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Minoti Khaund: Creating a Legacy of Music

Recording with daughter Sunita Bhuyan Khaund

Minoti Khaund with daughter Sunita Bhuyan Khaund

A musical career spanning 50 years.. a single-minded devotion to Hindustani Classical music and its science and art… an instrument called the violin… one of the most difficult instruments to master… and weaving with the bow and strings a magical power to induce both happiness and tears with the same notes. That is the virtuosity of Minoti Khaund, the veteran violinist from Assam who has spent a lifetime in the pursuit of Hindustani classic music and its promotion in the region.

A musician who has established her mettle as a specialist amongst her craft globally, she has been a staunch guide and supporter to hundreds of musicians who have come under her tutelage and who have carved a name of themselves in their own right. But she perhaps takes pride in the fact that she has managed to groom and lay a strong foundation for her own daughter Sunita Khaund Bhuyan, who is presently earning critical acclaim across the globe through her mastery with the bow and fiddle.

Born in 1940, Minoti started playing the violin at the tender age of 10 years. Born to a musically enriched family in the music loving town of Jorhat in Upper Assam, she first expressed her desire to play with the fiddle to her maternal grandfather, Mr. Biswa Sarma, a noted connoisseur of the fine arts himself. Her grandfather could sense the passion in the girl child’s eyes and bought her a violin. This is when Minoti’s ethereal journey started with the violin and classical music began to encompass a rich musical career which has spanned more than 50 years now.

Initial Days

Reminiscing about those early days, she recounts, “My grandfather was the President of All Assam Music Conference – Jorhat chapter. Everyone in my family had a huge inclination towards music. We were exposed to a lot of music shows where maestros used to come and perform. That atmosphere helped me a lot in my career. I must have been eight or nine years old when I started my career in music. There was a music school in Jorhat run by Late Lokanath Sarma where children from well-established families used to come to learn music. We learned under the guidance of Indreswar Sarma.”

Her family’s deep rooted interest in music also helped her develop as a musician. As she says, “My mother wasn’t a musician, though, but she stood by me through thick and thin, to become my source of inspiration to pursue music. At that time, learning music wasn’t easy as teachers were not available and there weren’t many institutions as well. But my sister, Pronoti Khaund is a singer. My brother (who is no more) used to play tabla, flawlessly. The All Assam Music conference played a pivotal role in our lives for giving us abundant opportunities of performing in different platforms, and at the same time meeting the experts and learning from them. I can recall many instances when in the December month’s chilly nights, people used to sit all night long clad with their blankets to listen to music, until 6 am in the morning, with a lot of patience. It was highly motivational for us. I was already performing before marriage, for I was the only lady violinist in the town, perhaps in the whole of Assam. I got married at the age of eighteen.”

The turning point in her life came when she was performing at the All Assam Music Conference in 1972 and violin maestro Pt. V.G.Jog heard her on stage and offered to impart his art to Minoti.

Minoti, already a mother of two and the daughter-in-law of then Deputy Commissioner Rabindra Ram Khaund, agreed to this god sent opportunity and started her apprenticeship under Pt. Jog. Her husband Kabindra Ram Khaund and her family supported her completely in her journey seeing her thirst for music and devotion towards the violin.

Fifty Glorious Years in Music

Thereafter started the traditional Gururshisya Parampara between Minoti and Padma Vibhusahan Pt Jog. Minoti bloomed as a musician under Jog’s able guidance and the exposure of performing on live shows besides him. For Indian Classical Music this is the best way that a student of music can imbibe the nuances and intricacies of the science and the art of classical music, accompanying the guru and simultaneously building a rapport with the audience.

Acknowledging the huge role of her guruji in her life, Minoti says, “Getting opportunities of seeing the performances of noted violinists, and also performing with them, has played an integral role in my learning. When I used to go to Calcutta to learn under my guruji, he used to take me to various music conferences, and to meet various other gurus, to see and learn from them. I met A T Kana, vocalist (a maestro). We played vocal music, not in words, but with our fingers. Pt. Budhadeb Dasgupta, another noted musician, also shared his knowledge, and I could learn a lot from him and his gharaana. He was a very liberal person. And, he is the one who inspired me to learn from everything. He said that I should grab a piece of learning from everyone and everywhere, wherever there is something good to learn.”

The Rising Talent Conference at Kalamandir Calcutta in 1978 introduced Minoti as a talented artiste in front of the knowledgeable gurus and music hungry audience of Kolkata. There has been no looking back since then. The Amir Khan Music Conference at Rabindra Sadan Calcutta, Benaras, Burdwan, Cuttack, Bhubaneshwar, Tatanagar, Rabindra Natya Mandir Mumbai, India International Center Delhi, Mehta Memorial Hall Allahabad, IIT Festival, Shankardev Kalakshetra Guwahati, National Gallery of Modern Art Mumbai, India Habitat Centre Delhi, Women’s International Forum Goa, Kala Ghoda Fest, Mumbai, Nehru Centre London, Glasgow, Nehru Centre Mumbai, Madhusudhan Manch Kolkatta, Kameshwari festival, SAWF Sri Lanka, Ganga Mahotsav Varanasi, Sangeet Natak Academi, ITC SRA series, etc were some of the platforms that Minoti performed in and enthralled the audience and press alike. She became the foremost violinist of Assam and did her motherland proud, earning accolades by blending the tantrakari style of Pt Jog with her own inherent melody.

