K. C. Dey (1893-1962)
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The uncrowned King of the Legendary Bengali
Krishna Chandra Dey
(August, 1893 - 28th November, 1962)
By Sushanta Kumar Chatterjee
(Reproduced from The Record News, The Journal of the Society of Indian Record Collectors, Vol 25826 Jan / Apr 1997. Courtesy : Dr Suresh Chandvankar, Hon. Secretary of the Society)
Sushanta Kumar Chatterjee is also the co-author of the Discography of KC Dey songs published in the above publication along with Michael Kinnear which has been covered exhaustively on this website
The artists who have contributed to the development of Bengali culture in various streams, by their creative faculty, have now mostly passed into oblivion. It may be thought obligatory that, to the new generation, these men and women should be brought into the contemporary limelight.
The blind singer - Sri KRISHNA CHANDRA DEY - is one of the many such vocal musical artist of Bengal. As a singer and actor, in both of these roles, and also as a music director, of the few artistes who have left a deep and lasting impression in the heart of the Bengali people, K.C. Dey (Blind Singer) is the most venerable.
Krishna Chandra Dey saw the light of this world in August 1893 (Bengali : 9th Bhadra 1301) on the holy Janmashtami Day (birthday of Lord Krishna). To commemorate the auspicious birthday, the father Shib Chandra Dey and mother Ratnamala Devi, named the baby, Krishna.
From the early childhood, young krishna Chandra showed an affection towards music and could sing well. He used to attend many musical gatherings in his youth. At the age of thirteen years (in 1906) he lost his eyesight after suffering from severe pain in the head. All medical treatments failed and he soon became blind. His love of music then found it's way through constant endeavour of vocal performances.
Eminent musicians such as Sashi Bushan Dey, Satish Chattopaddhya, Darshan Singh, Ustad Keramutulla Khan, Ustad Badal Khan, Amarnath Bhattacharya, Dabir Khan, Satish Dutta and Radha Raman Das, along with a galaxy of others all contributed to his musical training. From the musical gatherings at the famous Bengali srestler Gobarbabu' house, he gradually started appearing before the public.
Krishna Chandra Dey's first music-master was Sashi Bhusan Chatterjee and he was later trained in 'khayal' by Badal Khan; 'dhrupad' by Dani Babu; 'kirton' by Radha Raman, and in tabla-playing by Kanthey Maharaj of Benaras.
In february 1917, he provided his first recordings for the Gramophone Co Lts., at their recording studios that were attached to their factory at 139, Beliaghatta Road, Sealdah, Calcutta.
Over the next few years his musical carer appears to have been relatively eneventful, except that with good classical training his powerful yet melodious voice had been brought to maturity.
in 1923 he entered the world of Bengali Theatre. Krishna Chandra Dey made the first professional appearance in Sisir Kumar Bhaduri's Natyamandir troupe, with the staging of Manilal Ganguli's "Basanta Leela" which opened in the Alfred Theatre (now Grace Cinema) on 23 March 1924. K.C. Dey appeared in the role of 'Basanta Doot' and his songs were a highlight of the playlet.
On 6 August 1924, Sisir Kumar Bhaduri presented his reformed company in the name of Monmohan Natyamandir at the Monmohan Theatre in Beadon Street, with Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri's mythological drama "Seeta", an event attended by several dignitories of Calcutta. In this drama Krishna Chandra Dey played the role of 'Baitulik' and his singing created a sensation, particularly his song - "Ondhokarer Ontoreytey Asru Baadol Jhorey" - the popularity of which confirmed his stature as a 'Gramophone Celebrity'.
The success of Krishna Chandra Dey's performance in "Seeta" enthralled th theatre going public, with the drama celebrating it's centenary on 5 July 1925. Following "Seeta" - Krishna Chandra Dey was presented again in a repeat performanc of "Basabta Leela" at the Monmohan Theatre, which opened on 20 August 1925. In 1926, Sisir Kumar Bhaduri reformed his drama company into Natyamandir Ltd., on the stage of the Cornwallis Theatre. On 26 June 1926, Krishna Chandra Dey was presented in the staging of Rabindra Nath Tagore's "Visarjan".
