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(Courtesy : Original uploader)

Q. 1 Panditji, after 65 years’ long career as a professional musician, today in the year 2008, at the age of 80 years, how do you feel?

Ans: Well, it is true that I started my professional career at an early age of 16 in the year 1944 as a staff artist for AIR, Lahore. I do remember very clearly as a 6 year old child when my father showed no hesitation in my giving up formal education after attending school for barely 2 days so as not to get flogged on my fingers or my hands by the orthodox school master at Udaipur school. Our close family friends and relatives criticized him for giving preference to my playing Sarangi than schooling.

Their only question to him was that even assuming that I would be able to play Sarangi, where was the platform available for a Sarangi player in India. My father used to reply very politely to them that Ram would play Sarangi for the All India Radio. Thus, my father’s prediction came true in a literal sense. But it is a measure of his deep and abiding faith in my love and passion for the Sarangi that he did not care that I did not attend formal school. He instead made sure that my progress in music was not hampered at any stage for any reason. So in that sense I feel very obliged to my father for his foresight and for his support and guidance and his blessings today as I could not have achieved this status and respect of a world-wide audience without him.

Q. 2 What would you say proved to be the most important decision of your life as a musician?

Ans: As you know, I gave up my job at AIR, Delhi, in 1949 to come and settle down in Bombay which offered better opportunities to me as a Sarangi player. It pains me even today that I had to play Sarangi in film songs for more than 15 years to make ends meet because I could become financially sound only in the decade of 1960 when I had established myself as a Solo Sarangi player exclusively. However, in 1965 with the sudden and untimely death of my dear brother, Pandit Chaturlal I was completely shattered. He was a great source of inspiration for me and as a musician he was par excellence. With his passing away there was a huge void in my life. I became very depressed and could not even think straight for months together. I could see that to elevate Sarangi and my music to higher levels I must practice very hard. But with the responsibility of my family of 4 children and my parents came the added responsibility of of 4 children of Pt. Charturlal on my shoulders. Just about when I had thought of bidding good bye to film industry and earn my livelihood as a Solo Sarangi player, Pt. Chaturlal passed away. After much pondering, I had decided to go back to All India Radio and take a job of staff artist there which would have fetched me an assured salary of Rs. 800/- to Rs. 1,000/- at least in those days. However, my close friend, Roshan, the film music composer, stopped me from doing that. Earlier, at the age of 12 I had started teaching music in 2 schools in Udaipur as a part-time teacher. Then came Pt. Mahadeo Prasad Mahiarwale who opened my eyes and I resigned overnight only to begin my learning under him once again. Then in the year 1949 I gave up my job at Delhi Radio. So this was going to be for the third time that I decided to take up a job. This decision of mine could have ruined my music and me as I was at a very critical point of my career at that time, especially after the overwhelming appreciation that I had received in my first ever European tour in 1964 with Pt. Chaturlal. So in retrospect I can say that accepting the piece of advice of Roshan proved to be the most important decision in my musical career.Q. 3 You are a highly respected scholar musician all over European countries. Why is it so that you don’t rank among the popular musicians in India?

Ans: Well, the first reason is that Europeans have a far better idea and appreciation of bowed instrument like Sarangi which in itself combines all the 4 bowed instruments of western music i.e. violin, viola, chelo and double base. Therefore, I played most of my concerts in Europe. However, the other unfortunate reason is that Indian music lovers do not treat classical musicians with the kind of dignity they deserve. Even among classical musicians vocalists are preferred to instrumentalists in India. You can well understand this point from the fact that very talented Sarangi players like Bade Gulam Ali and Amir Khan had to give up Sarangi playing and switch over to singing as both of them could not live without music but Sarangi playing could not help them make a living Another important aspect is that in India film music takes precedence over any other form of music. Just to give an example, Bade Gulam Ali was paid Rs. 50,000/- for his song ‘Prem jogan ban jaoon’ in Mughal-e-Azam. He must have given hundreds of performances lasting more than 2 hours and would not have received more than Rs. 4,000/-. But a song of just 3 minutes in a film fetched him an amount like that. What I mean to say is that in India, unless one adopts a commercial attitude one cannot become successful. In my view becoming commercial often means corrupting a classical artform for monetary gain. Fortunately for me, I could reach the pinnacle of musical expressions and that too through an instrument like Sarangi, which was rejected for centuries in the Mughal and the British Rule, keeping the spiritual soul of our music intact. So in fact, I am lucky and happy with what I have attained though I pity Indian music lovers. I can name only one person in India, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, who could keep the dignity of music as well as himself throughout his life without having to sing for films or without having to sing something just because an average music lover in India cannot admire anything more than that. He however, sang Bhajans to take music closer to the music lovers. That is all!

Q. 4 How would you describe your precise contribution to classical music?

Ans: To tell you in brief, I have been able to justify the name ‘Saurangi’ which ‘Sarangi’ is also known as. There is hardly any genre of classical Indian music I have not played on Sarangi be it of any gharana, whether classical or light classical or thumri or tappa and everything in between. An instrument that was explored in a very limited way is known as the most versatile of all instruments today all over the world. As far as Sarangi solo is concerned, I was able to develop a bowing technique which has made Sarangi speak a language of its own, which is quite distinct from not just gayaki ang but from all other instruments. I could explore full 4 octaves on this instrument. All this I could do keeping the spirituality of our music intact and the soul of each and every raga in the purest form. Even the music I played in films is so unique that it is quite unlikely that we will hear Sarangi music of this calibre again.The Sarangi acquired a respectable presence in films because of the way I introduced it. My other contribution is that I did not create any new ragas. Unfortunately, many musicians tend to think that artistic creativity is not complete unless one creates new ragas. I think that shows the insecurity that an artist carries within. Our music is complete in every sense. Whatever ragas we already have are extremely well-thought out so in my view no new additions are called for. All new ragas that have been invented have either been performed exclusively by their creators or have become redundant. If one tries to play just about 10 to 15 ragas the way they should be played, I think that is good enough.

Q. 5 What advice would you give for coming generation?

Ans: I can only advise them to keep in mind that nothing but devotion will finally take you where one should aspire to reach. It is not just the hardwork and the blessings from the Guru that suffice. These, no doubt, are very essential, but unless you make a persistent devoted effort you reach nowhere. There are no short cuts in music. Fortunately, in my family, my son Brij Narayan and my daughter Aruna Kalle have full realization of this aspect and have made a position for themselves in the field of music. Though Brij plays Sarod, music is essentially mine. Aruna has demonstrated that even women can make excellent Sarangi players. My grandson, Harsh Narayan has also picked up Sarangi very well at a very young age. I am sure that Sarangi which was nearly extinct once but now enjoys universal acceptance, will continue to earn respect and love from music lovers. The greatest blessing that one can get from music is that it makes an artist immensely satisfied with life irrespective of the financial condition in which they may be. I am enjoying that state of mind for the last several years. I would like upcoming musicians to aim for attaining that level of mind in life.

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Posts: 1,937
Reply with quote  #2 
- and here I was thinking I couldn't have any more respect and admiration for this brilliant musician !!! Thank you for posting this interview text. Wonderful reading !!!

Posts: 841
Reply with quote  #3 
Very good post with very good insight!! I seem to always learn from you, Dr. Kashyap!! Great stuff!!
Let's hope 2016 is less violent and that people discover the soothing influence of ICM. Hari OM!
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