Pt. Manas Chakraborty an institution by himself needs no literary introduction in today’s realm of Hindustani Classical Music. Through his ageless contribution and devotion towards Hindustani Classical Music throughout over 50 years of his musical career, he has conquered a significant and special place in the hearts of music lovers and connoisseurs all over the world.
Manas was born in Barishal Town in East Bengal (now in Bangladesh).At that time his father Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty was in Kolkata, and the good news initiated a nightlong musical session by the maestro himself. Born in a highly traditional and illustrious family of sanskritologists, musicologists and musicians, Manas could have no better Guru than his father Sanngeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty, the pioneer of Kotali Gayaki and a legend adored all over India for his contributions towards Indian Classical Music.
The Maestro’s musical journey started at the tender age of seven along with his illustrious father participating in several conferences. Something significant happened in one of the sessions of the All India Music Conference in the first half of the fifties. He was assisting his father in his recital. At the end of the performance the organiser Lala Damodardas Khanna embraced him ecstatically and honoured him with a ‘nazrana’ (token) of a hundred rupees. Lala Damodardas Khanna asked his father’s permission to let him sing in the conference next year. It was his first stage appearance. He was assisted by his sister Sreela. At that very young age Manas’s performance heralded the advent of an emergent talent in the horizon of Hindustani classical music. The awestruck audience acknowledged his performance as ‘‘a chip of the old block’’. He distinctly remembers the metamorphic initiation as he recalls his performance at the All India Music Conference (1953), at Roxy Cinema Hall, Calcutta around the age of eleven. His astonishing maturity at that age attracted spontaneous praises even from the great exponents of classical music like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Sreemati Kesharbai Kerkar, Pt. Omkarnath Thakur and of course Narayan Rao Vyas who used to affectionately call him the ‘Little Tiger’. In the following period Manas assisted his father in his vocal recitals and simultaneously performed in his own individual programmes and gradually earned his place as an artiste.
His acquaintance with the different musical genres stimulated Manas to formulate a distinct path of his own. He dedicated himself to this task. He assimilated the national and folk music of the northern India, studied the languages of Uttarakhand, for instance, Braj bhasha, Khadee Boli, Bundelkhandi, Rajasthani, Chhattisgaria, Maithilee, Avdhi, Brajabuli in order to understand and unravel the fundamental philosophical position underlying this immense linguistic reserve and formulate a distinctive aesthetic philosophy for his Bandishes. His compositions can be recognized by his pseudonym ‘Sadasant’ or ‘Sadasant piya’. Not many people are aware of the fact that the bandishes composed by Manas have been sung by his father during his lifetime. Music has played the central role in his life. His poetic expressions too aspired for a dimension essentially musical. He has composed over 3000 poems. Yet he has neither felt an urge to publish his poems nor publicise himself primarily as a poet. The poetic impulses find happy fulfilment in the musical mode.
Manas has sung at reputed conferences across the country and propagated his Gharana, in all its depth and reach. His appearance in public shortly after his father’s death was a memorable occasion. There was tears in the eyes of the audiences as well as his accompanists Ustad Keramatullah Khan at Tabla, and Sageeruddin Khan at Sarengee. He was especially delighted when legendary figures like Ustad Ali Akbar, Pt. Ravi Shankar, and Pt. Bhimsen Joshi invited him to perform at Allauddin Music Conference,1976, 5th RIMPA Music Festival, Banaras, 1984 Swai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav, Pune, 1984 in that order. In 1983 the main attraction of the 5 days long session of the Dover Lane Music Conference Pt. Bhimsen Joshi could not turn up on time. Manas was schedeuled for the slot preceding Ali Akbar’s sarode recital in the subsequent day. The Dover Lane authorities turned to him at this critical moment. Manas’s performance created sensation as he rose up to the challenges of that irreplaceable space. The event only highlighted the insufficiency of the contemporary musical world to acknowledge and honour a musical great of his stature.
Since then he had never looked back, his uncountable recitals in both at home and abroad have earned an enviable distinction as an’ “Artist of Artists ”. ‘Talim’, ‘tabiat’ and ‘taiyari’ with inborn artistry, profound knowledge, intellectuality and cerebral ability has given a new dimension to his unique style of rendition which is now being followed by many artists along with his own disciples. Thus presenting the obscure reality of music in a tangibly graceful elocutionary form with his kalabant gayaki, nayaki and majestic mizaaj is the essence of Manas’s music. His contribution towards the Hindustani Classical Music as a ‘Guru’ is undoubtedly great. The schooling of Indian Classical Music through the mentors of his family and the torchbearers, established around the globe has already entered the seventh- generation and now the new trend of ‘Kotali Gayaki’ is his single handed orchestration, which with the synthesis of diversities has finally created and defined the ultimate shape of ‘ Kotali Gayaki’. His highly technical and diverse approach though different from his father’s individuality, is finally convergent to the philosophical end of the essence of ‘Kotali Gharana’.