12 January, 2011

Concert in Dewas in memory of Pandit Kumar Gandharva

Here I am, sitting in my hotel room in Dewas. Its the morning after my concert last night in Dewas in memory of the legendary singer, Pandit Kumar Gandharva. I have a train to catch at 5pm back to Delhi and my family and I look forward to seeing Saskia and Ishaan. I miss them even if I am away for just 2 days.

Last night was indeed one of my most memorable concerts. Playing in such a gathering where the audience can shake hands with you, sitting right in front of the artiste, where everyone is there because he/she wants to listen to the music, other wonderful musicians also sitting and listening and most important--in memory of a great singer. These luminaries are India's treasure and I have grown up listening to these great artistes. I was very happy when Kalapiniji invited me to perform this year and I was eagerly looking forward to it. I arrived here in Dewas straight from Bangalore where I had performed the previous evening with Saskia at Infosys. Drove 2hrs straight to the airport, caught a flight to Mumbai, spent 5hrs at the airport to catch my connecting flight to Indore at 6am. No sleep the whole night and surely was tired when I reached here. Slept a few hours and woke up with nightmares(or was it daymares since it was 10am). I was dreaming that I woke up at 9pm and the concert was supposed to start at 7pm--dreamt that my sitar was broken on the flight and there was no way I could perform. Dont know what these dreams meant but slowly, I got out of that horrible feeling and when I took my sitar, I felt a huge sense of relief. After a little while of playing, I decided that I would start the concert with Raga Hemant and maybe play Mishra Pilu or Manj Khanmaj after Hemant.

I reached the house where the concert was happening at about 7:30 when Kalapini ji asked me what I was planning on performing. When I told her that I would perhaps start with Hemant, she said that she had a special request and if I could play Baageshwari since it was a long time since anyone had performed it there. So, I decided to play Baageshwari instead of Hemant. In the audience was Vasundra Tai, Bhuvanesh Bhai and many other musicians and music lovers. Even as I started tuning on stage, I got this very special feeling and no words can describe this feeling. After a long time, I played without looking at my watch. These days, we are told by the organizers not to exceed an hour or maximum and hour and a half. I do understand the modern day constraints and am happy to respect it but there should be some concerts where there is no time restriction for the artiste since in our music, it takes about an hour for us to start feeling each note. The alaap, jod, jhala went on for over an hour. Soumen Sarkar, a wonderful young Tabla player from Kolkata was accompanying me and I decided to play Rupak Tala followed by Drut Ek Tala. He too was in a great mood and it was such a beautiful game we played on stage--each challenging the other, each appreciating the other. Sometime during the concert, I cut my second finger and it had started bleeding but I was totolly lost in the beauty of the moment to even notice it. It was only after I finished the concert that I started feeling the pain and realized that I had cut my finger badly. The second Raga I performed was Manj Khamaj and when I finished the concert, it was after 11pm. People were willing to listen more but aware of the fact that it was a weekday and people did have to go for work next morning, I decided to end it then.

These are the kind of concerts why I do this music. The beautiful feeling of letting go of everything and just enjoy the depth of this music, feeling each note deep within. Now I am beginning to understand what these great artistes mean when they say that music is an ocean and the deeper you go, the more you realize how little you know. The response from the knowledgeable audience, some who had heard my Guru in his prime and drawing comparisons with him, their blessings---indeed this is something I shall treasure all my life. No reason why we cannot have more such concerts where the artiste can express his deepest self to a hungry audience.

Have an exciting next few months ahead--US, Kennedy Center, Canada, Mexico, Europe and IRAN. I hope that I can continue to write and share some wonderful moments with you.

God bless.

11 January, 2011

Parents and family

Its 4:44AM on 12th Jan 2011 and I am at Mumbai Airport waiting to catch my next flight to Indore. Will be performing this evening in Dewas in memory of the Legendary singer, Pandit Kumar Gandharva. Finished my concert with Saskia at Infosys last evening and rushed to the airport to catch my flight to Mumbai. Traffic in Bangalore is just unbelievable and I made it in time thanks to the fact that my flight was half hour late.

The concert last night was something very very special. Playing at Infosys which is perhaps the face of India's achievements in recent decades was indeed wonderful. But for some strange reason, even as I was lost in my music and enjoying Saskia's passages and my own Mishra Pilu, I was overcome by some beautiful emotions and thinking of my father even as I was conscious of my mother in the audience. A flood of emotions just took over me and all the sacrifices they made, the love they showered, the beauty of music to which they introduced me--I owe everything I am today to these 2 wonderful people who brought me into this world. How proud my father would have been to see his son and daughter-in-law yesterday. I miss you Anna. There is not a single day when I do not think of him or my mother. I could just not hold back my tears and I am sure many people in the audience also may have noticed it. Why does music have this impact? The beauty of the notes, the Ragas, enjoying the rhythms--everything just transcends you to a different plane where there is nothing but just emptiness and where one can enjoy the empty space you create. The same feeling overtook me a few minutes later when Saskia and I played our favourite composition that we feel brings out the best in both of us--a piece where we celebrate our little son, Ishaan. Being parents ourselves has made us realize the beauty of life. If on one side, I miss my father so much, I also enjoy my beautiful son. This is life and what a beautiful feeling to be able to share this feeling through my music.

Last few days in Bangalore has again been very special. For the first time, my mother got to enjoy her 4 grand children together. Just to see her eyes light up when she saw them all playing together, making jokes, eating together, going out to eat their special "Dosas" at 7AM. Ishaan is the youngest at 6 and Divya, my niece is the eldest. In between are Smita and Nikhit. I love each one of them passionately and am blessed to have such a wonderful family. God bless each one of them.