Photo: Ira Landgarten
There is no doubt that both Ustad Allauddin Khan and Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, as well as their illustrious sons Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, have dominated the world of sarod for most of this century. Their genius and innovative stylistic contributions have set the standard for modern sarod playing. Yet one should not overlook an extraordinary, though perhaps less famous, artist whose intense dedication and talent keep alive another distinct and important sarod tradition.
Sri Buddhadev Das Gupta belongs to a rare category of musician-though fully steeped in tradition he is a genuine Twentieth Century artist. Born in Bihar in 1933, he began his music training at age 11 with the renowned sarod purist Sri Radhika Mohan Maitra. Through his passionate devotion and uncompromising hard work, Buddhadev has emerged as the foremost exponent of the distinctive, complex style his guru created. It is a style distinguished by its wit, its unusual and unpredictable tans, and its masterful incorporation of the bol patterns and vocabulary of the ancient rabab. Buddhadev's powerful virtuoso playing, as well as his vast scholarship of sarod history, repertoire and technique, has earned his place among today's leading sarod masters. He has performed at all of India's major music conferences, broadcasts regularly on All-India Radio and is a member of the Sangeet Research Academy's Empirical Research Wing and Committee of Experts.
Buddhadev's musical achievements are all the more amazing when one considers that he also had a brilliant academic career and served for more than 20 years as a thermal power engineer for the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation. He retired from that highly responsible position in May 1988 in order to focus his energy even more intently into his music.
I first met Buddhadev in the fall of 1985 when he was invited to perform for the Festival of India, and then again in 1989 while he toured with musicians from Calcutta's Sangeet Research Academy. Both times I was fortunate to attend every single performance and lecture-demonstration he gave in the New York-New Jersey area. An impeccable gentleman, tall and majestic, Buddhadev is remarkably intelligent, articulate, down-to-earth, eloquent and cultured-all qualities that he has translated perfectly into his music.-- Ira Landgarten