Book Review: Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty

India’s rich tapestry of musical legacy is truly astounding. When the mosaic of classical musical traditions interweave with mellifluous voice, it creates a divine magic. The country has had a tradition of producing musical exponents that went on to make a mark both nationally and globally. Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty is one such maestro.

The book by the same name is a homage to his rich contributions to the field. His life journey and glimpse into the persona are vividly captured. The book sensitively explores his early life, initiation into music, the role of his gurujis, his emergence as a classical singer of note, collaborations with other leading musicians, stewardship of his family legacy and the founding of Shrutinandan — an institution for imparting training in classical music to young learners. The books narrative flows through the melody of the artists life, illuminating its key moments and inspirations.

The book has several archival images of the artist and several anecdotes of his performance and tours, making the biography a delightful read. This gives the reader both context and provides a slice of life of the artist. The book foreword is written by Gulzar and he notes, “I know Ajoy-da, but I know him much more after reading his biography now...he has emerged from such a tough life...I have learnt much more about life after reading his life story, which I would have missed.”

The book talks about the institution he created and the unique system of music education that is imparted. It follows a scientific approach that is not restricted to any gharana or to any particular form of music. Voice training and voice culture and how a student should develop his or her voice as a voice that is his or her signature. The relationship between lyrics, literature and music, understanding the spirituality of music, the larger purpose of practising music and the values embedded in the ancient Sanskrit scriptures, especially the Vedas and the Upanishads.

“We talk of training the mind to bring it under control. We talk of training the body to make it respond better to a variety of situations. We talk of training our hands so that they can do what we want them to do, drawing or sculpting, for example. But we rarely talk about training the voice. We only talk of “learning to sing”. The institution run by the artist believes that people are missing a step here. Most music classes in homes, schools, and more formal or more advanced vocal music training institutions only focus on tuning the voice and the best possible replication of a phrase or a set of phrases that we call a composition or a song. Vocal music training in the Shrutinandan way, involves crafting the voice in such a manner that it responds to the commands of the singer and moves in the way that he or she wants it to”, the book points out.

For all the musically inclined readers, this book is a worth a read to appreciate the rich Indian classical music traditions and one of its foremost performers whose humility, diligence, scholarship and musical prowess has taken his musical mission to greatest heights.

- Book: Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty: Seeker of the music within

- Author: David Lagercrantz

- Translator: Shyam Banerji

- Publisher: Niyogi Books

- Pages: 232; Price: Rs 1500