Innovations and Awards Galore

Minoti continued her parallel studies in the field of music and attained Sangeet Nipune from Prayag Sangeet Samitti, Allahabad, in 1986, bagging a gold medal for her Sangeet Visharad. During this period, she also got associated with vocalist Pt. A.T, Kanan of the Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkatta and imbibed the “gayaki ang” in her style. She also underwent music studies in the field of raga improvisations and rhythmic patterns of “tala” from sarod maestro and musicologist Pt. Buddhadev Dasgupta. She became an empaneled Artist of ICCR, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India in 1990.

Minoti’s new composition on Durga Shakti with her daughter Sunita Khaund Bhuyan, “Invocation of Ma” has taken the mother daughter duo across the country and abroad. She was conferred the title of Sangeet Jyoti and was recently conferred the Shilpi Award by the Assam government for having completed 50 years as a violinist and music teacher. She also received the Lifetime Achievement in Music recently by the Paschim Guwahati Durga Mandir Trust recently. Besides, she brought glory to Assam when she received the Exceptional woman: Creating a Better World Award at the Women’s Economic Forum in 2018 and the R. G. Baruah Award for Excellence in her Craft in 2017.

Contribution to the Field of Music

All through her musical career, Minoti has been contributing towards society by propagating Classical Music amongst the youth and teaching the violin to the young and old alike. Her vast experience in the performing art and musical studies gives her the edge to impart music lessons on the violin with technically accurate systems and methods.

Pt Jog was so impressed with the way Minoti had groomed Sunita into the intricacies of the instrument that he also offered to train Sunita under him and thus carried on the “guru shisya parampara” across two generations of violinists. The mother and daughter have been currently performing jugalbandis together

Minoti currently is the visiting faculty of a reputed music college of Guwahati and is a panel examiner for music courses at the State College of Music and Art. She is currently focused on spreading the knowledge of music as a sublime recreation and frequently speaks in music forums and conducts workshops and seminars. She has also retained her penchant for writing and is a prolific writer of music columns and articles in journals and newspapers. Her endeavor has been to propagate music among today’s generation and make music a medium of achieving inner peace and harmony and thus spreading positive energy and harmony throughout the society.

When asked if she felt that her achievements in the field of music have not been acknowledged at par, Minoti Khaund, as a true musician, says that her inner satisfaction is paramount and that “no external titles” can deter her from her passion. “I have spent an entire lifetime in pursuit of music which has brought happiness to me from within. I am well aware of my own capabilities and I have crossed the stage when I have to look to others for approval.”

Encouraging Fusion, But a Purist at Heart

A purist at heart, Minoti Khaund has strived to keep the flag of classical music flying high. But she is also aware of the need for cultural evolution. She encourages today’s youth to experiment with different kinds of music as she believes that all melodies in the world centers around the 7 notes of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. However, she maintains that mastery in any kind of music can be attained only through the pursuit of classical music. This has been the content of many of her speeches and columns, which has inspired a large number of young people to learn classical music.

As she says, “We all have to evolve with the changing times. During my jugalbandi performances along with my daughter, while I encourage her daughter to go ahead and experiment with other genres, I myself stop after a certain point,” she says.

 

Mumbai’s tribute to late Bhupen Hazarika

Bombay Gymkhana, the elite club and cultural centre of South Mumbai paid a special tribute to Dr. Bhupen Hazarika during their quarterly music concert this week.

bombay gym violin tribute

The big gathering observed silence for his departed soul and paid a tribute to his genius. Music Secretary of the club Dr. Atul Garud mentioned in his tribute that “Bhupen da” was not just a singer and composer but was a powerful writer, poet, lyricist, social activist.. all rolled into one , a rare combination of a musical genius.

Mumbai based Assamese violinist Sunita Bhuyan gave a classical violin and vocal recital accompanying her mother and guru Minoti Khaund, eminent violinist of Assam. Minoti expressed that she felt blessed to give our humble tribute to our beloved Bhupenda at the Bombay Gymkhana this evening! Sunita said, “Mother and I took the audience through a journey of Bhupenda’ s magical melodies and the stories behind each masterpiece, Samay dheere chalo,Ddil hum hum kare, the iconic Biyaar nixha, Manuhe manuhor baabe and finally Ganga beheti ho kyon /bistrinno parore.

The audience’s reaction was, “How can each and every song of one composer and singer be so varied and so eloquent in celebrating the myriad colours of life!” They were overwhelmed by the mastery of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika over melody, rhythm and lyrics….a legend who lives on through his music and passion…

Mother-daughter duo weave magic

One is a symbol of experienced maturity while the other portrays youthful exuberance. And when these two join hands together, the result is bound to captivate anyone in the immediate vicinity. And so it happened when pioneer Assamese violinist Minoti Khaund and daughter Sunita Khaund took the stage at Rabindra Bhavan recently in a show held to pay tribute to Minoti Khaund as she completes 50 years of her tryst with the violin.

