29 December, 2009

Welcome 2010

As the world gets ready to welcome another year with great anticipation, maybe its time to do a little reflection about the past year. The Indian music world saw the loss of some of the greatest musicians of this century--Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Smt. Gangubai Hanagal, Smt.D.K.Pattamal being the most famous of them. Each of these greats are institutions by themselves and their loss leaves a huge void in the music world. What however saddens me is to see how the media in India in general reacted to this loss. A few lines, a small announcement in maybe Page 8, a couple of minutes from the news channels, was all they could think of as a tribute to these legendary musicians. These same people had pages after pages, hour after hour devoted to the demise of Micheal Jackson so much so that months later, people are still getting news about him. Have we become so corrupt mentally that we are unable to recognize our own "jewels" unless its "news" that increases the TRP ratings of the news channels or sells more copies of the publications? This is not to undermine Micheal Jackson or his standing in the popular world. What he achieved in his life time was equally laudable but please, do appreciate and respect the contributions of the great masters of Classical music too. International newspapers had bigger articles on Khan saab than what was written by the media in our own country.

I come from the same state as the great Gangubaiji did---Karnataka and one of my interactions with her is something that will always be fresh in my memory. She had invited me to perform in the annual music festival that she organized in memory of her Guru--Sawai Gandharva in Kundkol near Hubli. This is a unique music festival that is held in the house where her Guru lived and where she and her Guru Bhai, the great Pandit Bhimsen Joshi ji learned. The whole village becomes your audience and people travel from nearby places for these 2 nights when artistes come to pay homage to the great musician. The year was either 1991 or 1992 in Oct and I had just started performing a few years ago. My turn to play came around 4 or 5am. There was not an inch of space anywhere and I remember playing my Guru's composition, Parameshwari that morning. As I always do, I was totally engrossed in my playing with my eyes closed and opened my eyes only after finishing my Alap and Jod portion. My Tabla accompanist that night, Shri Ravindra Yavagal asked me to look behind me. There was Gangubai ji sitting right behind me on stage. I was completely floored that such a great musician was sitting behind me on stage and listening to me. I immediately told her, "Amma, why dont you please sit in front or on a chair nearby?" She said that there was no place and she was more interested in listening to me rather than think that it is below her dignity as a senior artiste to sit behind me on stage. Such humility towards music where she taught me that "art" is greater than the "artiste". The blessings she gave me after my concert that night is something that I cherish and value. A truly great musician is always the most humble too.

So, as we end another year and get ready to welcome the next, let's all sensitize ourselves a bit more where we can give equal space to Classical Arts and Popular Arts.

A very happy 2010 to everyone!!


31 October, 2009

Sydney Opera House

I have been meaning to post my first blog for the past few months but have just not been able to do so. But today, sitting here in Sydney in my hotel room, seeing the beautiful Sydney Harbor, the morning after my show at the famous Sydney Opera House, I thought that this is as good a day as ever to start sharing my experiences. Wow, what a show it was. Weird in many ways but highly satisfying to get a houseful audience at such a prestigious venue. Why do I say that it was weird? Well--never has my main string on the Sitar broken twice nor have I ever seen the Tabla break during my Alaap without even a single stroke!!!! Ty said that it was the Hallowen weekend in the States and perhaps, the spirits were out there in the hall. No wonder we call our music "spirit"ual music!!

What does it feel to make this long journey to such prestigious venues? Honestly, these are dream venues for all artistes to perform in and when I started out as a Soloist about 23yrs ago, I did also think that it would be wonderful to be playing at the biggest of the big venues---Carnegie Hall in NY and the Sydney Opera House was on that list. Yesterday when I sat in the Taxi and the Taxi driver asked where I wanted to go, there was a smile on my face when I said Sydney Opera House. Seeing my instrument, he asked if I was going to perform there and when I confirmed it, he said, "WOW. That's great, mate. So, you must be a famous musician?"

Do I consider myself a famous musician? I know that its a long journey but I have started taking the small steps by playing at such venues. I don't know whether just becoming "famous" is all I want but I also enjoy playing for the more intimate and small audience like I did a couple of days before Sydney Opera House. It was in a small place just north of Sydney in a place called Matcham. Most people living in Sydney have never even heard of this place but the love that the small audience gave me and my music in Matcham is also very special.

So, if I am asked to make my choice---Sydney Opera House or the small community in Matcham? Why do I have to even make the choice? I love performing at both the places and will always do both the Sydney Opera House and the Matcham type of shows.

Well---I have finally broken the ice by writing this blog today and now, will keep writing whenever I have interesting things to share. Have a great day.

Signing off on the morning of the first day of November and getting ready for my show this evening.