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Banerjee, Krishnadhan


Banerjee, Krishnadhan (1846-1904) musician and musicologist, born in Kolkata. Krishnadhan Banerjee was one of the three musicologists who introduced new trends in Bangla music, the' other two being kshetramohan goswami and Shaurindramohan Thakur.

A meritorious student, he passed the Entrance examination with a stipend before going on to study at hindu college. He started learning music while still in his teens. While playing the title role of Sharmistha at Belgachhiya Theatre, he drew the attention of Kshetramohan Goswami who gave him singing lessons for about six years. Krishnadhan then learnt classical music from Haraprasad Banerjee.

In 1865 Krishnadhan went to Gwalior to join a job at a state school. Gwalior was then one of the best music centres of India, and his stay there enabled him to interact with the best Indian singers. He learnt to play the sitar from Gwalior's maestro, Ahammadjan. He also learnt to play the piano. He taught himself western music and staff notation and experimented with teaching Indian music through written notations.

His first book, Chiner Itihas, was published in 1866. A year later, Bangaikyatan, his first book on notation, appeared. After three years in Gwalior, he left for Cooch Bihar to take up a job at the royal court there. During this time two other books of his- Hindusthani Airs Arranged for the Pianoforte and Sangitshiksa- were published. From Cooch Bihar he went to Darjeeling, where he was appointed deputy magistrate. During his stay in Darjeeling, his fourth book on music, Setarshiksa (1873), was published.

In 1874 Krishnadhan moved to Kolkata where he set up a music academy to teach students vocal and instrumental music according to his methods. However, his efforts proved unsuccessful. For some time, he conducted the Indian National Theatre. With no success here either, he went back to Cooch Bihar and joined the Excise Department, staying there until 1899. During this period, his famous book on music Gitasutrasar was published in two parts (1885 and 1886), with the support of the Maharaja Nripendranarayan Bhupa Bahadur of Cooch Bihar. The book became so important in the world of music that Bhatkhande, a famous musicologist, learnt Bangla in order to read it. Krishnadhan's last book Harmoniyam Shiksa was published in 1899. He spent the last few years of his life as the music teacher of Probhat Chandra Barua, Raja of Gauripur and father of Pramathesh Barua, a famous film star.

Although at his best as a performer, Krishnadhan Banerjee was more famous as an author of books on music. Father of modern Indian musicology, he made efforts to adapt universal staff notation to the needs of Indian music. He also played a pioneering role in popularising of chorus, orchestra and vocal harmony. In 1898 he spoke on music at London's Albert Hall, perhaps the first Indian to do so. [Mobarak Hossain Khan]