by HQ Chowdhury


First, his father Nawadip Chandra Burman who is said to be the younger son  of King Ishan Chandra Manikya and the direct heir to the kingdom of Tripura. No matter what history says about Nawadip Chndra Burman, It is unanimously accepted that Nawadip Chandra was a very cultured man.

Karta remembered his father as:  "I was cast in the mould of my father. His education was my backbone. 

He was a saint to me and a true artist.  It is through his teaching that I developed the little skills of fine arts in me. He excelled in Sitar, Dhrupadsongs, painting and sculpting. During the Swaraswat, Kali and Durga Pujas, he was the one who would make the statues in our house".

Second, Madav and Anwar, the two domestic helps.

"Madhav was an old man. After lunch Madhav would hum passages from the Ramayana on lazy Sundays. The tunes drove me crazy. No ustadi -- simple and straight from the heart.  Anwar was my guru in angling. The two of us would be singing by the riverside and in our huge backyard. My grammar lessons would lay idle on the shelf as I spent the night, listening to Anwar as he sang with his "dotara".  My teacher obviously did not like it ! But that did not deter me. Every evening I would cling to Anwar like a child and get carried away with his Bhatiali".

Karta's first guru, apart from those at home, was the legendary KC Dey who began teaching him from 1925. He was under his tutelage until 1930. He was then under the training of Bishwadev Chatterjee from 1932 although he was three years senior to him. Thereafter Khalifa Badal Khan, the famous Sarengi master and then the orchestra king Allauddin Khan (readers may like to go back to the songs "Pawane Diwane" or "Tere Naina Talaash" and note the orchestra). Of course, it did not end there. There was Shymlal Chetri, the famous harmonium player and Benerasi thumri specialist (refer to songs from Devdas and Benazir ! ) and the countless numbers of Pirs, Fakirs, Vainshnavs   who would frequently visit their Comilla house. Karta knew the art to grasp any musical knowledge that someone could offer.

The Maharajas of Agartala were always great promoters of art and culture.  They even helped Tagore's Vishwa Bharati financially. Karta also made his contribution as a promoter. He got KC Dey , Ustad Badal Khan and Allauddi Khan into Agartala. Nazrul Islam had also spent some time with him earlier, at their Comilla house.

There is not much information available regarding Karta's stint with Bengalee films and plays. After Karta set the music for two plays ("Sati Tirtha" and "Janani"), he composed the music for a film ("Rajgee" in 1837) for the first time.  He composed music for about 10 Bengalee films barring the bilingual ones like Mashal, Aradhana. The second film "Rajkumarer  Nirbashan" (1940) was a hit and ran for 17 straight weeks. "Jevaan Sangini"  also did well. "Protishodh" (1941) ran for 12 weeks and it included the song "Phool Koli Re Phool Koli".  In  "Abhoyer Biye (1942)" he composed and sang the Hindi song " Aei Dil Betar Usey Yaad Kiye Ja" . The film ran for 30 weeks  bumper hit.   "Chaddobeshi" (1944) was also a grosser. It had the comedy number "Chi Chi Keya Sharam Ki Bath, Babur Lerki Paliye Gelo Driver Ke Sath". His last Bengalee film was "Chaitali" in 1969  for which Manna Dey sang for him in Bangla for the  first time. The two songs " Duti Chokhe" and "Shudahi Ami "  were big hits.

Karta's greatest contribution in the realm of modern Bengali music is  the expression of poetry through music. The lyrical beauty of a song, delivered through his vocals, along the lines of a raga or a raditional folk song, continue to be unparallel in Bengali music. This gave him the status of an institution. Kumar Prasad Mukherjee, the last of the giants of the Agra gharana, who passed away last May says in his book "Mehfil" :  " I would not have learnt to love classical music had it not been for Monu, Suku, and Gabu  my friends. It was from them that I came to know that KC Dey's "Phirey Cholo Phirey Cholo" is Raga Malkaus, Sachin Dev Burman's " Ami Chino Eka" is Pilu and "Alo Chaya Dola" is Bahar.

Karta sang quite a few songs based on traditional or Hiindoostani bandishes, which were sung previously by other artists.  "Kaun Bujhai Rama, Tapat Morey Manki" by KL Saigol became "Ami Chino Eka" and then "Tere Bin Sooni (Rafi), Ustad Abdul Karim Khan's "Jamuna Ke Teeray became "Modhu Brindabone" and then "Mithey Bole Bole" (Bhupendra - RD Burman), Ustad Fayyaz Khan's "Na Manungi Na Manungi became "Kuhu Kuhu Kuhu Koyelia" (composer : Nazrul Islam ); 'Jhan  Jhan Jhan Baje Payelia"  became "Jhan Jahn Monjiro Baje"  and then  "Jhan Jhan Payel Baje" (lata).  As a performer composer, Karta produced amazingly beautiful shades of the same color paying due respect to their lyrical beauty, thus opening a new door to the appreciation of Hindoostani classical music.

Karta made "Remixes" to label them as "SD Burman songs". These, in their own way found places in the history of film music. However, they do not  contain the "Karta nuances". Lata Mangeskar and Kishore Kumar admitted that he would modify these songs to make it easier for the singers. It is interesting to note that Bengalees hardly sing his songs in public. These are only hummed at home or amongst close friends for pleasure. The reason  those patented nuances  a twist here, a turn there, a broken voice here and a smooth shift there -- would be missing  something which only the magical voice of Sachin Dev Burman could reproduce.


