Among the most favorite accompanists of many of India’s greatest musicians and dancers, Pt. Subhankar Banerjee passed away at the age of 54 on Wednesday. An artist par excellence, he dotted the world map with his presentations at acclaimed venues, with a distinguished style of playing and formidable command over the instrument.
The Tabla virtuoso who had collaborated with some of the biggest names in Indian classical music and international fusion fought a two-month-long battle with post-Covid complications. He suffered from severe Covid ARDS with septic shock. He is survived by his wife Nibedita, daughter Aahiri, and son Aarchik who is also a promising percussionist.
An accomplished soloist of the Benaras and Farukhabad gharanas, he is counted among today’s most brilliant Tabla players of the country by great stalwarts such as Pt. Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Pt. Birju Maharaj, Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Balmuralikrishnan, Vidushi Girija Devi; for his accompaniment with them over the past many years till date.
Pt. Subhankar Banerjee had been a recipient of Sangeet Samman and Sangeet Maha Samman by the West Bengal government. He had performed in this year’s Dover Lane Music Conference when concerts at venues were allowed and had also organized a classical concert in the memory of his mother.
Born to singer-composer Kajalrekha, at the age of 3 he took training under Pt Manik Das of Benaras Gharana. He then learned music from Pt Swapan Shiva of Farukhabad Gharana for 25 years.
The maestro had also contributed to Hollywood movies like Night of the War, Space, Dark Street, etc. His latest creation in the world of music ‘‘Sacred Drums of India”, is one of the most successful rhythm bands performing all over the world today. Pt. Shubhankar Banerjee had been ranked as the youngest “Top Grade Tabla Player” by All India Radio. To quote Pt. Bickram Ghosh, “He was no star son. He had no star guru. True talent was his only godfather”.
Legendary tabla artist Ustad Zakir Hussain expressed his utter sorrow on Twitter, saying “I will miss him, the world of tabla will miss him, Indian music will miss him. The loss is irreparable. RIP dear Shubhankar bhai.”
Panditji’s mortal remains were taken to the West Bengal State Music Academy’s premises for people to bid a final farewell. The huge amount of reverence and love that he had always received, was conspicuous in the quite emotional crowd consisting of connoisseurs and laymen alike, assembled to pay their last respects.
As Pt. Purbayan Chatterjee said, “Both emotionally and musically, we are poorer without him.”