'Let's get on with music': Remembering Panchamda
Since 4th Jan 1994, RD Burman has been re-born 18 times. On 27th June 2012, he arrives yet again.
New Delhi: Baro mash tero parbon... this common Bengali phrase refers to the essence perennial celebration. The first harvest, the blossoming of spring, the invasion of summers, the norwesters , the spray of monsoon , the onset of autumn, the gentle fading of autumn into winter, .... the festivals are spread across all 12 months seemingly to provide the break in routine every 2-3 months.
And then there are those 'outlier' months where festivals come in a heap. Durga Puja is followed by Lakshmi Puja and then by Kali Puja, cumulatively accounting for a month's break from work. In the last 10-15 years greeting card companies have been ingenious in marketing excuses of various categories of 'days'. And, one way or other, they all fall on Sundays.
Not surprisingly, music itself is celebrated on certain days in various parts of the globe e.g. the Sonar festival in Spain, The Fuji rock festival in Japan, Melt Festival in Germany and Lollapalooza in Santiago, Chile. There is also the Fete de la Music (celebration of music) that started in France in 1982. It was adopted by UNESCO 10 years later as the World Music Day to be celebrated on 21st June.
In Paris, in and around the streets and open spaces in Luxembourg Gardens, Quartier Latin, Boulevard St. Michael, Champ Elysees, the crowd would gather at any of the 50 odd cafes to watch professional and semi-professional rock bands and classical players perform in abandon celebration. Likewise at Tokyo Harbour, Osaka, Vancouver the World Music Day rings in carnival time.
In India too, we have music celebrations as a part of Poush Mela in Shantiniketan during Poush mash (early January, and there are also events like the Thyagaraja aradhana at Tiruvaiyyar, Tamil Nadu on the anniversary of the Carnatic composer Thyagaraja, and the Independence Rock in Mumbai, and the Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata. Mercifully these events are not talent hunts. These are shrines where devotees of music pay their obeisance to its universality.
In the last decade or so, two dates have graduated to the 'red lettered' status on the calendar almost without any deliberate effort. These are 27th June and 4th Jan. The former is the birth anniversary of RD Burman (Pancham) and the latter, his re-birth into immortality. The Pune-based Panchammagic group (www.panchammagic.org) organizes biannual symposiums on both these dates. The group comprises members who not only have a great regard for Pancham but also possess deep knowledge about the technicalities of Pancham's music. Their website is as comprehensive a portal to the composer as one would like to visit. In Kolkata, the forums Euphony (www.euphony.co.in), MelodyChime (http://melodychime.org) and Amit Kumar Fan Club (www.amitkumarfanclub.com) regularly organize Pancham shows where leading associates of RD Burman perform.
These events go deeper into the mystery of Pancham music to analyze how the pieces of melody were constructed; to an extent that usage of rare instruments like water bell, pedal matka, Donkey's Jaws and even the unconventional ones like sand paper and asbestos sheets and knee-slapping get demonstrated on stage.
In the mini-symposiums within these programmes, Pancham's instrumentalists, assistants, singers, personal friends recount their professional and personal experiences with the maestro. They too have, over the years become celebrities in their own way, and very, very deservedly so.
"Pancham's music still feeds our families", observed the violin genius Uttam Singh in a show in Mumbai in April 2011.
Well ahead of these two dates of 27th June and 4th Jan, musical events get announced and advertised on radio, hoardings and print. Sponsors rush in to occupy prime slots. Former team members of Pancham receive invites, auditoriums get booked, Facebook pages get updated. Each music aficionado group bends its back to package the programme differently from the previous one, and from what other groups are doing.
FM Radio channels and prominent TV channels too air 'Pancham special' programmes consisting of either interviews or just song clippings. Audio CDs and books related to Pancham get launched at these events. Print media devotes substantial space in their main and supplementary editions to Pancham. Fans jostle to post their favourite clippings on the various FB pages like 'Pancham', 'RD Burman', 'The Man The Music' and 'Panchamda'.
RD Burman Special Antakshari and Music competitions are held too in domestic fests. These two dates have blended with the season-centric festivals. If Holi signifies the first glow of summer, 27th June seems to welcome the monsoon with 'Rim jhim gire sawan'. If Durga Puja is about sharat kaal (winter), the hazy mist of a wintry 4th Jan twirls about the chords of 'Ye Shaam Mastani'.
Noteworthy is the celebratory air all around as these two events near. There are no tears shed. That phase has passed. Time has healed the wounds of such an extraordinary musical genius' life being taken away by the maker so early. The loneliness and neglect that Pancham suffered in his last phase is something that Pancham himself would have forgiven and forgotten. Remember, he was a Prince.
"Let's get on with music", he might have said. The packed auditoriums on these two dates, the mad scramble to be photographed with Pancham team members in the green rooms, the fans doing impromptu jigs on the aisle to 'Yamma Yamma', the intense '70 mm' hum as the curtains open to the 'Sholay' title track.....
".... Some men never die... ", wrote the film critic Ali Peter John in his obituary on RD Burman.
Since 4th Jan 1994, Pancham has been re-born 18 times. On 27th June 2012, he arrives yet again.