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Pandit Buddhadev Dasgupta passes away aged 84: The man, his music, and legacy

Born on 1 February 1933 in Bhagalpur, Bihar, to Bhabani and Prafulla Mohan Dasgupta, Buddhadev Dasgupta could have been said to have inherited a love for music. Prafulla Mohan Dasgupta was a district magistrate, but he also had a deep and abiding passion for music that was possibly passed on to his son. Buddhadev showed a gift for music and playing musical instruments; still, when he was sent to train under sarod exponent Radhika Mohan Moitra, no one knew that Buddhadev would grow up to be a maestro himself.

Pandit Buddhadev Dasgupta breathed his last at his Kolkata residence on Monday, 15 January 2018. He was 84. The Padma Bhushan had been battling a respiratory illness, and suffered a cardiac arrest that led to his death. Condolences poured in from across the globe as music lovers struggled to come to terms with Pr Dasgupta's loss. The Indian classical music fraternity had lost one of its rarest gems.

Pt Buddhadev Dasgupta in one of his concerts. Photo courtesy Facebook/ Arohee School of Music, Nababganj

Pt Buddhadev Dasgupta in one of his concerts. Photo courtesy Facebook/ Arohee School of Music, Nababganj

Those who were closely associated with Pt Dasgupta spoke with Firstpost about the maestro, his music and his legacy.

Pt Dasgupta was man high on energy and with a great sense of humor: Bickram Ghosh | musician, composer

Oscar-nominated percussionist and composer Bickram Ghosh's father Pandit Shankar Ghosh shared a close bond with Pt Dasgupta. "I have memories of Buddha Jethu (jethu means father's elder brother) I'll cherish for life. It is a huge loss for the Indian classical music world and a grave personal loss too. I grew up seeing my father and Buddha Jethu performing together. I also had the great opportunity to perform with him."

Pt Dasgupta had a great sense of humor and was a very strong personality too, says Ghosh. "Aside from being a great musician, he was also a great teacher, a guru...his students are performing all over the globe and doing so well. He would keep a poker face on even when he was making fun of something. Even as little children, we loved being with him; I've hardly come across a better conversationalist than Buddha Jethu."

Ghosh says his fondest memory of the maestro is of a performance the latter gave with Pandit Shankar Ghosh in Kolkata three years ago. "The audience was enthralled! How could two individuals in their 80s rock the stage so! It was a huge inspiration for all of us."

I lost someone who was as special as my guru: Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumder | sarod player, music composer

"I have lost my guru," says Pt Tejendra Narayan of his beloved 'Buddha Kaka'. "The first thought I had on hearing the news of his passing was, 'We are losing all of our protectors, the roofs over our heads slowly'. Such a great scholar dedicated to music — Buddha Kaka used to astonish me! He had an uncompromising attitude towards music."

Very few people are aware that Pt Dasgupta, being a scholar, used to write columns on art and culture for The Statesman. Says Pt Narayan, "His practical knowledge and sense of wit were incomparable. Not only that, he was a great orator. I was constantly surprised how Buddha Kaka had all these qualities. In my early days as a musician, when I was still being groomed, I would devour all his newspaper columns!"

Incidentally, Pt Dasupta was also an inveterate foodie who believed in 'living in the moment'. "Not many people might know of his love for food and cooking," says Pt Narayan. "He attended my son's rice and thread ceremonies. A few days later, he called me up and said, 'Hey when are you getting your son to tie the knot?' I replied 'Isn't it too early Kaka?' To which he said: 'Well... maybe, but don't forget if I am alive then, do include big prawns in the menu. I really loved them at your son's thread ceremony!' I still laugh at those jokes... He would know all the specialties of each famous restaurant in the city...I will miss him so much."

At 5.30am, Panditji would wake me up and ask me to sing Rabindrasangeet: Debashish Raychaudhuri | musician, Tagore scholar

Pt Dasgupta was a great Tagore scholar; in fact, he created a number of classical bandishes based on the tunes of Tagore. Vocalist Debashish Raychaudhuri and his daughter Rohini worked with Pt Dasgupta very closely. Says Raychaudhuri, "Panditji would often call me up at odd hours and say 'Can you sing for me this song of Tagore?' I — despite being half asleep — would somehow manage to sing the song to him. Gradually, he became my father figure. My daughter and I were often part of his shows across the globe... He was a great patron of Tagore."

Panditji would say classical music is not a dying form, it is ever present: Soumyojit | vocalist; Sourendro | pianist

Pt Dasgupta took several promising young musicians under his wing. Among them were vocalist Soumyojit and pianist Sourendro.

"Raagsangeet makes you a preacher, custodian of wisdom and your shoulder is bestowed the strange pressure of carrying forward a great legacy to the next generation..." the duo says. "We had the golden opportunity to learn from him very closely. Whenever he would hum a few lines in his husky voice, they would sound exactly like a megaphone record. He would often tell us, 'Classical music is not a dying form... it is ever present'... His presence will always be felt among all of us music lovers."


Updated Date: Jan 20, 2018 15:23 PM

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