Pundit Surendra Narayan Das: The Rise of the Voice in Classical Music
Vision for wonder
A child-like curiosity and the ability to wonder at the marvels of creation often characterizes the truly extraordinary. Often, these very qualities catalyze such individuals into creating some of the world's most precious intellectual output. The child within must have been particularly strong in Punditji.
At the age of twelve, he was known to have stood transfixed outside a record store, listening to the music of Ustaad Bade Gulam Ali kha Shaheeb, on his way to school. The swan must have been born then, for, it led him on a journey across the region in search of a guru. His being directed to Pundit Sree Harihar Roy, a local music guru in Cumilla region.
After basic music lessons from the local teacher, Suren left cumilla in search of a proper guru and traveled to Kolkata,India during 1925. After a few days there, he started learning music from Ustaad Alauddin Kha Saheeb. Few years later taking advice from Kha shaheeb, Suren went to Dr. Jamini Ganguly and later to Acharya Sree Giriza Shankar Chakrobarty for learning. The then time. it was a little bit tough to become a disciple of Achraya Giriza Shankar. But, because of Suren's solemn personality and cordialness, the guru accepted him as a disciple, even accommodated him occasionally. The disciple learnt a few ragas, and accompanied the guru on concert tours. This was roughly during 1929–34s. During that time, he enlisted himself in Kolkata Betar as an artist of classical music.
After 1935s, taking permission from Achraya, Suren decided to reside back in Cumilla, Bangladesh. But his desire to learn classical music was not finished yet.1935 onwards, Suren started learning classical music from king of Gouripur, Mymensingh H.E. Sree Brajenndra Kishore Roy Chowdhury. From maharaja, Suren collected many unconventional raagas.
Late 1940s, Suren started providing music tuition to the students at Cumilla. After few years, Punditji planned to initiate a monthly music conference in Cumilla Town Hall. The basic reason was to assemble a get together as well as to judge the learning of current students. Many notable personalities in Cumilla were also invited on that conference regularly.
As a consequence of music conference in 1942, he established one of the renowned music school in Bangladesh "Sangeet Shikhharthee Sammilan". He acted as Principal of this institute till his last breath in 1986. From 1942 till present around 4500+ students trained from this institute. Many of them are and were well established in the music arena in Bangladesh.
Pundit Suren Das, by his shadow name "Sadananda" and " Sudas" wrote around 700+ bandish (songs) of various raagas. Beside this, Punditji wrote 60+ bhajan, kirtaan as well as Raag based songs. Side by side, he also used to sing in various classical music conference around the region and his magical voice started to travel right across the region. At that time, he had not yet established his credentials as a traditional classical singer, but his voice and his stylish singing later found its way into his classical delivery as well. That does not lessen his rigor, only increases its luster.
As he began the development of a raga he would try and keep the raw power of voice on a tight leash, merely exhibiting a quiet menace. And then as he moved into faster paced part of the raga he would let it rip, his voice bucking across octaves at tremendous pace. The transition of his voice from a filly to a stallion, in the course of an hour, blindsided listeners into submission. His voice was so powerful, and yet there was a simplicity with which his music spokes. This was direct communication at its best, arrows straight from his voice into the hearts of the listeners.
- During 1950s, he acted as a Principal of a Music School established by Kumar SD Barman in Agartala, India. For this, he used to travel regularly in Agartala that was near border with Cumilla.
- From 1963-1977, Punditji was the Head Examiner in the course of Music both in Secondary & Higher Secondary level in Cumilla board. Because of his sole hard work Cumilla Board included Music as a subject in the syllabus in both these level.
- From 1975-1978, Punditji acted as a Principal of "Nazrul Parishad- Cumilla".
Voice of Pundit Suren Das, recorded during a music conference in 1953 at Cumilla
Honors and Achievement
- Impressed on Suren's research and devotion to classical music, In 1951, King of Gouripur, Mymensingh, H.E. Maharaja Brajendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury through a congratulation letter announced him as "Gayanacharya" and "Sangeet Ratna" and also noted him as a "Professor of Music".
- In 1977, Cumilla foundation awarded Punditji by Gold Medal on behalf of Government.
- In June, 1984, SD Barman Sharak Samiti, Agartala honored him as a title of "Sangeetagyya".
