Pandit Nikhil Banerjee was recognised throughout the world of Indian music as one of the master musicians of his generation. A mature artist who possessed incredible technique, power, and flair, he achieved in his recitals a depth of expression which very few musicians could hope to equal. His untimely and unexpected death in 1986 was met with shock and sadness by all lovers of Indian music, and marked with the posthumous award of the Padma Bhushan by the Indian Government. Even if it is a poor substitute, we may at least be grateful for the number of superb recordings which he left behind, amongst which this re-released performance deserves its place.
Nikhil Banerjee began his study of the sitar with his father Jitendra Nath Banerjee, and after a brief period studying with Andrews Gomez, a disciple of Ustad Enayat Khan, was hailed as a child prodigy. Although he had several other teachers, he is usually remembered as a disciple of the great Ustad Allauddin Khan (with whom he stayed from 1948), and later of his son, the sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Whether because Allauddin Khan deliberately taught him to play in a different style from Pt Ravi Shankar, or because he himself retained the influence of other teachers - or both - there is no question that Nikhil Banerjee perfected a unique style of sitar playing. He was able to generate breathtaking speed and power without compromising tone or clarity. Both his command of rag and his rhythmic ingenuity were beyond question, but the feature which really marked him out was the ability to translate into musical sound moods of love, pathos and even fury, speaking directly to the heart of the listener. In the present recording we hear him performing Raga Piloo, usually referred to as a ‘light’ raga, but what is striking is the amount of power and passion he manages to convey even in (by his standards) a very relaxed mood.
Nikhil Banerjee is accompanied here by Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, one of India’s foremost tabla players. Anindo, born in Calcutta in 1954, became a disciple of the widely respected musician and teacher Jnan Prakash Ghosh at a very young age. Already a respected accompanist when this recording was made, he is now one of the most popular tabla players in the world, performing concerts and recording with most of the leading soloists of North Indian classical music as well as solo.