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Living Legend Enthralls Atlanta

September 2004
Living Legend Enthralls Atlanta

Concert Review

The Robin Raina Foundation (RRF) invited the celebrated singer Manna Dey to perform in the city on August 14. The concert took place at the swanky EarthLink Live in Midtown.

The curtains were raised to a beautiful stage illuminated with myriad diyas. Gold tissue drapes served as an elegant backdrop. The takhat for the singers and the accompanying musicians was trimmed with burnished red fabric embellished with fine zardosi work. Mr. Raina, the founder, welcomed the attendees and presented a brief introduction about the non-profit, charitable organization. He then presented a RRF Lifetime Achievement Award to Dey.

The maestro tuned his harmonium and began with non-filmi songs dear to his heart. Dey seemed genuinely moved by Raina's noble endeavor and dedicated the song Tu pyaar ka sagaar hai to him. He then went on to delight the audience with film favorites like Lapak jhapak from Bootpolish, Aai meri zohar jabi from Waaqut and Yeah raat bhigi bhigi from Chori Chori. His mature, baritone voice touched everyone in the audience. Many listeners recognized the tunes even before Dey introduced the lyrics. Even those unfamiliar with the words were captivated by the rhythmic compositions. Unlike present-day lip-synching musicians, Dey's performance was heartfelt and original. If he were to sing without an accompanist, the experience would be as melodic and moving.

The dulcet voice of Bangladeshi singer Jafreen Oni was in perfect harmony with the maestro as they sang duets. They were accompanied by Richard Madhu on the guitar, Sandeep Savla on the keyboards, Tapan Modak on the tabla, Akash Colvin on the congo and Yashpal on the percussion. One caught a glimpse of Dada's (as he is fondly addressed) perfectionism when he, in a guru-like manner, reprimanded the accompanists for not keeping tempo! The symphonic evening was interspersed with Dey's humorous remarks.

It is hard to believe that Dey was unsure about becoming a singer after graduating from the Vidyasagar College, Kolkata. Influenced by his uncle, K. C. Dey, a well-known singer, Prabodhchandra Dey, or Manna, as his uncle called him, traced his way to success. In the league of famed singers like Rafi, Talat and Mukesh, Dey has been singing for five decades. Unlike the music being churned out by present-day Bollywood singers, Dey's music has everlasting appeal.

All the money raised from the event will go towards aiding blind children in the Delhi area. To date, the RRF has adopted 540 children under various projects. From medical attention to educational needs ? the RRF is dedicated to the upliftment of underprivileged children around the world. Mr. Raina urged the audience to make a donation for a noble cause. For more information about RRF, visit www.rainafoundation.com.

A Word with Manna Dey

Khabar caught up with Dada the next morning to ask him a few questions before his departure. His passion for music in its organic avatar came through in our conversation.

What inspires you to sing everyday?

I am completely devoted to music. It is a yogic practice. To me singing is breathing.

What advice would you give to budding musicians?

They should be completely involved with music. Those who want to do well have to be aware of what is happening around them. They must practice ? like yoga. They must try all styles, not just classical. In the West you have a few styles. In India, every region has a unique style. It is so rich. There is so much to learn.

What is your opinion about present-day Indian musicians?

Today's music makers are not taking solid steps to further our traditions. They are just aping the West and the sounds are getting lost.

What is your opinion about fusion music ? the confluence of Eastern and Western sounds?

In my opinion that type of music has no future. Our voices and ragas are very different. They should be preserved.

-Reetika Nijhawan


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