Bengaluru is hosting the third edition of India’s biggest mandolin festival, the National Mando Fest.
Some of India’s greatest mandolin players are coming to the city for the festival this Saturday and Sunday.
If you’ve liked the mandolin solos in songs such as Laga chunari mein daag and Tum bin jaoon kahan, you will be happy to know Kishore Desai, the stalwart who played them, is being honoured at the festival.
Mandolin legends such as Snehashish Mozumder, who plays Hindustani classical style on the mandolin, and Pradipto Sengupta, featured in countless Bollywood hits, are also part of the festival. The moving spirit behind the festival is N S Prasad, the Bengalurean mandolin player well-known on the Kannada sugama sangeeta scene.
He has been a live and recording artiste working with a host of musicians, including composer-singers Mysore Ananthaswamy and C Aswath.
The first edition of the national festival was held in Pune, and the second in Kolhapur. As Pradipto Sengupta puts it, Prasad has created a ‘mahoul’ for mandolin music in Bengaluru, and it is only fitting that the festival is taking place in this city this time.Pradipto Sengupta, Prasanna Kumar, and Krishna Murthy, besides Prasad, are playing in a session featuring film melodies in various languages. Karnatik classical music is represented by Prasanna Kumar and Arvind Bhargava.
Metrolife found the musicians upbeat about what is in store.
‘Need Carnatic schools for mandolin’
Aravind Bhargava, Chennai
I was six years old when I took to the mandolin. My mother, a vocalist, wanted me to learn the mandolin as she liked the sound of it. She took me to U Srinivas and I was associated with him for straight 17 years until his passing in 2014.
The Mando Festival is a celebration of every form of mandolin. It features players from across genres. Participating for the first time, I look forward to meeting the masters.
To start off, this year marks the 50th birth anniversary of my guru U Shrinivas. So I am presenting 50 ragas in a span of 20 minutes, in my 40 minutes segment. Bindu Malini, Varuna Priya, Keeravani, Nasika Bhushini, and Charukeshi are among the 50 ragas.
My guru replaced the original eight-string acoustic mandolin with an electrical five-string mandolin to suit the needs of Carnatic music, and to enhance the sustain. When it comes to classical music, having a teacher is preferable, because there are some phrases only a guru can teach. There are so many schools for veena, violin, and other instruments, teaching different styles of the same instrument. But, when it comes to mandolin in the Carnatic style, there are only two or three. If that is taken care of, I think the future has a lot to offer.
‘RD Burman is my God’
Pradipto Sengupta, Mumbai
I come from a musical family in Kolkata. I began learning the Hawaiian guitar from Subhash Pal, a renowned AIR artiste. I then went to mandolinist Saroj Barua, whose father was from Burma (Myanmar), for advanced training. In 1982 I became a member of Kolkata Cine Musicians Association and started working with leading music directors in Bengali films. Initially, I played Western classical music on the radio. I moved to Mumbai in 1988 and was introduced by saxophonist Manohari Singh to RD Burman. I first recorded for him on January 29, 1989. I consider him my God. I then worked with a host of composers: Laxmikant Pyarelal, Ravindra Jain, Jatin Lalit, Anand Milind, Nadeen Shravan, Illayaraja, Vidyasagar, Ismail Darbar.... I played the mandolin in songs for Maine Payar Kiya, Parinda, Gurudev, Dost, Khiladi, DDLJ, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Agnipath. I have released albums of instrumental music and Tagore songs.
‘Tough to convince classicist family’
Snehasish Mozumder, Kolkata
I come from a musical family with three generations of classical musicians. It wasn’t easy to take up the mandolin, since it was not considered suitable for Indian classical music. I began learning the tabla when I was just four, and played it for 15 years. My gurus are my grandfather Bibhuty Ranjan Mozumder, my father Himangshu Mozumdar, uncle Ranjan Mozumder and cousin Tejendra Narayan Mozumder. I played the sitar for 10 years, and it was difficult to convince my family about the possibilities of the mandolin. I used to play the mandolin on the side, and it was V Balsara, the well-known composer, who heard me and encouraged me. My meeting with him was a turning point. “There are many playing Indian classical music on the sitar and sarod, while you are the only one playing it on the mandolin,” he said. For five years, I practised for 15 hours a day. I also learnt from Acharya Ajoy Sinha Roy, disciple of the legendary Ustad Allauddin Khan, and Anil Palit, disciple of the great Kishan Maharaj, and Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty. When it comes to mandolin styles, I was later inspired by Ustad Sajjad Hussain. The mandolin has come a long way, and we owe a lot to U Shrinivas for what he has done with it.
‘Bengaluru has some bright sparks’
N S Prasad, Bengaluru
U Shrinivas heralded the change in taste, and made the mandolin become popular around here. But when you look at the north and the south, mandolin has a better response in north India. But things are looking up.
The major challenge in organising any festival is finance. But the zeal is greater and keeps us going. The Mando Fest was first started by The Mandolin Lovers club. I am continuing what was initiated by them. The third edition is bigger, with a conference, a documentary screening and a picture gallery.
Back in the days when radio was the only source of entertainment, I used to listen to masters like Mahendra Bhavsar, Jaswant Singh Jolly, and Mysore SP Kumar play the mandolin and they sparked the interest in me. Mandolin Prasanna, Vishnu Venkatesh, and Bharath are some bright talents from Bengaluru.
When: March 9 and 10; Where: Chowdaiah Memorial Hall.Sessions start at 9 am. Entry free