IN THESE times of intolerance, strife and uneasiness, music can prove to be a balm and help restore sanity, believes Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar, the maestro from the ‘Mewati gharana’ and an artist of international acclaim in the genre of Hindustani classical music.
“This [the uniting factor] is especially true of the Indian classical music, which has the vibrations to unite people irrespective of their belief systems,” the maestro says, in an exclusive interview with Qatar Tribune.
Should the icons of the country be more vocal about the message of peace, tolerance, co-existence…? “Yes. Surely. But it’s the responsibility of the media to highlight the icons in every field and highlight their thoughts, as this interview is doing,” he quips.
Aside from its potential of uniting people of all creeds, the maestro’s voice is said to have therapeutic, meditative and calming effects on listeners. “Everyone becomes one with the pure musical notes and experiences the divinity. The Indian classical music, because of its ‘surrender approach’, is the strongest medicine for blood pressure and stress-related problems. I receive such feedback every now and then from people who listen to me singing all across the world,” he stresses.
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Explaining it further, he says his approach towards his musical practice has been that of a person who has surrendered to music and is not merely an entertainer. “I always sing to please the soul and the entertainment part comes as a byproduct. May be this brings out the purity of the musical notes through my voice as a medium, and this could possibly be touching the minds and souls of the listeners. May be I am blessed with it. The most important thing is that it has helped many with health issues and I thank God for this.”
A well-known figure for music lovers in the Middle East, Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar has performed many a time in the region regaling the audiences. “There are a large number of classical music lovers in Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain etc. Organisations like ‘Beats and Tunes’ in Doha are working very hard to bring quality music to the region. Besides, the local, non-Indian audiences also get an opportunity to understand a different culture and the very unique musical form of ‘Khayal’ – meaning musical imagination within a few notes of a particular raga.”
The Indian classical music, he points out, spreads positivism and receives positivism everywhere and wherever it goes, including in the Middle East.
When asked about the evolution of classical music in the current milieu, the maestro says, “Classical music has evolved through the ages. The performance part has become more compact. Because the pace of life has become faster, patience has seen a decline.
“A stage performer has to keep this in mind and keep the concert flowing. However, as I said earlier, the Indian classical ‘Khayal’ form has the ability to transport listeners to a magical, higher world. So, the musician has to make sure this element is not lost in adjusting with the modern, fast-paced times.
“Otherwise, the soul of music will be lost and what remains is just the entertainment. This music has much more than only entertainment to offer. I try to make my singing to be an experience.”
Born in 1969, Pandit Abhyankar is seen as an inspiration for the younger generation. As for his inspiration, he says, “My foremost creative inspiration is my guru, Pandit Jasraj Ji, and all others of his generation who have traversed the path of not only the traditional repertoire but have also made valuable contributions in terms of extending the quality of presentation and ‘gayaki’, while adding many self-composed material to the already existing repertoire.”
The guru-shishya (teacher-pupil) tradition, he notes, is an inherent part of the Indian culture, and an even more important element in the field of music. “The meaning of guru-shishya tradition is that the student not only learns the basic material in a classroom type setting but also spends as much time with his mentor as possible, observing and learning all the finer nuances that have made the mentor a great luminary in the field of music.
“Giving vocal support to the mentor on stage also teaches you a lot. You observe and learn how the theoretical knowledge is used in the real world; the dos and don’ts of a performance; and many more things. So a full life of knowledge is transferred,” he concludes.
(This article was first published in the Qatar Tribune newspaper on 25th September 2019)

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