Pabitra Chattopadhyay is a prominent sitar player, music educator and composer of the contemporary generation of Indian Classical musicians. He initially learnt how to play the sitar from his father Sri Probir Chottopadhyay and Sri Swapan Kumar Das. Later he mastered the instrument under the guidance of Pandit Late Dipak Choudhury (disciple of Pt. Ravishankar). At present Pabitra, an A-grade artiste of All India Radio is under the tutelage of Pandit Deboprasad Chakraborty (disciple of Pt. Ajoy Sinha Roy). Both Pt. Choudhury and Pt. Chakraborty are torchbearers of the great Maaihar Gharana.
Besides performing at a range of distinguished venues globally, Pabitra, founder member of NBCAF (North Bengal Classical Artistes Forum) aims to provide a platform for emerging artistes. Kaushik Chattapadhyay spoke to him on behalf of BE.
What is your opinion about the importance of the technical flair of an artiste for instrumental music?
Indian classical music often referred to as improvisation, goes far beyond mere spontaneous creation of musical thoughts and experiments. The player must grasp the fundamental qualities of the raga (tune) using certain guidelines and intricacies, reinterpreting the essence of the material into their own. That is why two different artistes will execute two completely different versions of the same raga while performing. Such liberty insures that the personality and skill of the player will always be at the forefront of a performance.
In what way you can contribute to society?
I feel that the love for our own culture is diminishing. It would be wrong to say that our present generation is totally diverted from our traditional culture, but then, many of them are. People are more comfortable with foreign languages and their cultures leaving behind their colloquial languages. We should be proud to be born in such a culturally rich land. It is always my aim to inculcate the importance of our cultural existence and pass on whatever little knowledge I have gained. This cultural crisis is threatening many art forms and may result in their extinction. I must thank every Indian-art enthusiast and artistes for keeping our tradition and culture alive and moving it forward.
I have been involved in playing a critical role in promoting classical music over the last 15 years throughout the country. Being a professional my primary focus has been to create unique compositions, hosting collaborations with talented musicians. I have been successfully working towards bridging cultural boundaries both through my original music as well as through service to various cultural events, workshops and talent hunt programmes of NBCAF. I dream of using my art form as music therapy in teaching various students suffering from cognitive or learning disabilities and help them to get integrated with mainstream society.
Tell us about your upcoming projects.
I am planning to collaborate with a few renowned musicians and selected, talented young musicians to form a fusion ensemble. I am pushing hard to provide a platform for the young generation through our organisation. Other than the materialistic view, I first want to mention the twelve notes, which are my companions for my entire life. I have been brought up with them. I cherish this gift and always feel gratitude for having the power. I do not take it for granted and understand the need to nurture and maintain this gift with proper awareness. This has helped me to create my own perspective and identity as a performer as well as a coordinator. I have a spirit to share in both areas of my professional life and this act of sharing brings me a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day.
Do you think Indian Classical Music is on the decline nowadays?
In fact technological advancements are helping performers a lot but its flip side is that the beginners are totally misled by the so called net-Gurus. Politics were always synonymous with malpractices in creative arts from the early days, it’s nothing new. I believe in just one thing: truth prevails- no matter what. The stage is one place which actually bares the real persona of the artiste. The genuine ones stand apart. The audience belongs to no colour. That is why we still admire Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Aamir Khan, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and several legends.
There are more events of classical music nowadays but the values of yore are on the wane and that is dangerous......