With growing success Krishna Chandra Dey performed in other presentations of dramas at the Star Theatre and the Minerva Theatre. On 11 August 1928, the Minerva Theatre presented Jaladhar Chattopadhya's romantic playatyer Sandhan" in which Krishna Chandra Dey's songs were a great attraction. Other dramas presented by the Minerva Theatre in which Krishna Chandra Dey appeared were Sarat Chandra Ghosh's "Sree" in 1929, and Jaladhar Chattopadhya's "Ranga Rakhi" presented in June 1930.
On 22 December 1928, Krishna Chandra Dey took part in Sarat Chandra Ghosh's drama "Jaatichyuta" in the role of 'Girinath' at Minerva Theatre. That a blind actor could perform such a difficult role, could only be visually experienced, and had amazed the audiences at the time.
Although Krishna Chandra Dey had achieved great success as a performer on the Bengali stage, and was well known for his renditions of Bengali songs, the attractive quality of his voice had reached far across India. The release of several Hindustani recordings by the Gramophone Co., Ltd., met with considerable popularity, and further strengthened his reputation as a great artist and 'Gramophone Celebrity'.
Krishna Chandra Dey and others used to prform dramas in different places in the name of Dipali Natya Sangha. Miss Tarakbala (alias Miss Light) then a famous and beautiful actress of Star Theatre and the Art Theatre came into contact with K.C. Dey, for her songs, and also joined 'Dipali Natya Sangha'.
In 1931, Krishna Chandra Dey formed his own theatrical company, along with the well-known actor Rabindra Mohan Roy and some other associates, in the name of Rungmahal, on Cornwallis Street. Sisir Kumar Bhaduri, recently returned from United States of America, was invited to play the lead role in Jogesh Chandra Choudhuri's "Sri Sri Vishnu-Priya" which opened on 2 August 1931, with Krishna Chandra Dey in the role of 'Pagul' and as the music director. This drama was followed by several other plays in which Krishna Chandra Dey was featured, including "Bejoyini" - "Ranger Khela" - "Sindhu Gaurab" - "Asabarna" - "Rajyyasri".
The Rungmahal Theatre continued to operate under new management from 1933, and although Krishna Chandra Dey remained interested in the development of the Bengali Theatre, he had already turned his creative and musical talent to the emerging 'motion picture' industry.
Krishna Chandra Dey had made his first appearance in a 'Talkie film' made by Madan Theatres, Calcutta, and released at the Crown Cinema, Calcutta, on 13 March 1931, (renamed 'Uttara' Cinema in 1935) - featuring two songs being sung by K.C. Dey.
On 24 September 1932, the New Theatres Ltd., production of the Bengali film "Chandidas" was released at the 'Chitra' cinema (now named 'Mitra') with Krishna Chandra Dey, in both acting and singing roles. The songs from "Chandidas" opened another chapter in the illustrious career of K.C. Dey and confirmed him as one of the most popular entertainers of the time.
Between 1933 and 1935, Krishna Chandra Dey was in demand not only as an actor and singer, but also as a music director for motion pictures, being produced by East India Films, New Theatres Ltd., both of Calcutta, and also Sagar Movietone, Bombay. The Gramophone Co., Ltd., were also not hesitant in retaining Krishna Chandra Dey, on their roster of celebrity artists, as he was one of the very few recording personalities that the company could market product to several areas of interest at the same time.
Krishna Chandra Dey was appointed to the Advisory Committee of the All India Bengal Music Conference of 1938-39, he also gave a performance of Dhrupad style singing in the presenttion of 'Demonstrations by Musicians' held during the conference.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Krishna Chandra Dey directed the music for a number of Bengali dramas and performed in several other plays including "Parasar" - Govindadas" - "Majhi" - Nidhiram" - "Amarnath" - "Srinath" and "Anandaswami".Similarly, his appearances in Bengali and Hindi motion pictures, both as actor and singer, as well as undertaking the task of music director for several films, meant that his name was always at the fore-front of popular entertainment. Krishna Chandra Dey was one of the leading performers of the feature films produced by New Theatres Ltd., and music director for a number of Bengali feature films produced by Kali Film Co., Calcutta.
