Photos: Ira Landgarten

About this concert...

In the early 70s, while living in Amsterdam, I became infatuated with Indian classical music. Amsterdam was a true cultural crossroad, and the interest in the East was high. Many prominent Indian artists performed there during European tours, and there were even a few resident musicians like sarangi player Ustad Munir Khan and his tabla player son, Zamir Ahmed Khan who had developed a small, avid following. My particular focus of interest was sitar, and I voraciously tried to collect all and any recordings I could, mostly of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilayat Khan, which were available in abundance. One fateful day, a Dutch fellow aficionado, knowing of my obsession, asked if I was familiar with Pandit Nikhil Banerjee. Since I wasn't, he loaned me a well-worn Gramophone Company of India LP of Mr. Banerjee. That record (Lalit, Sindhu Bhairavi, Puriya Kalyan EASD 1355) immediately became my favorite and I searched high and low for more Banerjee; alas, very few recordings turned up.

Faiyaz Khan and Nikhil Banerjee at the Royal Opera, Brussels a few days before the De Kosmos concert. Zamir Ahmed Khan is Faiyaz Khan's nephew.

Then in the autumn of 1972, I got word that Mr. Banerjee would be in Europe and that there was a gap in his touring schedule between Belgium and Germany. I was convinced that he must come to Amsterdam. I immediately approached some friends at De Kosmos, a large old wooden church near the harbor which had been turned into a popular center for 'alternative activities.' De Kosmos was in fact a mecca for world travellers, hippies and anyone interested in psychedelia, Eastern mysticism or the occult.

Faiyaz Khan and Nikhil Banerjee at the Brussels train station en route to Amsterdam.

So with the go-ahead from De Kosmos, I trained down to Brussels to meet Mr. Banerjee and escort him back to Amsterdam. He was performing at the Royal Opera and I arrived late. No one stopped me or asked for my ticket. As in a dream, I entered the dark hall - ticketless!-just as he began his spell-binding alap, and sat motionless in the aisle until the intermission. I was enthralled by what I heard! After the concert, I introduced myself and we arranged to meet the next morning for our train ride to Amsterdam. We were forced to stand the entire journey, and I was amazed at how unperturbed he was about the lack of seats. He was from Calcutta, after all, and with his gentle, unassuming, philosophical nature he just took it in stride! Once we arrived, I delivered him to a small, cozy hotel near De Kosmos.

There was a definite buzz of excited anticipation in the air as Mr. Banerjee took the stage lit by an enormous light-show projection. He began the performance with Manomanjari, a raga of his own design which he magnificently rendered with a sense of joyous heroism and virility. He concluded with a charmingly romantic rendition of Sindhu Khamaj, 'raga-mala' fashion, sprinkled with tastes of Hamir, Hindol, Hindoli and, finally, Hansadhwani. Fortunately, Felix van Lamsweerde, from the Royal Tropen Museum, was able to capture this remarkable music on tape and allowed Raga Records to bring it to you. So enjoy! -- Ira Landgarten

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