"I Always Longed to Sing for Him"
The name of Shrii Prashanta Das is now well-known all over the world. He has been selected by SHRII PRABHÁT RAIṊJAN SARKÁR, inventor rather creator of PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA (Rays of Crimson Dawn in Musical Symphony) to sing and record HIS immortal PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA (Musical symphony of Crimson Dawn). Shrii Prashanta is shy and avoids publicity, he is easily approachable, gentle but speaks sparingly. Editor, Bodhi Kalpa (Quarterly journal of ÁNANDA MÁRGA) talked to him at Lake Gardens. The informal talk reveals the singers devotional personality.
Editor – Today everybody knows you as PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA Singer. Will you explain how did you start with music and came to ÁNANDA MÁRGA?
Prashanta – I was singing since my childhood, but just as a bathroom singer. My family members were appreciating me; my voice they said was sweet. I loved singing and used to sing. When I was about 17, I came in contact of ÁNANDA MÁRGA. My elder brother (Ac Sarvatmananda Avt) was an active margii and he inspired me to join ÁNANDA MÁRGA. It was in 1964. There was Dharma Maha Cakra at Camac Street, Calcutta, and it was here that I got first chance to sing for BÁBÁ, in one General Darshan. I remember the song, “Tumi ha'th dhate niye calo pita' (it was Sakha in original but I sang Pita') from Ravindra Sangeet.
In 1966 or 1967, there was Dharma Maha Cakra (DMC) at Medinipur and I sang Rajanikanta's “Tumi arupa svarupa Saguna nirguna...”. This song was very much liked by BÁBÁ and there after He used to ask me to sing it very often.
When BÁBÁ came out of jail in 1978 and then reached Calcutta (South End Park residence of BÁBÁ), I got opportunity to be with Him for 2-3 hours. I sang a number of songs for Him, then also He asked me to sing that particular song of Rajanikanta.
Editor – Will you please mention if you had learnt music as a subject?
Prashanta – Not very much really. Yes I was in high school, when I learnt to play harmonium and then during emergency, I had taken classes in classical music. That's all. That is why I can't understand how He selected me as singer for His musical symphony. When there are quite a few who know much more about music. It is just His grace, and nothing else.
Editor – Yet, I will like to know what you feel should be the reason that He blessed you with this privilege?
Prashanta – What can I say and how do I know His criteria? Only thing, I can say is that He loves me very much. He always liked my singing and I always longed to sing for Him.
Editor – Will you please tell us how you started singing PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA and then recording?
Prashanta – It was in Tiljala, Calcutta that I listened to PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA first. BÁBÁ was in Deoghar and on Ac. Tapeshvarananda ji's asking, I went to Deoghar with plants. There I had a chance to go with BÁBÁ for field-walk.
BÁBÁ was talking about geography, history etc of Deoghar. After the walk when BÁBÁ just sat in the car, He said, “Prashanta used to sing for me before, now he does not."
When I came to Calcutta in October '82 and was staying at Tiljala, I was asked to prepare notations of His songs.
Day and night, I was busy in preparing notations (at BÁBÁ's residence – Lake gardens, Calcutta). One such night, at about 2 o'clock, BÁBÁ asked what I was doing, and He was told that I was preparing notations. He was very happy.
Once during an afternoon reporting, I was called by BÁBÁ in the presence of all whole time workers, He asked me to sing the song I liked most and I sang - “Ta'ri patha pa'ne man chute' ja'y (P.S No. 67).
After listening the song, BÁBÁ said that I used to sing for Him before and asked the workers to utilize me for PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA.
After a couple of days, Ac. Ramananda Ji (then P.A. to Beloved BÁBÁ) conveyed to me that BÁBÁ wanted me to record all the songs of PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA.
The first song was recorded in a small room of Tiljala Jagrti, Calcutta (end of October 1982) on a tape recorder, with just tabla, violin and harmonium. And when I completed the first cassette and presented it to BÁBÁ, it was an unforgettable moment of my life. When Ac. Ramananda ji told me the next day that BÁBÁ liked the songs, I felt very, very happy – a kind of fulfillment.
The first 100 songs were recorded in Tiljala, Calcutta – working round the clock, with Ac. Pranavananda ji organizing and recording on tape-recorder.
The studio-recording had started with 5th part (Song No. 101). The quality of recording improved and BÁBÁ was very happy. And till today recording of about 1100 song has been completed.
Editor – Did you have difficulty in singing a particular song and if so how did you solve it?
Prashanta – Whenever I had a difficulty with a particular song, I used to sing it before BÁBÁ and BÁBÁ used to correct it and then only it was recorded. One such song was “Toma'ro gopan Katha' (P.S. No 175). As BÁBÁ is creating a new Ghara'na' – there are quite a few songs which had to be repeatedly corrected by Him. Especially with classical songs, it happened quite often.
Editor- And now my last question – what do you think of PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA and how it helped you spiritually and otherwise.
Prashanta – PRABHÁT SAḾGIITA began with rhythmic, melodious songs, vibrating with devotion. But then came ghazals, seasonal songs, Baul, Jhumur, classical and what not. I am too insignificant a person to comment on it. I must say that I am overwhelmed by it, it helped me in sádhaná, it increased many fold my love for BÁBÁ and gave me something in which I can dip and get lost.