Considered to be an influential figure in 20th century sarod playing, Sangeetacharya Radhika Mohan Maitra was born 1917 to a prominent family of the erstwhile feudal aristocracy of East Bengal, now Bangladesh, and grew up in Rajshahi, where his family had vast estates. His grandfather Ray Bahadur Lalita Mohan Maitra was a pakhawaj player and had in his employ, the renowned sarod player Mohammad Amir Khan (1873–1934), with whom Radhika Mohan (widely referred to as Radhu Babu) studied for five to six years from around the age of 11 till until his guru`s death. Radhu Babu later studied dhrupad and the Been (veena) and Sursringar baaj from the famous beenkar, Ustad Dabir Khan of the Senia gharana and sitar from Ustad Enayat Khan.
As a member of the erstwhile landed gentry, he was a patron of professional musicians and to many a large-scale music conference, including one that he himself organised at Rajshahi, but after the partition of India in 1947, he was forced to leave his ancestral home and move to Calcutta. He had a master`s degree in Philosophy, and had trained as a lawyer, but altered circumstances made him finally take up music professionally. However, Radhu Babu was temperamentally and culturally unlike the professional musicians of his time. A purist to the core, he was not able abandon his aristocratic temperament in favour of the professional mindset and as a result, though highly respected, was never commercially successful.
Radhu Babu`s debut concert was in Calcutta, in the home of another aristocratic family, who were also patrons of music. This was followed by an appearance at the Allahabad Music Conference in 1937, where he won the first prize in the instrumental music contest and also performed alongside Baba Allauddin Khan at the latter`s invitation.
He soon became a regular performer on All India Radio. He rose to great heights as a performer and from about 1940 until the mid-60s, no major musical event in India was complete without his participation. His fame soon started to extend beyond the shores of India and he started touring extensively, both as a part of cultural delegations as well as on solo tours. In 1972 he was awarded the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award by the government of India.
Radhu Babu was a prolific composer and perhaps the only keen student of sarod technique in his era. He not only archived hundreds of traditional compositions in huge ledgers that he maintained, but also devised a very efficient method of imparting sarod technique, his repertoire and what he considered good musical taste, to his students. In the fifties and sixties, he composed some new ragas, like Lalitamanjari, Chandra Malhar, Deepa Kalyan and Alakananda . Starting in the early sixties Radhubabu turned his attention to the design of instruments – of the three new musical instruments he invented, the Mohan Veena was the most successful.
Radhu Babu was considered a formidable authority on the theoretical aspects of raga music, which he took great pains to translate accurately into his own music and that of his students. As a teacher, he had few equals. Some of his students include sitarist Nikhil Banerjee (who later became a disciple of Allauddin Khan), sarod players Buddhadev Dasgupta, Nemai Chand Dhar, Anil Roychowdhury, Samarendranath Sikdar, Kalyan Mukherjea, Narendranath Dhar, Joydeep Ghosh, sitarists Himadri Bhushan Bagchi, Sanjoy Bandopadhyay and Sugato Nag.
After 1970, struck by a series of personal tragedies and unfortunate professional setbacks, Radhu Babu`s career began to decline. Deeply dissatisfied, in 1976, he announced his retirement from the concert stage and also his intention to project promising musicians. True to his promise, he arranged four Rising Talents Music Conferences between 1976 and 1979. This program became very popular and continued even after his death, till the mid nineties. All the musicians chosen by him to perform at the Rising Talents conference rose to great heights. Starting with Ajoy Chakrabarty, almost all the great vocalists and instrumentalists of Bengal today were his finds. Radhu Babu returned to perform only twice after 1976. In October 1981, he died of a brain hemorrhage.
(with inputs from http://debatesangeet.blogspot.com/2008/02/authors.html)
The music on this page is courtesy Bihaan Music, Kolkata.