Minoti, a disciple of Late Pandit V.G. jog has been the foremost violinist of Assam for the last five decades. Her story has been a single-minded pursuit of music despite being thoroughly entrenched in traditional family life. A gold medallist from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad with a Master’s degree in Music, Minoti has been playing the violin in prestigious concerts and festivals in India and abroad. Minoti went through a traditional ‘guru-sishya parampara’ with Pandit Jog and has carried on the tradition by grooming her daughter into a fine fiddler, who absorbed the finer nuances of the violin literally at her mother’s knee. Sunita, on the other hand, is a recipient of the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award for excellence in music, besides a Masters’ degree in music. She likes to experiment with light classical and folk fusion to reach out to a diverse spectrum of audiences.

The show began with ‘Guru-e-Namah’ by Minoti’s disciples, who had gathered at Rabindra Bhavan to offer her the customary guru-dakshina. Pranati Khaund then kicked off the musical proceedings with a ‘Devi Bhajan’. She was accompanied by Dibyajyoti Changmai on the Tabla, Nitul Bhagabati and Pankaj Sarma with the guitar. The Bhajan was followed by a violin recital of Swar Sadhana by Minoti’s younger disciples.

Anjumala and Sanjana Phukan then put the evening’s proceedings in fourth gear by a beautiful rendition of ‘Shyam tumi nokoriba hridoy horon’. They, along with Mitra Phukan, gave the audience a glimpse of what to expect later in the evening, with their beautiful performances. A popular writer and a very professional vocalist, Mitra Phukan gave a perfect rendition of Raag Khamaj, based on the Dadra taal, along with the Assamese Raag Pradhan. Known more for her prolific writings, Phukan showed the audience that she excels in music, as well as she does with her writings.

The highlight of the evening, however, was a jugalbandi by the mother and daughter duo of Minoti and Sunita Khaund. It was sheer pleasure watching both of them on stage, complimenting each other and at the same time, keeping the audience spellbound. The duo performed the Raag-e-Bandish based on the Rupak taal. What brought the audience to its feet, however, was their performance of ‘Bharat Darshan’. Bharat Darshan was composed by their guru Pt. V.G. Jog on the 40th anniversary of the country’s independence; it is special for it assimilates all the regional and folk tunes of the country. Minoti and Sunita played with special emphasis on our very own Bihu that evening which brought rounds of applause from the audience. They were accompanied by tablist, Dibyajyoti Changmai who added to the mesmerising effect with his playing and on-stage presence.

Minoti and Sunita Khaund have carved a niche for themselves in the field of classical music in India. The duo’s performance was notable for their performing with uninhibited mannerisms and utmost truthfulness. The recital was marked for the total involvement of their musical insight and the profound handling of their instruments. However, I got the impression that the whole show was more of a family affair than a classical music show which calls for a certain degree of sobriety and decorum. And as I said before as well, Minoti Khaund is a frontrunner of the violin in Assam and her daughter too, is an accomplished musician. As such, it is very sad to note that none of these pioneering violinists have tried and experimented with our rich regional musical heritage, something which would have put them in an entirely different league altogether.

All in all, a great show which showed that the state has quite a few talented upcoming musicians. Special mention must be made of Mitra Phukan and Dibyojyoti Changmai who added life to the evening. Minoti Khaund has ensured that her legacy is left in safe hands in the state.

Asomiya magic in Mumbai

Noted violinist Minoti Khaund and daughter Sunita Bhuyan performed for a mega fundraising event at the hitoric Shanmughanada Auditorium in Mumbai recently. The concert was named Privilege in aid of the Don Bosco Shelter, Mumbai which takes care of hundreds of street children. Minoti and Sunita shared the stage with a host of other celebrities who performed that day, starting from Latino drummer Bondo, to Manasi Scott, Mona Singh and Oscar winning choreographer Longinus.

The chief guest for the function was Boman Irani, who is the chief patron of the Don Bosco Shelter. Father Barnabe, head of the Shelter, while thanking all the artists made a special mention of the efforts of Sunita and Minoti for contributing towards the event. Sunita has been associated with the Don Bosco children as she conducts music workshops for them.

Minoti, a disciple of Late Pandit VG Jog has been the foremost violinist of Asom for the last five decades. Her story has been a single-minded pursuit of music despite being thoroughly entrenched in traditional family life. A gold medallist from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad with a Master’s degree in Music, Minoti has been playing the violin in prestigious concerts and festivals in India and abroad. Minoti went through a traditional ‘guru-sishya parampara’ with Pandit Jog and has carried on the tradition by grooming her daughter into a fine fiddler, who absorbed the finer nuances of the violin literally at her mother’s knee. Sunita, on the other hand, is a recipient of the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award for excellence in music, besides a Masters’ degree in music. She likes to experiment with light classical and folk fusion to reach out to a diverse spectrum of audiences. With both mother and daughter having carved a niche for themselves in the field of classical music in India, the duo’s performance is generally marked by uninhibited mannerisms and utmost truthfulness.