Writings about Music

A Special Key

Anindo Chatterjee photographed by Michael Robinson 2018

Nervous about getting lost on the way to my first lesson with Anindo Chatterjee, taking an unfamiliar train and subway route, by chance I sat next to a lovely off-duty railroad woman wearing civilian clothing who had a special key, letting me off when the train was delayed, and giving perfect directions.

Everything seemed to be going fine until the train stopped unexpectedly, and an announcement was made without giving a timeline for when we would proceed. At that point she got up and coolly told me to follow her like in a Hitchcock film. We walked to one of the double doors away from other passengers, whereupon she pulled out a special key smooth as silk opening them for us to walk through, the doors closing behind us. Then she gave careful directions for taking the proper subway and where to get off.

There were four lessons with the master tabla artist who became my music Guruji, a title he wishes for me to address him with, and I'm honored to do so, that summer of 2018, and several more in 2019 before we were interrupted by the pandemic. In 2019 I discovered getting there by car was infinitely preferable. Looking back to the previous year, the woman who assisted me qualified as a guardian angel!

The 2018 lessons were videotaped, and the 2019 lessons were audio recorded. Perhaps I will release all or some of these at some point. Guruji's teaching was revelatory.

One of his albums I've long felt is the greatest music recording in any genre from any year. At one lesson, I asked him if he could play and sing for me a favorite passage from that exalted godlike syllabus. After listening to the passage once, he knew exactly what it was, and played it for me effortlessly, also singing the syllables - unbelievable!

Curious to hear my music for meruvina, I played some online using YouTube, and Guruji expressed both admiration and surprise at how different it was from other Western music. He also complimented my overall energy and eagerness to learn, saying my questions were astonishingly superb, including pertinent details no one had ever asked him about before.

When I interviewed Shivkumar Sharma in 2003, he told me that I was the first person to accurately describe the true nature of his music in words.

I never dreamed that I would be playing a conventional instrument, the piano, and recording with Guruji when it came to pass last September. His disciple, Ehren Hanson, a gifted tabla artist, was enthusiastic about my idea to record piano and tabla duet improvisations, and it was a dream come true when Guruji concurred, flying to Los Angeles for the sessions.

Please watch this site for announcing when the four albums the sessions yielded will be released.

I'm so overcome by emotion writing about Guruji it is difficult to do so. He is so humble, kind and unpretentious, belying his magnificence, it recalls in a way the casual manner in which George Burns portrayed God. Shivkumar Sharma and Pandit Jasraj were the same way. Jackie McLean said Charlie Parker was like this, and David Amram told me the same about John Coltrane.

Ravi Shankar believed that the deep love George Harrison had for Indian classical music was due, in part, to reincarnation. Myself, I believe my profound attraction was nurtured by how John Coltrane, the Doors and other artists assimilated raga consciousness into their music for others to imbibe, while being intrigued by the concept of reincarnation, not knowing much about it.

- Michael Robinson, November 2022, Los Angeles


© 2022 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, jazz pianist and musicologist. His 198 albums include 151 albums for meruvina and 47 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.


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