The world of Hindustani music needs to be open to one and all especially to the young among Dalits and the downtrodden: Pandit Vikash Maharaj, famed Sarod playerof the Banaras Gharana to Teesta Setalvad in an exclusive interview
December 24, 2014
The fourteenth generation of musicians of the famed
Banaras gharana, Pandit
Vikash Maharaís first revolutionary breakthrough came with his
motherís choice of musical instrument for him: the Afghani Sarod.
Breaking from the family tradition that was renowned in table playing
Pandit Vikash Maharaj had to face much flak and prejudice for his
motherís unorthodox and radical choice. He
first trained in tabla but switched to the Afghani instrument Sarod,
encouraged by his mother and trained by Guru Sri Rajesh Chandra Moitra
of the renowned Maihar Senia gharana. The influence of these two
esteemed Gharanas can be seen in his masterful interpretations and
complex compositions. He has performed at music festivals around the
globe to the delight of enthusiastic audiences.
The Shehnai and Sarod were known as outsider, Iranian (Persian) or Afgani instruments and hence the resistance, Panditji told Teesta Setalvad in this interview that is one of a series jointly produced by Communalism Combat (www.sabrang.com) and www.hillele.org
Speaking of the internal politics, pulls and pressures that governs even the world of Hindustani music, the musical maestro spoke at length of his personal journey that has taken him to over 100 foreign universities since 1985, promoting an understanding of India and the Indian classical tradition. Panditji was even conferred the privilege of performing before the New Zealand Parliament to celebrate Diwali in 2008. Bestowed with honours abroad, national honous have so far eluded him. Only recently the Government of Uttar Pradesh announced that it will confer the prestigious Yash Bharati Award on him.
Even today the Dalit child is deliberately kept away from imparting of music by the classical Indian tradition and this needs to be remedied said the maestro in this interview. Sangeet baatne se badhta hai aur shikshan, samaanta, sangeet aur kala ko saath mein phailane ki avashyakta hai. (Music grows with imparting and education, culture, art and music need to go hand in hand).
Constitutional principles like equality and non discrimination can be
successfully imparted through music and learning said the Sarod player
bemoaning the fact that the Indian child does not have some instrument
in her or his hands by age 6 or 8! Ever
the experimentalist, he has performed with jazz greats as Herbie
Hancock, John McLaughlin, John Handy and Paul Horn. Pandit Vikash
Maharaj is also ambassador for the Banaras based PVCHR(Peopleís
Vigilance Committee on Human Rights).
Azaan jo hai Raga Bhairavi aur Raga Lalit mein pukaara jaata hai aur Blues sangeet mein Raga Jog suna jaa sakta hai, explained Panditji in this fascinating exploration.
Panditji belongs to a family of Indiaís great performers and teachers, his grandfather Pandit Bade Ramdas ji, father Pandit Nanhku Maharaj and maternal uncle Padma Vibhushan Pandit Kishan Maharaj, his rendition of the sarod reflects a combination of swar (tone) and laya (rhythm). Sarod is a rare instrument within the classical tradition of India, and has been brought into recognition as a classical concert instrument thanks to maestros like Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Vikash Maharaj.
He and his son, Prabhash were among the last to meet with Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan minutes before he died in the early hours of August 21, 2006. Even frail and weak, the Bharat Ratna awardee had sung verses to his preciousGanga Mai as Panditji and his son visited him. Pandit Vikash Maharasj recalls those final moments in this interview.