One of the greatest joys in Indian classical music is to see great artistes performing together, joining their individual musical masteries to create something even more magical. Jugalbandi is an integral part of Indian classical music, and it's no surprise that the world's biggest stage for it will have some riveting instances every year. The Bengal Classical Music Festival has produced many unforgettable duets of sorts – sometimes a vocal with an instrumentalist, sometimes two melodic instrumentalists, and even two percussionists.
The first of such collaborative performances at the festival is probably one of its most iconic: two legends of their arts – khayalia Vidushi Girija Devi and Kathak exponent Pt. Birju Maharaj took the stage together in 2012, performing a chaiti – “Bairan Re Koyelia Tori Boli Na Sohaye”. In the years to come, the jugalbandi performances of Pt. Ronu Majumdar (flute) and the late Dr. M Balamuralikrishna (vocals), Pt. Tejendra Narayan Majumdar (sarod) and Ganesh Rajagopalan (violin), Pt. Yogesh Samsi and Pt. Shubhankar Banerjee's tabla duet, Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty (khyal vocals) with slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya and the Jasrangi vocal jugalbandi of Vidushi Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande and Sanjay Abhayankar remain some of the most memorable.
This year, there are five such duets to watch out for. Here's a quick preview:
Purbayan Chatterjee and Rakesh Chaurasia
By the time you're reading, this performance (scheduled as the final performance of the opening night) is already over, so you either missed it or already have experienced it, while this is being written before the performance. However, it is safe to say that the sitar-flute duet will be power-packed. The two have worked together before, most notably in Chatterjee's Indian classical band Shastriya Syndicate, and have performed live together, as evident from YouTube clips. The two are not only among the top classical musicians of their generation, but also seem to share similar musical ideologies – of staying true to the classical roots but also exploring avenues of fusion and collaboration with other genres of world music.
Pt. Ronu Majumdar and Pt. Debojyoti Bose
Pandit Ronu Majumdar has become a familiar name to regular festival-goers in the last two years, and both times he has performed in alliance with another instrumentalist (with the legendary Dr. M Balamuralikrishna in 2015 and mandolin player U Rajesh in 2016). However, both the performances were a Carnatic-Hindustani (the two broad division of Indian Classical music) jugalbandi. This is the first time he will be performing with another Hindustani musician. Sarodiya Pt. Debojyoti Bose will be making his debut at the festival, and audiences can sure expect some familiar dhun (tunes) in their performance (which is today, the second night), considering the fact they are both Bangalees.
Pt. Tejendra Narayan Majumdar and Dr. Mysore Manjunath
Any Carnatic-Hindustani jugalbandi is a special treat to classical music aficionados because it is essentially the best of both worlds. Tejendra Narayan Majumdar has been one of the most regular performers at the festival (and is also a Guru at Dhaka's Bengal Parampara Sangeetalay), and his only previous duet performance at the festival was in 2014 when he performed with Carnatic violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan. Coincidentally, this year's performance of his is again with a Carnatic violinist, Dr. Mysore Manjunath. Dr. Manjunath, one half of the Mysore brothers and son of the renowned Professor S Mahadevappa, will also be giving his first performance for the Dhaka audience and with Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, are highly likely to set off some musical fireworks on the fourth night of the festival.
Pt. Kushal Das and Kalyanjit Das
The Bengal Classical Music festival has seen father and son perform on the same stage before: Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma have both performed multiple times, Sameehan Kashalkar (son of Pt. Ulhas Pashalkar) has also made his mark with dhrupad vocals, and Pt. Anindo Chatterjee and Anubrata Chatterjee were here only last year. There has even been a three-generation joint performance as well, when violinist N Rajam, her daughter and granddaughter performed together at the festival. A father-son duet, however, is less common. Pt. Kushal Das and his son and disciple Kalyanjit Das will take stage on the closing day for a sitar jugalbandi, and sitar being one of the most popular instruments of the Dhaka audience, this duet promises to be riveting. Only once before has two sitarists performed together at this festival, and incidentally that was also a father-son duo – Pakistan's Ustad Rais Khan and his son Farhan Khan.