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Pandit Shankar Ghosh

Pandit Shankar Ghosh The tabla and the name Pandit Shankar Ghosh could be said to be synonymous. Born in 1935, this veteran is internationally acclaimed as one of the greatest tabla players ever. His unique Baaj is one of the landmarks in the history of the subject. Today there are hundreds of his disciples and followers all over the world who are exponents of his style. Gifted with a supremely innovative mind, he has revolutionized the spheres of solo Tabla playing, accompaniment, composition, and overall percussional experimentation. Respected by his contemporaries and appreciated by his seniors, Pandit Ghosh has secured for himself an enviable position in the history of Indian Classical Music.

As a youngster, Pandit Ghosh received his early training from Pandit Anath Nath Ghosh of Bengal. His further training came from Ustad Feroz Khan of Punjab Gharana, from Pandit Sudardhan Adhikari of Lucknow Gharana and finally from the legendary maestro Pandit Gyan Prakash Ghosh, founder of the Calcutta Gharana. He also obtained training from Sri Prasun Banerjee and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in vocal and instrumental music respectively.

In 1962, his extraordinary prowess in his art led to a maiden tour abroad with Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. This was followed by a number of tours and performances abroad with maestros such as Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Smt Sharan Rani, Pandit V.G. Jog. In India he has performed with vocalists such as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pandit Onkar Nath Thakur, Pandit Vinayak Rao Pattabardhan, Smt Girija Devi and Smt. Akhtari Bai.

During the same period of time he became a professor at the Universities of McGill and Montreal in Canada. In 1968, he became a founding member of the faculty of Ali Akbar College in California. His talented innovation, excellent teaching abilities and introduction of various novelties created waves in these universities, and Pandit Ghosh became widely known during his ten years stay in America.

Since his return to India in1972 Pandit Ghosh has, in addition to giving innumerable performances, concentrated on a variety of experimental works. He composed for and conducted the unique all drum orchestra "Music of the Drums" which has had various prestigious showings including being the curtain item during the 1982 ASIAD closing ceremony, attended by late Prime Minister of India, Shri Rajiv Gandhi. In 1988, the drum orchestra toured Japan by the invitation of one of the world’s biggest television companies, N.H.K.

Furthermore,Pandit Ghosh has made his mark as a composer of fusion and orchestral music. He has worked on experimental and improvisation music with His experimentation with various rock groups abroad, the most notable being "The Grateful Dead". He has also composed various kinds of rhythm based and semi-classical music for the television and radio. His collaboration with a jazz musician, the famous John Handy, made him one of the pioneers who worked to bring East and West closer through music.

To conclude, it would not be wrong to say that today, Pandit Ghosh enjoys a position in the world of international music with few parallels. Hundreds of his students all over the world speak for his accomplishments, for it is said that an artist is complete only after he has proved to be a successful trainer.

(Photo courtesy Daniel Fuchs; Article courtesy Eva Formaggio)

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