Mukto Das: Every subject needs Guru, be it musical instrument playing or making

Posted by Kaahon Desk On December 2, 2018

Mukto Das comes from a rich tradition of the percussion instrument Tabla. His great-grandfather was a renowned Tabla maker who set a high standard for quality Tablas. The lineage of this particular art has run in his family for eleven generations.

As a child, Mukto Das began working in a musical Tabla making shop in his native village Ranaghat, Nadia District, West Bengal, India. After a while, he was brought to Kolkata by the great Tabla maker Sri Narayan Das. He learned under Narayan Das for more than fifteen years. After a prolonged learning period, he opened his own first Tabla shop near Behala. In the meantime, he obtained a worldwide export license that led to an exponential growth in his business, and within a year he shifted his shop to Tollygunge.

Mukto Das is known for his keen eye for quality of the material and his workmanship. Currently, he is one of the leading Tabla makers and exporters of India. Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Pandit Shankar Ghosh, Pandit Swapan Choudhury, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pundit Anindo Chatterjee, Pundit Kumar Bose, Pandit Samar Saha, Pandit Bikram Ghosh, and Pandit Suresh Talwalkar are some of the virtuosos to whom Mukto Das has provided service for a long time. Today his reputation in the Tabla business is second to none. He has extensively supported the Tabla students worldwide.

Mukto Das talks about his beginning in the trade, and his connection to Tabla. He talks about his Guru, who first brought him to Kolkata and with whom he has spent a prolonged incubation period as his pupil. His passion for his work is evident throughout the session, and the satisfaction he drags from his work. He talks about the skills that cannot be taught as he demonstrates the process of perceiving the sound of the instrument and then acting upon it based on the requirement of the modulation. His knowledge of raw material and the process of calibrating the instrument according to the player’s need jumps out of the conversation. He shares interesting insights about how the percussion instrument has slowly become popular all over the world, but he sounds concerned when asked about the decreasing interest of young generations in coming in the business of Tabla-making.

He stresses upon the importance of having Gurus, and the requirement for their omnipresence in every discipline. He has a profound respect for his Guru and the impression of it slips out when he talks about his Guru Sri Narayan Chandra Das.

He talks about the importance of the ear, and the perfect understanding of sound while mending or making a Tabla. He merits his long sittings with his Guru for fifteen years, for his developed sense of perception. He demonstrates the function of Gub (the black circular layer on the playing surface) in Tablas, and how they vary depending on the scale and the diameter of the Tabla. Mukto Das then goes on to talk about the difference, if there are any between Tablas made of metal and clay, and why in recent years one has leaped forward the other in terms of use. When asked about the recent surge of fiber and electronic Tablas, he seems unconcerned. He believes in the authenticity of the instrument, and thinks that electronic instruments can never take the place of classical percussion instruments like Tabla.

Mukto Das invites us to his workhouse to demonstrate the full process of making Tabla and Bayan. The process is fascinating as we witnessed the subtle delicacies of the making of the instrument. He talks about woods and the importance of seasoning the wood, then one of his star pupils begins the process of cutting and arranging the hides in proper order. The efficiency of their work leaves no room for doubt in their expertise, and before long the Tabla and Bayan are threaded together. Mukto Das then tests the Joari, and makes some fine adjustments; as the final Joari is a master’s craft, before the instrument can be passed off as ready.

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