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Tagore in symphony with Bach and Beethoven - in Germany

Kolkata, April 17 - He regaled masses at the Kolkata film fest inauguration last year and will Wednesday blend Tagore with masters such as Bach before highly discerning listeners at Germany's annual Munich Philharmonic Orchestra festival. But Indian conductor-violinist Abraham Mazumder sees little difference and believes 'the grammar of music is universal'.

Mazumder, who has studied at London's Trinity College of Music, says audiences of all classes are 'receptive to good music'.

East will meet west at the Munich fest when a 10-member ensemble of Mazumder's Kolkata Music Academy's (KMA) Chamber Orchestra teams up with musicians of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra to play Tagore's Rabindra Sangeet in orchestral format, blended with works of European classical masters.

The concert, titled Tagore in Symphony, has been scored, composed and directed by Mazumder - founder-principal of KMA (a non profitable organisation of European classical music) and former founding member of India's first rock band from Kolkata, Mohiner Ghoraguli, or Mohin's Horses.

'I am delighted and excited to share the new kind of music with the Germans and hope to bring them to India as well,' Mazumder, 52, told IANS in an interview.

Tagore's classics, including his last composition 'Oi Mahamanab Ashey', will be presented with preludes and interludes from symphonies of Handell, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven among others.

'Hints of Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi and Puccini can be found in Tagore's songs,' Mazumder says. This is why Rabindra Sangeet can be juxtaposed with European classicals.

Having excelled as a student of western classical music at the Oxford Mission in Kolkata under British cellist Father Mathieson and being an ace violinist, Mazumder brushes aside the exaggerated importance of his certificates in a gesture reminiscent of a conductor. 'They are to convince the listeners that I know something. We all know what we are inside.'

As a teacher, he believes it's important to start young in order to develop a strong foundation and better sense of music and explains why it should be made compulsory in schools.

'If you have a basic understanding then you can appreciate it more and most importantly music teaches you to share the wealth.'

In early 1976, Mohiner Ghoraguli (the name taken from the poem 'Ghora' by Jibananda Das), brought together Mazumder, Pradip Chattopadhyay, Tapesh Das, Tapas Banerjee, Ranjon Ghoshal and Bishu Chattopadhyay under the leadership of Gautam Chattopadhyay. The band created eclectic sounds like Baul Jazz - a blend of folk music of the wandering minstrels, or Bauls, with a hint of jazz.

Even though the group disbanded in 1981, songs like 'Prithibita Naki' known for their dynamic lyrics mirroring society, have attained cult status through the decades because, as Mazumder says, 'I think we belonged to that school of thought which tried to understand the problems that people faced. All of us came together and struggled in different ways and created something different in harmony.'

The Munich festival will also showcase Indian folk rock, where the hits by Mohiner Ghoraguli like 'Hey Bhalobasi' will be arranged in an orchestral format, in a joint effort between KMA and the Odeon Youth Symphony.

The KMA, established in 1983 by Mazumder, tries to disseminate grammar of Western classical music among underprivileged kids too.

KMA has mentored around 120 students who perform in its orchestra, wowing celebrities like Sharmila Tagore and Shah Rukh Khan at the inauguration of the 17th Kolkata Film Festival last year.

The director agrees that organising music festivals would do a lot to spread Western classical music in India beyond its niche audience.

As Mazumder says, 'The language of music is universal and we are trying to preach harmony through Western classical music. The door is open to everyone'.

Mazumder's baton is ever ready to lead on any musical army.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at sahana15ghosh@gmail.com)


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