- In 1992, after his death, Birchandra Nagar Milonayton kendra (Cumilla Town Hall) authority honored Punditji by adding his name in the memory stand as an honorable person in front of Independence Memory Stand.
Pundit Suren Das, during his music tenure wished to publish a book on classical music but due to some difficulties it was remain unpublished. But after 25 years from his death i,e in 2011, his successors published the book on classical music named "Raaga Manjusha" by the name of Pundit Suren Das. This book was edited by his daughter Alaka Das and son Manas Kumar Das.
Successors of Pundit Suren Das
Punditji married Bela Das during 1935. Both had four daughters and five sons. Among them, Alaka Das is one of the finest artist of Classical music at present times in Bangladesh. She is also acting as a principal of Sangeet Shikhharthee Sammilan. Elder son Advocate Ram Prasad Das in a well known Tabla player, then Pranab Kumar Das is a retired government employee as well as an organizer.
Subrata Das is an well known artist of Nazrul Sangeet. Manas Kumar Das is a renowned artist of Classical Music and Nazrul Sangeet in Bangladesh and then Tapas Kumar Das is also an well known artist of Nazrul Sangeet and modern Songs.
All of them are enlisted in state owned Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Radio since their early music career.
Some renowned disciples of Pundit Surendra Narayan Das are:
- Late Mina Banarjee ( She stood 3rd in All India Music Conference in 1937, later recorded four Nazrul Sangeets in HMV Gramophone under direct supervision of the legend Kamal Dasgupta during 1940).
- Late Ratna Datta ( Gold Medalist in 1942).
- Late Mira Dasgupta ( was enlisted in Kolkata Betar, India as music artist).
- Late Chitra Datta ( Gold Medalist & 1st Class from Music Dept, in Kolkata University in 1943)
- Late Rani Datta ( was enlisted in Kolkata Betar).
- Late Ranu Roy ( was enlisted in Dhaka Betar, Bangladesh as music artist).
- Late Md. Hossain Khan ( was enlisted as a Tabla Player in Dhaka Betar).
- Late Sudhin Das ( Legendary artist of Nazrul Sangeet, Awarded by Ekushe Award (highest civilian award in Bangladesh), Sharolipikar of Nazrul Sangeet, Music Composer).
- Nilema Das (Renowned artist of Nazrul Sangeet, Rewarded by Nazrul Padak, Awarded lifetime honor by Channel i).
- Late Sudhir Brahma ( was enlisted in Kolkata Betar, India).
- Late Ajay Sinha Roy (renowned classical musician).
- Late Nani Brahma.
- Late Ashu Battacahrya ( Renowned tabla player).
- Bashori Vadra ( enlisted in Chittagong Betar, Bangladesh as music artist).
- Kaniz Zobaida ( enlisted in Chittagong Betar as music artist).
- Beethi Vadra ( Gold Medalist in Music from Govt. of Pakistan).
- Rehana Ashikur Rahman ( renowned artist of Nazrul Sangeet).
- Joyontee Lala (enlisted. in Chittagong Betar as music artist).
- Late Anjali Das.
- Principal Alaka Das (Active in the field of Classical music in Bangladesh for more than 50 years).
- Advocate Ram Prasad Das.
- Subrata Das (enlisted in Bangladesh Television and Dhaka Betar as music artist).
- Manas Kumar Das (renowned artist of Nazrul Sangeet and Classical Music).
- Tapas Kumar Das (enlisted in Television and Dhaka Betar as music artist).
- Abhijeet Saha Pinak ( Renowned artist of Nazrul Sangeet).
Manas Kumar Das telling about his father Pundit Suren Das in a popular Tv station in Bangladesh
Music seemed to require him to use every part of his body. From a slow, mesmerized, almost motionless start his eyes would roll upwards, foreshadowing the ascent of the notes that emerged from his distended, gaping mouth. His hands flailed, as though reaching for some imagined object just out of his grasp.
Perhaps Pundit Suren Das was trying to bring back to earth a soaring note from one of his magnificent taans, the series of rapid melodic passages with which great classical singers in the Hindustani tradition of northern India demonstrate how skilled they are. Punditji's music has characterized the cultural landscape of our country for nearly 70 years. To most of us, he was the quintessential Bangladeshi classical musician, iconic and supreme.
Voice of Punditji, recorded in a music conference of Sangeet Shikhharthee Sammilan in Cumilla during 1976
© 2017 Dhrubo