The Week, May 2013
I mourn the passing away of the great Violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman, whose artistry made him a legendary figure. He was a purist whose work spanned six decades. We had collaborated together at many duet recitals from 1976 to 1985 and performed at many concerts and festivals together in India and overseas. We also recorded the first North and South Indian duet album called ‘North meets South’, which was released in 1983. His passing is a great loss to the music industry. Needless to say, he will live forever through the music and his great work.

I always felt connected to colours, fragrance and beauty through the sound of music. The amalgamation of music, light, colour, expression and freedom, is the best manifestation of joy and can be used as a method of healing. The joy in this must be experienced. It is really sad we lost another great artist recently, Ganesh Pyne. I have been very fortunate to have received so much love from the art world. I will always remember the warmth and kindness of Bikash Bhattacharya who made such great master pieces in acrylics, water-colours, conté and collage. I was very fortunate that he made several of my portraits out of which two were used as album covers for my recordings, ‘Dawn Dreams’ in 1989 and ‘Tribute to Tagore’ in 1990. LPs were still in circulation then and one could have such wondrous ideas for the large LP covers and back cover spaces! For ‘Dawan Dreams’, he made a Conté crayon sketch of me which was so unique where only the Sarod strings and my figures were in colour and the rest of the painting was simply black and white. I thought that it was such a powerful expression towards music. I was very saddened by his passing away in 2006 after a prolonged illness. I am so happy to see Sanjay Bhattacharya take his legacy forward.

In most cases I have always felt that an artist is so connected to music. There has to be a connection! Right from Rabindranath Tagore (who was a musical genius), Gaganendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Hemen Majumdar, N.S Bendre, K.H Ara, V.S Gaitonde, M.F Hussain, Ganesh Pyne, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Jogen Choudhary, Akbar Padamsee, , Jehangir Sabavala, S.H Raza, F.N Souza, K.K Hebbar, Somnath Hore, Tayyab Mehta, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Anjolie Ela Menon, Manjit Bawa are all our country’s treasures. It is indeed wonderful to see the art industry flourish by such leaps and bounds. The art market indeed has come to recognize and value really good quality works. These demonstrate the maturing of the market and the collectors especially in art auctions. The results from an auction indicate a consistent demand from collectors for top quality and rare works with important attribution.

Interestingly, there were a few musicians who had a deep passion for art and sculpture. The great Tabla Maestro of Varanasi Kishan Maharaj, made a beautiful life-size sculpture of Lord Ganesh playing the Pakhawaj. It took him months to complete the project and at the inauguration, he had all-night concert recitals by me, Bhimsen Joshi and Ravi Shankar in the year 1966. Kishan Maharaj could also make beautiful portraits. In my school days, we all had to attend painting classes. I realized that I was the worst student. I could not draw or paint any appealing figure. However, my younger son Ayaan has been interested in sketching and painting Ganesha’s from a very young age. In fact, once Vikram Seth had come to visit me and I gave away a painting that Ayaan had made of Ganesha writing under a palm tree. Since I gave it without his approval, Ayaan who was seven had an idiosyncratic moment regarding my giving away his work, much to my embarrassment, I had to call Vikram and ask him to send it back. However, in 2003 in London, much to my surprise and to Ayaan’s honour, when Vikram Seth released the book coauthored by Amaan and Ayaan on me, he carried the painting which was framed from back then. He narrated on stage and said that when he returned the painting back then, he had made a photocopy!

Before I conclude, I must add that my heart goes out to all the victims of the Boston bombings. It’s also very sad to hear about the five-year old rape victim that is fighting for her life in New Delhi. It’s sad that in spite so much of unpleasantness that the world has seen in the recent years, man continues to be a symbol of hatred!

I recently performed in Kerela to a very distinguished and invited audience which included the great poet and lyricist in Malayalam cinema Prof. ONV Kurup and K.C. Joseph the cultural minister of Kerala. Every year the Kerala Government honours an artist with the Swathi Thiruna Award. This year’s awardee was the great composer V. Dakshinamoorthy who is ninety four years old. He is a veteran Karnatic musician and music director in Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi films. I was very honoured to meet him along with the Chief Minister Mr. Oommen Chandy. I am in love with Kerala and the people of this beautiful state. I still remember my first visit to Kerala in the late seventies. I was invited by a dynamic organization called Soorya which is dedicated to art and artists. The man behind this organization, Mr. N. Krishnamoorthy, is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted, promoting art and artists in Kerela and all over the world.

I am so happy that, this year, we celebrate a centenary milestone to showcase the cinematic heritage of the Indian film industry over the last 100 years. In India, we all grow up listening to film songs or watching movies which makes these hundred years very symbolic to what we are as a nation, both socially and psychologically. Like millions, I am happy that Pran Saheb was bestowed with the Dada Saheb Phalke Award. I am also a great fan and admirer of legendary the Pran Saheb. I had the honour of meeting him on a few occasions.

Recently the West Bengal Government honoured my father and guru, the Sarod icon, Haafiz Ali Khan by naming a road after him in New Park Street in Kolkata. This road is now called Haafiz Ali Khan Sarani. The road renaming committee of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has finalized this which was announced by the chief minister Mamata Banerjee at an event in Town Hall along with 17 new roads on the names of legends of India including Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Debabrata Biswas, Salil Chowdhury, Nilratan Sarkar, and Ashapurna Devi. The town hall was packed with the presence of so many creative people.

I recently gave a message for the Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement initiative. Srimanta Sankaradeva was a saint-scholar, playwright, social-religious reformer and an iconic figure in the cultural and religious history of Assam. He molded Assamese Society and gave it its culture, literature and its social equality His literary and artistic contributions are living traditions in Assam even today. The creative process is intrinsically spiritual and vice versa. Every individual has his or her own take on spirituality. However, for me spiritually or a connectivity with god gives me a certain level of satisfaction and also self-confidence which I cannot do without. It is very easy to renounce the world! But, to live and face today’s world is very difficult and challenging. Being a world citizen today, my spirituality or spiritual beliefs give me strength to face the world of glamour, politics, fundamentalists and radicals of today. Therefore, as mentioned, there are times when I get off stage and realize what I did. You are taken over on many occasions and hence you become just the mediator of that cosmic power. It is through my music that I make and perpetuate my connection to the Divine. In this connection, there is no hate and there is no will. So I believe!

music@sarod.com