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Village Kirtaniya from Mangalkot takes Bengal’s Sreekhol online to overseas students

5 July, 2021 11:15:53
Village Kirtaniya from Mangalkot takes Bengal’s Sreekhol online to overseas students

Benjamin Franklin once said: ‘Out of adversity comes opportunity.’ Likewise, the recent pandemic has opened new avenues as the world quickly adapted to online mode. And now music lessons go online with village Kirtaniyas imparting khol lessons to students abroad. Yes, Bengal’s khol goes to the West and that too through online lessons.

With the Internet taking over and influencing a large part of our lives, especially now, it has opened the floodgates of opportunities. Last year when the nation-wide lockdown was imposed suddenly, it was like a bolt from the blue for many like Nadiyanandan Bairagya, a Sreekhol (a kind of percussion) player. He is an indispensable part of a group of Kirtaniyas (devotional minstrels) who perform at temples and religious functions. But the lockdown put a stop to all programmes and he was left in the lurch. His only source of income stopped. He taught a few boys in his village, but he had to discontinue his classes. Out of sheer desperation, Bairagya posted video clippings of his public performances in the social media and offered to teach Sreekhol professionally to those who wanted to learn online. 

What followed was something he had least expected. He was flooded with requests from enthusiasts not only from within the country but also from countries as far as the US, Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh and many more and all of them wanted to be his pupils and learns Sreekhol from him. 

Shreekhol has a special status among the many highly developed percussion instruments of Bengal such as madal, Bangla dhol, dhak and more. Albeit a variant of mridangam, deeply associated with the Vaishnavite cult of the North-Eastern belt, its name sets it apart from the Assamese and Manipuri varieties and lends a stamp of Bengal. A vast repertoire of talas are played on the Shreekhol, which has its own specific bol-baani (mnemonics). There are 108 varieties of talas, of which around 80 are still in use in our Paala-Kirtan sessions.

Nadiyanandan decided to take the plunge. At present, he teaches 15 international students including two from the US, three from South Africa and two from Australia.  He has a number of pupils from Odisha, Assam and other states and they are very keen to master the finer nuances of playing the Sreekhol from their teacher. They wait patiently for their ‘Guru Ji’ to allot time for the lessons. Nadiyanandan, the musician from Pilsoyar, an obscure hamlet in Mangalkot has attained a remarkable feat and his fame as an international Sreekhol trainer has inspired other artistes and musicians to tread the uncharted path as an alternative means of earning and livelihood. 

Before he decided to teach online, Nadiyanandan was mired by dilemma. His major stumbling block was his inability to communicate in any language other than Bengali. So whenever any prospective overseas student contacted him, he asked him/her to get a Bengali-speaking national to work as interpreter. Once this issue was resolved, teaching was a cake walk for Nadiyanandan. If his students have any quarries, he takes of local people who know English and get it translated in Bengali and clears doubts and answers promptly. His classes are a big hit and he is happy with his earnings. His students wire his fees online on time and that keeps his home fires burning. He says, “I had never imagined that I would teach Sreekhol to overseas students. But it feels good to be part of the rich cultural heritage of our country and work towards popularizing an ancient indigenous musical instrument in the West.” 

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