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Bickram Ghosh on the demise of Thumri queen Girija Devi: She was an institution in herself

Percussionist Bickram Ghosh, who considered late Vidushi Girija Devi family says he will always remember her smile, love for conversations, and how she treated everyone as equal.

music Updated: Oct 25, 2017 19:22 IST
Shreya Mukherjee
Shreya Mukherjee
Hindustan Times
Bickram Ghosh,Girija Devi,Thumri
Bickram Ghosh says that an era has come to an end with the demise of Indian classical veteran, Girija Devi.(Hindustan Times)

Percussionist Bickram Ghosh remembers how his Appaji, Girija Devi, would enjoy conversations. The 88-year-old Indian classical veteran, who Ghosh considered family, passed away on Tuesday. And, the memory Ghosh will always cherish is the way she would lovingly treat him like her son and speak to him about the kind of work he is doing. The late Thumri queen considered his father and renowned tabla player, late Pandit Shankar Ghosh, a brother and used to tie rakhi to him.

One couldn’t have possibly missed the pain of losing someone close while talking to Ghosh. “Appaji used to call my baba (father) her brother and shared a strong relationship. That she is no more is something that would take some time to sink in. Appaji was an extremely encouraging person. She would treat everyone as an equal, and never looked down upon juniors. The reason why she is loved by all,” says Ghosh adding that what will stay with us is her immense contribution in the world of classical and semi classical music.

“She was an institution in herself and had a unique style of her own. Though it’s said that she belonged to the Benaras Gharana, her unique style is easily identifiable when you listen to her students. Her hallmark style, voice, the way the words were spoken always stood out. Not just classical, even in the semi-classical format like thumri, kajri, dadra and more, her contribution is immense. With her demise, an era is over,” says an emotional Ghosh.

Ghosh feels cinema can’t be the yardstick for any artist, and explains that while most music artistes were a part of main stream entertainment through their contribution to films, late Girijia Devi stayed away from it.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that top artists need to cite example of songs they have done for in films [ to prove their worth]. Independent music without the help of film is losing its steam in India. When you look at stars in the west, Luciano Pavarotti (Opera singer) and Michael Jackson (Pop singer) had an identity of their own beyond cinema. Or, if you go back to the 50s, 60s and 70s, during the time of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod player) and Pandit Ravi Shankar (sitar player), the indigenous music scene was popular. While Pandit Ravi Shankar was an international star, [actor] Dev Anand was a national star. I don’t know if Appaji had been approached for a film or if she consciously stayed away, because being a dignified person she would never talk about all these or boast about her work,” he adds.

Ghosh clarifies immediately that he doesn’t feel that film music isn’t important, as he too composes for films at times. “I am not against composing for films, but a music artiste has his or her own identity. I wish I could work with Appaji, but somehow that didn’t happen as far as films are concerned. But I did make one of her students sing a track for a Bengali film,” he says.

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First Published: Oct 25, 2017 14:10 IST