veena (Santoor) for the Music lovers of Kolkata accompanied by Pdt Prodyut Mukherjee on tabla followed by Pravin Godkhindi on flute with Pdt Shiv Shankar Roy in the Music Concert Confluence 2014 to be held at Children’s Little Theatre, ABAN MAHAL, Gariahat Road on February 7, 2014.

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