BHOPAL: Maihar Band- India’s first classical band is on the verge of extinction.
The strength of the band, founded by Sarod maestro Ustad Allauddin Khan in 1918 at Maihar in the Satna district of the state, has fallen off from 22 to 8. With at least three more members set to retire in over next one and half years, the band will be left with only five artistes by 2021.
The band, believed to be the soul of Maihar group (gharana), was brought under the government in 1947 and is functioning under the Culture Department since 2007. Earlier, it was a part of the Higher Education Department.
The members of the band, bound by the state government rules, kept on retiring while fresh recruitments were few and far between.
Legend has it that after an epidemic spread in the area, Baba, as Allauddin Khan was lovingly known, was so moved by the tragedy that he formed the Maihar Band with an aim to provide solace to the orphaned children.
Allauddin created several bandishes (compositions) based on the Indian ragas for the band. He also taught western tunes to his students. He himself played the role of the band master.
The Maihar Band has been performing across India. It is the only band in the world which plays two rare musical instruments- Navtarang and Sitar Banjo.
When the band was brought under the state government, its strength had already fallen to 17. Suresh Chaturvedi, Principal of Government Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, Maihar and in-charge of the band told Free Press that the previous new recruitments were made was in 2014, when one artist was inducted. Before that, three artistes were recruited in 2013.
All the artistes who were members of the band in 1947, retired by 1978-79 and since then, retirements consistently outnumbered recruitments.
According to Chaturvedi, since 1979 when he joined the band, around 25 artistes have retired while only around nine fresh recruitments have been made. Recruitments were made in 1979-80 and subsequently in 2003 and 2005.
“We keep on sending proposals to the government and recruitments are made from time to time. The process is time-consuming,” said Chaturvedi, who plays Israj in the band.
The present members of the band include: PD Dwivedi (Navtarang), GP Pande (Violin and Cello), Saurabh Chaurasia (Sitar Banjo), Brajesh Dwivedi (Sarod), Gopal Raikwar and Gautam Bharati (Harmonium), Kamal Kishore Mahor (Tabla) and Suresh Chaturvedi (Israj).