‘Music must germinate in the heart’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Aug 2017 12:08:35

By Nandu Andhare

The magic of Swaras play into one’s mind, knowingly or unknowingly since childhood. It is inherited to a large extent and starts showing up from the tender age of three. Initially these symptoms are ignored as childish pranks, but the magnanimity of the music virus is only realised when the affected person shows signs of getting drawn towards musical instruments, or music as a whole. There is that pause in the made age of mischief, which again stabalises a tender mind in listening to the musical sounds, be it chords of the guitar, or strings of the Sitar or Sarod or the violin, or the spiritually enlightening Tanpura, whose divine strains tug at the chords of one’s heart, providing the healing touch to a stressed out mind, steadying the runaway series of thoughts, calming the mind. It is this strain of the cosmic sound of the Tanpura that sprouts the musical springs in one’s heart, causing a steady flow out of an erratic upsurge.

Many artists have experienced this and Pt Shankar Bhattacharya is one of them. Speaking to The Hitavada, a staunch Nagpurian, this talented child prodigy learnt music from the age of 5. Bachpan me to khud ki soch kahan hoti hai so saying he started tinkering with instruments, his first Guru and Father Pt Arun Bhattacharya, an accomplished Sitar player, took him under his tutelage. “I actually felt that I started understanding music from the age of 12 years,” said Shankar. In 1972, he bagged the National Talent Scholarship in Music and in 1982, he was selected for National Scholarship to young artists of New Delhi. He took to playing the Sarod, a modified version of the Afgani Musical Instrument Rabab and a difficult musical instrument that has no Tarfa or Frets. One has to glide his fingers over the strings stretched across a smooth steel plate to negotiate the swaras, a task only the well-versed musicians can undertake without going off key. A major break through came his way when Shankar bagged the Sur Singar Samsad’s Surmani title in the year1981. Awards started coming his way when in 1988, he bagged the Best Instrumentalist award conferred by music India that comprised a Golden trophy and cash award of Rs 25,000. He became the only A Grade Sarod artist of Central India in 1995. Subsequently, he performed AIR’s most coveted Diwali Sangeet Sammelan held at Jaipur and gave performances throughout India. He also became a visiting lecturer, examiner and got invitations to perform abroad like in England, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Poland and Russia. He is one of the proud Nagpurians, to have represented India at International Mystic Music festival held at Istanbul Turkey titled as Shankar Bhattacharya and group”. He also performed in International Symphony Orchestra organised by Istanbul Symphony Orchestra in Istanbul in 2001. He was interviewed by CNN TV Istanbul in the same year as well as in 2004. He gave a live interview on Radio Istanbul in the same year, then in 2004 and in 2008. He has International CD’s on Indo Turksh Fusion, is visiting professor of Music in University of Istanbul, Turkey His musical journey has been documented and is being released on screen by Turkish Radio and TV organisation. He believes in Guru shishya parampara an has been teaching foreign and Indian students, Indian classical music. He has just returned from Istanbul, having given three concerts in Istanbul and Milan . from July 6 to 25. This simpleton and humble looking talented musician is employed as Manager with Bank of Maharashtra Ghoturli (Near Umred).

Asked about his work, which at times is taxing, Shankar smiles back his eyes keen to explain “ When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I come home, and pick up my Sarod. The plucking of the strings, emanate swaras, that provide the soothing balm over the stress, wiping it clean, very gently, and I find myself totally lost, sub consciously elevated into the oblivion”.

What is it that tugs at the heart when you play, asked this scribe and Shankar spoke “ I don’t copy any individual, I copy his ideas. I listen to Ustad Amir Khan’s somber style of alap, his gradual relaxed vistar. I believe in Eklavya tatva that also means respect your Guru. In this case, I do not see Ustad Amir Khan Sahib but I listen, to copy and master the finer points of his vocal music. Same is with the music of Pt Jasraj. There is spiritual happiness. Besides I must say that there is double happiness, for when I lay in concerts, I get paid for being happy”.

What is it that makes foreigners sit down and listen to you when you speak to them, queried this scribe besides playing the Sarod, queried. This scribe and Shankar spoke softly as if it will be harsh on musical notes and said, “I speak to them , telling them stories of our mythology, stories of Miya Tansen and Emperor Akbar, Gautam Rishi and his idea of patience. I tell them that when you play, don’t play to please the audience, but perform to derive pleasure yourself. Pt Ratnakar Vyas, son of the legendary Pt Narayanrao Vyas taught me to follow the vocal view of rendition (Gayaki Ang) that has become an inherent part of my Sarod play. It is important to know the poise, in a vocal recital, as it is akin to placing flowers at the feet of God,” explained Shankar. He demonstrated his thought with some superb vocal expressions mimicking styles of Ustad Amir Khansaheb and Pt Jasraj, pointing out the variations but revealing the beauty of their spiritually elevating gayaki. Asked about his disciples, Shankar mentioned names of Vivek Navre, who teaches Sarod at Khairagarh University, Vivek Diwan, who is a teacher in a college, Lavanya Ambade Song and Dance Division,Sitar Artist Government of India.

How do foreigners adapt to our music asked this scribe and Shankar simply replied, “Foreigners who learn under me, I tell them to adopt Indian mindset, then only one can learn comfortably. There are persons who master the grammar quickly, but lack in the emotional content, which we Indians are good at in orating the swaras with. Pt Shankar Bhattacharya also has a melodious voice and is a complete musician.