Gokul Nag
Recordings, text and photo by Ira Landgarten

"Other events concurred to bring me closer to the sitar in that year. Toward the end of 1934, a wonderful sitar player, Gokul Nag, joined our troupe for a short time and very much impressed me with his artistry. He was another who did much to reinforce my growing interest in the sitar..." --Pandit Ravi Shankar, My Music, My Life

Sangeetacharya Gokul Nag (1908-1983) was a pre-eminent sitarist of the Vishnupur Gharana of Bengal, a musical tradition founded by Bahadur Khan, an 18th century Seni dhrupad singer (and reputed descendent of Tan Sen of Akbar's Court in the late 16th century), who was invited from Delhi to be principal court musician at Vishnupur. Gokul Nag's guru, Ramprasanna Bandapadhyay, was a descendent of gharana musicians dating back to the founding of the gharana. His father and grandfather were also distinguished sitarists of the tradition in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. His son, Pandit Manilal Nag, is a major performer of sitar with an international reputation.

Though remembered by his contemporaries as primarily a sitarist, Gokul Nag was equally competent in almost all the mainstream instruments of Hindusthani Music. Besides playing the Rudraveena, Surbahar, Sarod, Esraj, Harmonium, Jaltarang and Nyastarang, he was trained in percussion instruments like the Tabla and the Pakhawaj. He was also gifted with a voice that never ceased humming a tune as the contemplative master-musician strolled along his aged paths through the lanes and by-lanes of Baghbazar in North Calcutta. His knowledge deeply impressed the great dancer Uday Shankar who readily included Gokulbabu in his troupe as music director. Nag's formidable dexterity on the chromatic scale moved Pandit Ravi Shankar, who left dancing and took to sitar playing.

A man, least caring for material comforts and indifferent to worldly glory, Gokulbabu seldom appeared in the limelight. But he will always be regarded by his numerous disciples and admirers as a life-long worshipper of Saraswati.

In order to commemorate the life and contribution of this single-minded musician of magnificent scholarship the Gokul Nag Memorial Foundation was established in 1996 with the aim of promoting the tradition of Hindusthani Classical Music among disciples and music lovers.

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