by Pandit Jyoti Goho
The famous North Indian Hindustani Classical Instrumental Harmonium exponent Pundit Jyoti Goho writes about his transformation from a singer to an accompanist. Pandit Jyoti Goho can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. His web-site is at www.jyotigoho.com. NOTE: You can Purchase audio music CDs featuring Pt Jyoti Goho: Click Here »
More than 3 decades ago I used to learn vocal music from Pandit A. Kanan. He was a very popular teacher and his Bakul Bagan home in south Kolkata, which was a regular haunt of many a famous musician. One day, when Guruji (teacher) had gone out for a break, I started playing the harmonium. He heard it from outside and must have recognized some potential, as he encouraged me to play the harmonium with him and since then I have had the good fortune of accompanying many a musician of eminence.
Raaga Kedar: Vocal - Ustad Rashid Khan, Tabla - Pandit Anandagopal Bandopadhyay, Harmonium - Pandit Jyoti Goho, Tanpura - Sangeeta Thakur and Tushar Dutta
Pandit Deb Kumar Banerjee, a solo harmonium player, often visited Guruji. One day Guruji requested him to guide me in harmonium playing, to which he readily agreed. The first time I visited him, he asked me to play for him. He was surprised to find that my tana patterns were reminiscent of his grandfather Shri Montu Banerjee, a disciple of Pandit Munneswar Dayal. I think this was a result of my repeated efforts at emulating great musicians. I have been mesmerized by the background music of the Bengali film Harmonium, in which Montubabu, Jnanbabu and others had played. Apart from all the alankars they used in their playing, there were wonderful sapat tanas that I was inspired to practice. In fact, I used to regularly practice tanas that covered the entire keyboard of the harmonium.
In the 70s and 80s, impromptu music sessions were the order of the day, though nowadays when musicians get together they tend to chat rather than sing! I remember when Pandit Bhimsen Joshi used to visit Kolkata, he would stay at Maharashtra Niwas which was quite close to Gurujis old residence. Whenever he was in town, he would visit Guruji and they would exchange ideas by singing together. One evening I remember accompanying Guruji when Joshiji walked in and sat down. Guruji gestured to him to join in. Initially, since it was the first time I was accompanying him, I was a little hesitant, but I soon relaxed and since then I have played several times with this great singer and every time he amazes me. I remember one evening at a house-concert, the host asked me to be there early to practice with Panditji. When I met him about an hour before the concert, I realised that he wasnt in a mood to practice anything. A friend of his, Bakulbhai, who had come with him from Mumbai, was also there. I asked him whether Panditji would practise a little before the actual concert. When he enquired Panditji said, What will I practise? I am getting ready for the concert. If you want to practise anything go ahead!
I remember several years ago, after a successful performance, the late Shrimati Malavika Kanan told me to be careful about what I was playing. You see, there are certain norms that need to be followed when accompanying someone. The creative leader is the soloist and the accompanist should follow the direction taken by the leader. It is really teamwork. If the accompanists aim is to get a thunderous applause, then it will detract from the main artistes performance and will veer away from giving support. Our classical music was never supposed to be applauded mid-performance. This is really a recent phenomenon. If one listens to old recordings, one will find that in most recordings the accompaniment can hardly be heard, and at no time does it surpass the main artistes performance. In some of Bhimsenjis recordings in which Eknath Thakurdas has accompanied him, the harmonium can be clearly heard, but it is accompaniment an extension of what has been sung. That is good sangat. When accompanying a vocalist, one has to follow the path already taken. Every performer has their own individual style. In fact, even if one accompanies the same person, he or she may be singing differently and the accompanist has to understand that immediately and change the accompaniment accordingly.
I am also deeply indebted to Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty. In the early part of my career as an accompanist, he guided me in several ways. One useful piece of advice was to make full use of the scale-changing harmonium by playing certain ragas in specific scales. There are so many performance techniques that I have learnt from all the musicians I have accompanied. In fact, every time I accompany a senior artiste, it is a learning experience. I also make it a point to attend concerts of other senior accompanists in the hope of imbibing some of their techniques. Nowadays accompanists are getting a great deal of importance. After all, if the artiste uses an accompanist, it must be because they will be able to contribute something. If the accompanist is making a contribution, then it seems justified to recognise his worth and respect him for it. However, the accompanist also has a responsibility. Just because I am being given some space, if I take advantage of it and try to show off, then naturally it will not be good for the overall performance. In Carnatic music there is a tradition of giving space to the accompanists the taniavartanam. No such tradition exists in Hindustani music, but it is being seen now. I suppose this proves that music is very alive and since change is a part of life, music is also changing!