The Nightingale of Rabindra Sangeet – A warm wish on her 97th Birthday

The Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar is fondly known as the “Nightingale of India”, but not essentially of Rabindrasangeet. It was Kanika Bandopadhyay whose innate ability to infuse the subtlety of emotions into the Rabindra lyrics enthralled the global audience once upon a time! Since her childhood she had been attached to Shantiniketan (Abode of Peace) and was called Ashram kanya by others. The name Kanika was given by Tagore himself. Her good name was Anima and nick name Mohar. It is really interesting to find people are still fond of calling her Mohar. It seems her nick name is still more popular than her good name!
Being a part of Shantiniketan, she was fortunate enough to train herself under the able guidance of Tagore. She took her lessons on music from him. Her penchant for both classical and light music helped her to carve a niche! However, her first record was neither a Rabindrasangeet nor Najrul geeti. It was a modern (Adhunik) which left everybody spell bound! She had three hundred discs to her credit. Not only in her native land but also in abroad she had given her stupendous performance. Her musical style left everybody awe struck. Besides perfection she was always ready to do justice to the songs she sang in her career. Apart from this musical journey, she joined Sangeet Bhavan as a teacher and with the passage of time became the head of the institute. But she never lost the sight of the bird! She was married to Birendra Chandra Bandopadhyay, former deputy librarian of Viswabharati and a renowed poet. The couple didn’t have any child. Later she adopted her younger sister’s son Pronoy ( Tanaji, the name given by Mohar.
Kanika had many contemporaries during her journey. But she had always been compared with Suchitra Mitra, the legendary Rabindrasangeet artist. Both excelled in their performance. While Mohar was melodious and melancholic, plaintive and soul stirring, Suchitra was strong and bold in her rendition. Mohar had always been the Grade 1 singer of Rabindrasangeet at AIR (All India Radio). Perhaps the microphone even misses her a lot even today! Truly people walk out of our lives, but their voices never die. They are immortal as the nature herself. Kanika’s voice was the miracle of nature. The depressed souls often find a touch of comfort and consolation after listening to her songs of love and devotion even in the darkest mid night hour. After all the journey of music never dies, no matter how times change and the audience respond to it. It is indeed apt to quote a few lines of Shelley here:
Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
(To A Skylark)

Kunal Roy

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