Asheschandra Bandyopadhyay (1920-92)

Asheschandra Bandyopadhyay, one of the foremost exponents of Esraj in India, was born in 1920 into a family of musicians in Bishnupur. He learnt the elements of his art from his father Ramprasanna Bandyopadhyay, a distinguished member of the Bishnupur gharana and later from his uncles, Gopeswar Bandyopadhyay and Surendranath Bandyopadhyay. Following the family tradition, Asheschandra played different musical instruments like Esraj, Sitar, Surbahar, Behala and Tabla. At the same time he learnt vocal music, which included Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri, Tappa, Bhajans and Rabindra Sangit.

In 1937, when he was only 17 years old, selected as a teacher of Classical Vocal music by Rabindranath at Visva-Bharati; he wrote in a letter, "We have engaged a new teacher for our Classical Vocal music, a nephew of Gopeswar, very young in age but mature in his art". Apart from Hindusthani Vocal music he taught Bengali tappa, Sitar and above all Esraj for the next 50 years at Sangit Bhavana. Esraj was his forte. The Esraj had so long been only an accompaniment to other kinds of music, but Asheschandrra by his matchless style gave the Esraj an individual distinction in the field of Classical music.

As an artiste and as a teacher Asheschandra' s music is highly innovative. Besides the solo performance of the Esraj in Classical Music, he has effectively employed Esraj as an accompaniment to Rabindra Sangit and in doing so he has created a new world of artistic cooperation. A memorable contribution to Satyajit Ray's film on Rabindranath was Asheschandra's Esraj. In Santiniketan's world of music Asheschandra Bandyopadhyay will be remembered with deep respect.