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Thursday, August 07, 2003

2003 East Coast Pancham Meet Report:
Atish's, Cherry Hill, NJ, USA on August 2nd, 2003

It was a blast.

First things first. Thanks a lot to Atish for hosting and organizing the get-together. He deserves nothing less than a salute. And if anyone deserves it more than him, it is Aparajita - his better half. Apart from the food, which was delicious to say the least, she was so transparently managing things that one would have thought that all things are in place by themselves. But we know they are not. Thanks to you both for such wonderful hospitality, Atish & Aparajita.

About the day... boy.. You can imagine what kind of fun we are talking about here when I tell you that once we started at around 2 with the "music", it was non-stop Pancham - one after another - for full 6 hours, until someone reminded that we have to get back to home too.

We (Ajit, Pankaj [Ajit's guitarist friend - an "unaware" Pancham fan] and myself) started our journey to Atish's place at about 9 in the morning from DC. And Ajit had this idea to listen to Pancham's Sangeet Yaatra during ours. There was no doubt in my mind that by the time we reach Cherry Hill, Pankaj would be a half-convert anyway. Thus we began.

Everyone was already there when we reached Atish's place. People I had met already and people who I was meeting for the first time. It was not long that this difference blurred. After exchanging pleasantries we had a brief discussion about why only popular RDB songs are played in shows/performances. Atish's suggestion was that among 10 popular ones, the performers should sneak in a couple of less popular ones to make junta aware of them. Moreover it's almost one's duty to Pancham's legacy. Everyone agreed.

We started with watching the video tape of the first meet, which Ajit brought with him. It was great to see Shashi going great guns with his pack of LP covers. In a matter of minutes, he touched a lot of things ranging from the famous 70s 'chashmaas' to the Music India's preference of a particular photo of RD. Thanks to Ajit, people like me who were not present in that meet could see the "Shashyclopedia" (to borrow from Nilangshu) in action.

Atish's second request for lunch made us stop the tape and head for the food. And with the old adage in mind - bhuukhe bhajan na hoye gopaalaa - no one seemed to delay that any longer. The food was great and congratulations and thanks are due again to Mrs. Atish (and perhaps Jayati). The lunch also gave us the opportunity to talk about things. The topics were as varied as they could have been in such a short time with such delicious food in plate. We talked about the release of rare scores, how to clean noise from vcd/dvd-ripped songs, how the group started, the sad demise of Prakash's and Somendra's songs sites and things like that. After lunch, it was time for music. And nothing but music it was then onwards.

The stage was first offered to the youngest performer - Varun (Ashok's brilliant 9 yr old son). And with a promise that next year he will prepare an RD song for the day, he was allowed :) to perform a non-RD one. And a beautiful song he chose, composed by none other than the RD-school students Jatin-Lalit. The song was 'pahalaa nashaa' and Varun played it on the keyboard with his dad accompanying him on the guitar. It was very enchanting and set the mood for the day and challenges for the senior lot :).

It was Ajit's turn first to stun everyone with his specially prepared 10 track song on the keyboard - 'kyaa yahii pyaar hai'. It was awesome, as much so that I stopped the video recording in between, which brought me some bad looks from Ajit later :). He had especially instructed me to record it for his visit to Nilangshu next month. On that note, he has a long list of things to do during that visit to Calcutta and Nil. One item in his list talked of some robbery or something. I am not mentioning anything else here since I do not want to give Nil sleepless nights until then.

Chandrakant was one of our singers for the day. He knows the lyrics of so many less popular songs of RDB by heart and that was a good thing as there were no lyrics sheets for most of them. Not that not knowing lyrics mattered much. There were always la-las and na-nas to fill in. He also surprised Jayati when he jumped in after Jayati finished 'tere binaa jiyaa jaaye na' with Kishore's antara.

Another singer of the day was Asim Da. He had a big personal file of lyrics and in his deep, resonant voice, sang many Kishore favourites to our delight.

The star of the day was clearly Jayati's singing. She started with 'kyaa yahii pyaar hai' and then went on to sing gems after gems. She has such a great voice and sang all the songs really really well. And to top it all, just when all other singers and chorus singers (defined below) were keen on singing all songs in scales much lower than their original :), she started the incredible JAM with 'monica, o my darling' and then kept on going with some exuberant, fast, high-pitch numbers one after another. Nothing short of amazing. As far as the chorus singers are concerned, they included everyone else who did not have the microphone or who were not playing anything, including people like me who also served as jaw-dropping spectators when not singing or when Jayati was singing.

And I won't even bother to talk about Atish's playing. He plays like a pro and all this while he kept everyone going along so smoothly controlling things from behind his keyboard. Especially wonderful was his presentation on how RDB used two different beats for mukha.Daas and antaraas. Ajit was accompanying him on another keyboard and Atish's friend (I am sorry I forgot the name) on guitar, playing cool like a pro. Pankaj (who by now would have gone into the Pancham-aware mode) also played guitar for some songs. Though it is hard to tell for me who was playing better :), I can certainly say that the overall sound was very good.

Somendra also joined the spectators/chorus singers' lounge late in the day, only to figure out and repent that he had missed some great singing and music. But still he managed to join us for some wonderful songs. Others in the chorus included, from time to time, Ashok, Rajendra, Chandrakant, Asim Da, Deep, Pankaj, and Ajit. It would easily be over 50-60 songs (may be many more) that we all played and sang before finally ending it with 'raah pe rahate hai.n'. It turned out to be our last song for the day and what an apt one for a farewell.

I know I have missed many things here. But that is because I don't want Shashi, George, Suparno and others feel bad for not being able to make it. I am a sensitive guy, after all.

Thanks again to everyone who was there to make it a memorable day.

Hope to meet again next year.

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