In the fifth edition of our series on streets and gardens named after Hindustani musicians or institutions, I have chosen to revisit a chowk or junction with which I have had a long association. In fact, I was present at the naming ceremony too.
This junction located in the Juhu Vile Parle Scheme in Mumbai is named after Sangit Mahabharati, a teaching institution for music and dance set up by my guru and eminent tabla maestro, composer and music educationist Nikhil Ghosh.
Originally, the school was called Arun Sangeetalaya when it was run at his former residence in Khar and at another space in the same vicinity. But it was later changed to Sangit Mahabharati. The naming ceremony was done at the hands of scholar-musician BR Deodhar, whose name adorns a chowk in the southern part of the city.
Over the decades, Sangit Mahabharati has imparted instruction to scores of students according to a syllabus designed by the founder. It has also been a venue for periodic concerts featuring noteworthy musicians. Importantly, in 2011, the Oxford University Press published The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India, a project that was initiated by Sangit Mahabharati under the helm of Nikhil Ghosh as chief editor and completed after years of arduous labour undertaken by its executive editor and sociologist S Devadas Pillai.
Several years prior to this publication, Ghosh had authored a book entitled Fundamentals of Raga and Tala with a New System of Notation, through which he laid out a new notational system for Hindustani music.
Although he immersed himself in activities related to the music school, Nikhil Ghosh was regarded as a repository of traditional tabla compositions from the Delhi, Ajrada, Lucknow, Farrukhabad, and Punjab gharanas, which he had inherited from his three gurus, Gyan Prakash Ghosh, Amir Hussain Khan and Ahmed Jan Thirakwa. Here is a link to a recording that features him as a soloist. He explores the 16-matra Teentaal. Sarangi accompaniment is provided by his son Dhruba Ghosh.
The next video recording was made during a concert held at Sangit Mahabharati. He plays a tabla solo in Teentaal and is accompanied on sarangi by Dhruba Ghosh.
Nikhil Ghosh had also provided tabla accompaniment to numerous artists. On the next track, he accompanies his elder brother Pannalal Ghosh, who is credited with having popularised the bansuri as a solo instrument in Hindustani music. The madhya laya or medium tempo composition set to Teentaal on this recording is in Vrindavani Sarang, a raag prescribed for the afternoon.
Nikhil Ghosh was also a trained vocalist and had a brief stint as an assistant music director for Hindi feature films. He had even composed songs for non-film commercial recordings like the one shared here. It is sung by Geeta Dutt and the lyricist is Bharat Vyas.
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.