More recently, Kiwi Indians have had a bonanza of Indian performing artistes
coming their way. While most of these have been performers of more popular fare
of the mass appeal Bollywood variety, there have been a few of the refined classical
One such was the father-son sitarist duo of celebrated veteran Pandit Debu
Chaudhuri and his enormously talented son Prateek, who performed at the
Auckland Town Hall on March 24.
The concert began with Prateek’s performance, which, as well as being immensely
entertaining, proved to be a most effective Hindustani Classical Music 101 lecture
one could ever hope for.
The appreciation of classical music has a lot to do with nurture and long term
exposure besides discussions and interactions with those in the know about its
various nuances. While many may have a ear for classical music, the richness of its
experience necessarily comes when the novice listener is familiarised with the finer
points during a performance by the performers themselves. And that’s what Prateek
Chaudhury did with great elan.
Beginning the concert with raga Yaman Kalyan, he went on to explain every stage
of its exploration in the classical style, the intricacies of taal cycles, arriving at the
sam with the table player every time, the creativity and individual stamp an artiste
puts on each extempore improvisation and many finer aspects to help increase the
listener’s appreciation of the artiste’s offering.
He did this with great aplomb and with perfect teamwork with his veteran tabla
accompanist Pandit Anup Ghosh. In the course of expounding on the Yaman, he
brought in passages from popular Hindi film songs based on the raga, which most
listeners would be able to identify, establishing the link between the raga and the
He also regaled listeners with the entire gamut of improvisations – from rhythmless
alaps, slow jod, jhala, gat and fast drut, interspersing the rendition with sawaal-
jawabs with the tabla and superbly intricate triple tihayees.
Prateek is an associate professor of music at Delhi University and it was evident
from his lec-dem style presentation that he is as gifted as a teacher as he is as a
performer. His presentation at the concert would have gone a long way in enhancing
the appreciation of Hindustani classical music for several listeners.
Next to perform was Dr Chintamani Rath with his violin. Dr Rath, who lives in
Tauranga, is plays both Hindustani and Western classical music and has performed
for audiences worldwide, including for the late Pope John Paul II. He first played
raga Hindoli and then a Bengali folk song, the lyrics of which he recited and
translated for the audience.
The senior violinist had never ever performed – not even so much as practised –
with Pandit Ghosh but both artiste and accompanist were on the spot when it came
to anticipating each other. “That’s how it always is in Hindustani classical music,”
the erudite Dr Rath said to the audience at the end of his presentation. It is not often
that one gets to listen to a Hindustani classical performance on violin in this part of
the world. We could certainly hear more of this great local talent.
Last to take to the stage was the father son duo of Pandit Debu Chaudhury and
Prateek. Panditji is among India’s foremost sitar exponents, a respected Guru
and teacher, a composer of numerous symphonies, has created eight new ragas,
authored three books and won numerous awards and honours, both national and
Panditji began with a slow exposition of raga Jhinjhoti with a rich, extended alap,
the slowness of pace offering a decided contrast to Prateek’s faster offering in his
inaugural Yaman. Clearly, his style of presentation, especially in the early stages,
was for the mature listener. He rounded off his first piece with raga Bihag in a faster
tempo ably aided by Prateek. The two sitarists and the tabaliya provided a feast of
rhythmic calisthenics toward the end of the piece.
The concert concluded with Panditji and Prateek playing a couple of Bengali folk
tunes followed by a Hindi film song at the insistence of some in the audience.
Undoubtedly, it was one of the more memorable Hindustani classical concerts heard
in Auckland in recent times.
Auckland visit a walk down memory lane for Panditji
For Pandit Debu Chaudhuri, his Auckland visit was a walk down memory lane,
catching up with old friends. He met up with former longtime Times of India music
critic Mohan Nadkarni, now 90, during his stay in the city. The veteran writer
had reviewed Panditji’s first Mumbai concert in the newspaper in the 1960s and
predicted that he would emerge as one of the instrument’s top exponents. It was
also an opportunity for Panditji to catch up with an old neighbour from Mumbai,
again back from the 1960s and 1970s – Indian Weekender publisher Giri Gupta,
with whose family Panditji and his entourage shared a meal.