Mandira Lahiri is a foremost representative of Pt. Chinmoy Lahiri’s Gharana of North Indian Hindustani Classical music. All India Radio awarded her with the highest position in light classical vocal music in 1975 and now she holds the Top Grade in AIR classification.
Mandira is gifted with a very sonorous voice. Her style of khayal singing is characterized by the pure and meticulous treatment of ragas. I had a conversation with Mandira for ClassicalClaps readers as below:
Who was your first teacher in music? I asked.
The person who motivated me to learn music was my maternal uncle, my first Guru Bidwan Birendra Kumar Phukan. He was the Station Director of All India Radio North-East Zone. He was one of the senior disciples of my Guru Sangeet Acharya Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri. Baba (Pt.Chinmoy Lahiri) used to travel for concerts in the North-East part, & I used to visit his concerts with my maternal uncle. At that time I was too young to understand the skills of my Guru Sangeet Acharya Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri. I continued my taalim or training with my maternal uncle and used to come to Kolkata during my school vacations, to receive the training /taalim from Baba Sangeet Acharya Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri.
When did you come to Kolkata?
Later on, after my school days were over I came to Kolkata for my higher studies. From that time I was a regular disciple of Baba, Guru Sangeet Acharya Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri.
I continued my studies and music too.
Since my childhood, I was extremely fond of Indian Classical & Semi Classical Music. I was in search of music of the highest order.
My Guru Sangeet Acharya Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri was like a magician. His skilled mastery impressed me. He was a gem. He was so particular and disciplined about his music, I found was something rare.
Those days I was in college- a student of English (Honours) from Jogomaya Devi College.
I was strictly tutored in music by Baba. Every morning, round the year, I had to visit him around 5 am in the morning for my Riyaz and taalim.
He used to wait for my arrival. His affectionate nature cannot be expressed in words. He used to teach me for hours and hours. One ran one sargam had to be practised again and again.
He was lovable as well as a strict teacher. Once I remember I was a bit late in the morning for taalim, he straight away refused to teach me on that particular day. But the next morning everything was forgotten. I was taught with the greatest care.
Was he a popular teacher?
Baba was an extraordinary musician and a trainer too. His training was very popular during his time. I witnessed so many renowned musicians at Baba’s residence, presently mine. (I am married to his son)
Great vocalists Like Begum Parveen Sultana, Gitasree Sandhya Mukherjee, Vidushi Shipra Bose, Pt.Dinanath Mishra, Shri Manabendra Mukherjee, Shri Satinath Mukherjee, Smt. Arati Mukherjee, Vidushi Haimanti Shukla, Shri Akhil Bandhu, Shri Jatileshwar Mukherjee.
I used to listen to them, while Baba imparted his training to these world-famous musicians. At that time I had an urge to perform better & better. As my seniors are world-famous under Baba’s guidance I thought I should follow their footsteps.
While I was about 19 years old, Baba decided I should marry his son Pt. Shyamal Lahiri, who is also a torchbearer of Baba’s Legacy or Gharana. Finally, I became his daughter-in-law but Baba used to treat me as his own daughter.
Baba was an Independent artiste. Though he had learned from Shri Dilip Bedi, Ustad Khurshid Ali Khan, Pt. S.N.Ratanjhar. But he blended each of their styles and made a new form and finally Baba was popular with his self created style or Gharana.
Baba’s speciality of application in taans and sargams are noted as historic changes in Indian Classical Music. His fluency in giving birth to magical patterns set a new trend, which is popularly known as Chinmoy Lahiri trend.
Apart from being a musician m, he was a Genius composer and creator. He had composed several bandishes using his nickname “Magan”.He has also given birth to numerous new Ragas like Shyam Kauns, Roop Kalyani, Lalita, Hari Kauns, Kushumi Kalyan, Prabhati Todi, Nand Kauns, Jogomaya. Apart from classical music he had composed several thumri dadra bhajan geet raagpradhan bangla gaan etc.
Presently my husband Pt. Shyamal Lahiri and I are trying to maintain Baba’s legacy.
We have formed an organization named after Baba’s nickname Magan, ‘MAGAN-MANDIR’
Here we are promoting Baba’s Gharana along with Baba’s compositions through our promising students.
I am very hopeful about the new generation who still wish to work on Baba’s creations.
There are many promising learners training in our Gharana. Hope they will continue the legacy of Sangeet Aacharya Pt. Chinmoy Lahiri.
In my travels in India and around the world I find that people are actually aware of Chinmoy Lahiri even before I mention Baba’s contribution in the field of Indian Classical Music.
Baba will live as long as there will be music in this world. A Genius is always remembered for his true work and for his new dimension.