In 1942, Krishna Chandra Dey re-located to Bombay where he performed the duties of music director, along with acting and singing roles. Since 1917, K.C. Dey had been a recording artiste associated with The Gramophone Co., Ltd., and up to his move to Bombay, all of his recordings had been recorded and issued on 'HIS MASTER'S VOICE' - mostly in the prestigious P-10000 (Hindustani) and P-11500 (Bengali_ series - usually with 'Red' label.
Although listed as Music Director for the films "Tamanna" and "Mera Gaon" (Laxmi Productions, Bombay) - K.C. Dey acted and sang in both of these films and the recordings issues of songs from these films were released on the 'YOUNG INDIA' label - which was manufactured in Bombay by the National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., of Wadala.
These disc records on 'YOUNG INDIA' represent the only issues in over twenty five years of his recording career that were not recorded and issued by the Gamophone Co., Ltd., although K.C. Dey also provided the music for several films produced in Bombay at this time, of which the songs were issued on 'HIS MASTER'S VOICE' - in the various N- series of 'Plum' label.
The recordings of Krishna Chandra Dey of traditional styles of song always achieved great popularity, in particular his renderings of 'Kirtan' along with Baul and Bhatiali songs. K.C. Dey also helped to popularise the 'thumri' - 'dadra' and 'gazal' sung in Bengali.
K.C. Dey's many recordings in Hindustani and Urdu were equally popular with the record buying public, and during the 1940s he also recorded some Gujarati songs, along with some 'modern' and 'patriotic' songs in Hindi.
Th Bengali songs, 'Chand Boley Kachey Eso' and 'Notun Raakhsal Kon Surey Gao Gaan' - with lyrics written by Kabi Hemendra Kumar Roy, set to music by K.C. Dey, was one of the very first examples of a Bengali song to be performed in European 'harmonised' fashin (HMV P-1191) in 1934.
The tunes of most of his recordings were composed by K.C. Dey himself, and the lyricists, of whom he sung the songs of, include the famous Bengali poets, such as Hemendra Kumar Roy, Sailen Roy, Ajoy Bhattacharya, Bani Kumar, Mohini Choudhury, Hemanta Gupta and Rabindra Nath Tagore, alog with several others.
In 1947, the Bengali film "Purabi" was produced under the banner of K.C. Dey Productions, Calcutta. Krishna Chandra Dey performed as actor and singer, along with the dutie of producer. The Bengali Film 'Anirban' and 'Dristi Dan' followed in 1948, and 'Banomer Meye' in 1949, under different production houses. In 1950, Krishna Chandra Dey, was music director for the Bengali film 'Kanakantala Light Railway' and in 1957, he gave his last performance in the Bengali film'Ektara' as a Guest Artist.
Krishna Chandra Dey is usually referred to as having been a confirmed bachelor, however, he is known to have been closely associated with Miss Tarakbala (Miss Light) and to have prepared the music for her recordings, a few of which were issued by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., on the "TWIN" record label, during the 1930s. Krishna Chandra Dey and Miss Tarakbala were married according to Hindu rites, in the presence of a Brahmin 'Purohit'. (Reference - Bengali film magazine, PROSAD - Pous 1380).
After the marriage, Miss Tarakbala was renamed as Roma Dey, and was lovingly called 'Memsahib' by K.C. Dey. A son was born to the couple, but died at the age of 14 years. Krishna Chandra Dey gifted a house to Roma Dey in Mahendra Goswami Lane, Calcutta, and on his death-bed requested his relatives to see that Roma Dey was well cared for after his passing, however, it seems that after his death she led a solitary life in retirement, all alone.
Krishna Chandra Dey died on 28 November 1962, at 8.20 P.P. at the age of 69 years, at his home in Madan Ghosh Lane, Calcutta.