Karta* -- Bangla word meaning "one who holds the authority to do things; lord or master used by servants in addressing their masters; Lord of the universe.





When Sachin Dev Burman crossed the border to eternity on October 31, 1975 one of Bengal's greatest masters in music, Dilip Kumar Roy may have paused for a while to remember the first time he met him. "I remember meeting Sachindra Dev Burman during the period 1937-1938-39. He was  busy with music and took lessons from Bishwadeb Chatterjee.

Although he did not have much time for us, he would never fail to draw everyone's attention whenever he came. A generous man known for appreciation -- he was humble and graceful despite his princely background and above all, he had a voice -- not found in many.

 True, his voice was not as strong as those of Dhrupad/Kheyal singers like Gyanendra Prasad Goswami, Bishwadeb Chatterjee or Tarapada Chakrabarty, but he had something which is invaluable to a music lover : the power to present songs in a simple yet sophisticated manner to capture the heart of the audience. To be honest, 'ustaads' may well be those who devise ways to draw attention and know rather little. Surely, one must possess that special ingredient in the voice that would reach out and steal the heart surpassing all --- the power to generate the mellifluous flow of melody. This was inherent in Sachindra  specially his Bhaitiali songs. His other Bangla songs are also so strikingly captivating that one is only inclined to say "only he can sing flowers to bloom". Nothing much about his meend, taan or gamak, but the way he presented the songs laced with small intricacies that one would always be swept off the feet. His style was soon to be emulated by the various singers of Bengal", wrote D K Roy in his memoirs.

It is regrettable that the work of Sachin Dev Burman aka Sachin Karta aka SD Burman has never been properly valued. Bengalees basically know him as a singer, not a composer, despite the fact that he himself composed 114 out of his recorded 131 Bangla songs. And yet, few talk about his composing range. Perhaps his popularity as a singer became a barrier for the composer in him to come out. To the rest of India, he is first a composer and then an occasional singer -- just the reverse. With only about 25 songs in Hindi and that too mostly in the Bhaitali "ang', how could the Hindi audience fathom his depth and range as a performer ?

Music connoisseurs and colleagues of the thirties christened him as "Sachin Karta*" because of his royal background, but to the rest he is still known as "Sachindev".  Karta sang for 43 years and recorded around 160 songs (inclusive of Hindi) from light semi classical to modern. He took off with the "Khamaj" semi classical "E Pathery Aaj Eso Priyo" on one side and the folk "Dakle Kokil Roj Bihane" on the reverse side". That was 1932. It is worth mentioning here that Hindustan Musical Product, the producer of Karta's first song, like HMV was initially not impressed with his voice  and was about to reject him.  CC Shaha, on the other hand, could identify that unique material in Karta's vocal chord and decided to gamble much against the wishes of the other big wigs of the company.

When the H11 78 rpm record was proved to be a smashing hit, Hindustan Record, became the most talked about record company overnight. Thereafter, Karta cut discs one after another for Hindustan Record and later HMV. Today his songs continue to be " Singers and Connoisseurs choice", validating its timeless appeal.

He reached his peak as a singer between 1932 and 1946, when he emerged as the highest paid Bengali singer until his shift to Bombay. In his own words of his early singing career - "Between 1930 to 1936, I fused folk and classical music to develop a style of composition which was different from others. My "gayaki" therefore was also quite different. Apart from the notable musicologists like Amiya Nath Sanyal, Dhurjyoti Prasad Mukherjee, Khogen Mitra and Hemen Rai, it was also widely appreciated by other music buffs such as the Maharaja of Natore.

As gifted as he may had been, Karta was not open to sing for others. He had only sung to Himangsu Dutta (8 songs), RC Boral (1 song), Nazrul Islam (4 songs) and Sailesh Das Gupta  (2 songs), who were his all good friends. Karta had also sung quite a few songs in films upon requests from close friends. However, there were two conditions attached. Firstly, the song had to be tuned by him even if the music director was someone else. Secondly, it cannot be in the lip of any actor, but to be used only as background music. There had been one exception though. "Chok Gelo Chokh Gelo" in the film "Nandini" was tuned by Nazrul Islam. However, that was for a totally different reason.

The first time Karta participated in All India Music Conference was in 1934, at the invitation of Allahabad University, where he presented his Bengalee "Thumri" in front of an audience that included Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Dr. Kailash Nath Karju, Vijay Laxmi Pandit and the inimitable Abdul Karim Khan of Kirana Gharana . The same year he was invited by Calcutta University to sing in the Bengal Music Conference that was inaugurated by Rabindra Tagore.  Again, classical music luminaries of India participated. This time Karta met Ustad Fayyaz Khan of Agra Gharana. He once again presented his "Thumri" and got a gold medal.

Karta's art and craft with his vocal chord was a treat to all those who loved music. Those who heard him "live" were simply marveled with his eloquent vocalism behind which lay a deep feeling, a vast vision coupled with a high degree of originality and virtuosity. Unfortunately, none now live to tell the tale.  The poor recording of those days do little to treasure his art. Where did Karta get his music  ?