North Indian Classical Instrumental Harmonium Player AUROBINDA RAY and Vocalist ARUNIMA DUTTA


Video: Arunima Dutta and Aurabinda Roy

Aurobinda Ray and Arunima DuttaKolkata, April 29, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) At her Belgharia residence in Kolkata, Arunima Datta greeted us to an endearing world. Next to her sat her guru Shri Aurobinda Roy, visibly struck by the presence of intruders in the music room. But the dynamics between them was frank and candid and we got excited at what was to unfold in the next few hours of our soiree.

Arunima clearly maintains to this day that she was fortunate to find in Shri Aurobinda Ray the traits she wished for in a guru. In fact, working as a school teacher, she accidentally met him at the staff room, explaining tabla beats to a group. She was struck by the profundity of his knowledge and immediately decided to know more about him. After continuing her persuasion for more than two years, she was finally accepted under his aegis. Soon she discovered the many sides to her guru and his large range of musical interests ranging from bhajan, khayal and folk-songs to his dexterity with several musical instruments including the tabla and harmonium. Though she was always inclined to music from a very early age, she was not content with the quality of her music lessons and longed for a guru. Under the taleem of Shri Aurobinda Ray, she was not only trained as a vocalist but was also inspired to learn the harmonium. Arunima maintains that the meeting with her guru, who is now almost like a member of her family, was destined to be a turning-point in her music career.

Shri Aurobinda Ray, till now the subject of his disciple’s speech, had by then released his stiffness and warmed himself to us. He began speaking about his early childhood and the memories of watching his father, Shri Salil Ray sing while playing the harmonium. He recollects his attraction for the instrument but being scared of his father, was unable to disclose his fondness to him. However, he used to curiously listen to the musical gatherings at his place and developed a deep interest for the tunes of the harmonium. In 1977, he had the rare fortune to witness a live performance of the ace harmonium player Pt. Sohanlal Sharma. Almost at once, he was irresistibly drawn and decided to pursue him as his guru. After several rejections and difficulties had been overcome, he was finally accepted under the guru’s tutelage on the 5th of January, 1978. The guru duly emphasized the long-standing tradition of the master-disciple relationship and maintained that the bond had to deepen over the years.

Shri Aurobinda Ray has performed at several places across Bengal but usually prefers to perform in various religious institutions, especially the Ramkrishna Math. To add range to his repertoire, he often sings the bhajans of Meerabai, Surdas or Tulsidas in different ragas depending on the response of his audience. For Anup (as he is affectionately called), music is a means of a direct communion with the almighty. Being a devotee of ‘Ma Saraswati’, he seeks her blessings before he begins to play. And the notes that flow out are fitting eruptions of that pure devotion.