Haimanti Sukla presents classical for the next generation at Dover Lane Music Conference
Trained classical singer Haimanti Sukla can still make time stand still when she breaks into a khayal or thumri at the age of 69. That’s what happened when the virtuoso singer, who has mesmerised everyone for the past four decades, sang at the inaugural session of the Dover Lane Music Conference, where she was felicitated with the Sangeet Samman Puruskar.
Talking about the award, the singer, who received the Sangeet Natak Academy Puruskar last year, says, “I am in this profession since 1970s and it feels wonderful to be appreciated for one’s work”.
Dover Lane Music Conference holds a very special place in her heart. And that became evident when she started reflecting on her days with the musical event. “I must have been 25 years old when I first performed there. It was P L Dasda, one of the founder members, who first made me sing khayal and thumri there,” says the maestro, who still sports that signature big red bindi on her forehead. The effervescent crooner adds, “It was like a festival for us. We used to have long chats in Dasda house and a galaxy of artistes including Manna Dey, Shivkumar Sharma, Bhimsen Joshi, Zakir Hussian and others would come there.”
Under the influence of these stalwarts she grew as a singer adding to her repertoire bhajans, Tagore songs, Nazrul songs, besides singing compositions of Ustad Alla Rakha, Naushad, Salil Chowdhury and Manna Dey. Continuing her reminiscing she recalls an incident which she believes could have only been possible at Dover Lane. “Once Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was playing the sarod, and Pandit Ravi Shankar arrived at the venue suddenly. Khan, who was performing with his eyes closed, had no clue about Pandit ji’s presence. They both hugged and cried during the interval,” grins Sukla.
With a doctorate in Bengali literature, Sukla owes her taalim (training) to her father, Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri. “My first and last guruis my baba,” she avers. She also reveals that her father was not very keen on her college education because he wanted her to dedicate her life to music. It was on her mother’s insistence that she simultaneously completed her studies.
What does she think about the new generation’s interest in classical music? “The younger generation is interested in learning classical music but that passion and enthusiasm is missing,” reflects the singer.