Sounak Chattopadhyay in Toronto: Interview

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[Sounak at the National Mall, Washington DC]Washington, DC, May 4, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Sounak Chattopadhyay, one of the brightest shining stars of the young generation of contemporary Indian Classical vocal artists who is also known for his sterling presentation of Rabindra Sangeet, was recently in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to perform at the Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School on St.Andrews Blvd. Arijit Chakraborty caught up with Sounak in Toronto in this wonderful chit-chat with the young maestro, a performance of special significance to Sounak because he is himself an alumnus of the famous Don Bosco school of Kolkata at Park Circus.

Sounak started taking lessons in music around the same time he started going to Don Bosco school as a first grade student. When Sounak was barely eight years old, he was accepted as a student by the great Kirana Gharana maestros and brothers Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khansahab and Ustad Mubarak Ali Khansahab. You will hear Sounak talk in his modest way about receiving the spectacular and humbling honor of being chosen into Shahgirdi by his gurus, a spiritual initiation which, in the timeless tradition of Indian Classical music, is reserved for the best of students. Sounak describes the event as a great personal milestone, especially because he is not a direct member of the Gharana - he also tells us what the word "Shahgird" really means - someone who is inside the inner circle of the Shah, i.e. the Guru. Sounak continues to be a disciple of the Khansahab brothers for over two decades now.

As Sounak grew up (with a string of remarkable achievements like winning a National Scholarship), he also became interested in Rabindra Sangeet, learning the art of singing Tagore's compositions from Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta and later from Pramita Mullick. Sounak expresses gratitude for being fortunate in getting the opportunity of learning from remarkable singers and teachers, including from the greatest exponents of the Kirana Gharana and Rabindra Sangeet.

Sounak touches upon the challenges and joys of performing abroad - challenges because, as a vocalist, his instrument being part of his body is always subject to the ill effects of traveling half the way world away, and joys because the spontaneous audience reactions and applause which he feels only expatriates can give him given the rare opportunity of watching artists from India perform live.

In a very thoughtful way, Sounak speaks to us about the differences and similarities between the two genres Classical and Rabindrasangeet. Besides the obvious differences in the styles of presentation, Sounak points out that the fundamental philosophies behind the compositions are different. Classical is more oriented towards the musical notes whereas Rabindrasangeet lyrics define the song as well as the music. A Classical performance depends on improvisation, while Rabindra Sangeet is freer in form.

Do not miss a small surprise giving us a glimpse of Sounak's brilliance slightly after 15 minutes into this audio interview.