Updated: August 14, 2009 22:59 IST

‘To master an art, you need patience and practice’

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Nishikant Barodekar
Photo : M_Vedhan.
Nishikant Barodekar Photo : M_Vedhan.

To master any art, you need patience, hard work and practice (riyaz), and this applies more to music. Do not think in terms of immediate gains. The real winner is one who is ready to invest his time wholeheartedly.

His lineage says it all. Tabla player Nishikant Barodekar is the grandson of the legendary vocalist, Hirabai Barodekar and is another shining star of the Kirana Gharana. He received initial guidance from the veteran musician Ustad Ghulam Rasool Khan and then studied under the tabla wizard Ustad Alla Rakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain. Barodekar has recorded with well-known Indian and Western musicians and his imaginative style has won him accolades from far and near. In the city to play on at the Ganayogi Hindustani Festival (review of solo on next page), Nishikant spoke about his grandmother, his style and his views on future trends.

The gharana to which you belong to and your style…

I belong to the Kirana Gharana. When it comes to the tabla, my first guru was Ustad Ghulam Rasool Khan of the Delhi Gharana. I subsequently learnt from Ustad Alla Rakha and that is the Punjabi Gharana for you. I also learnt from Ustad Zakir Hussain of the Lucknow Gharana. So, I have imbibed the finer aspects of various Gharanas and evolved a style that’s my own. Though I have played for fusion and even jazz, I am classically oriented. In fact, I have played tabla for dance and accompanied Carnatic musicians.

Your grandmother’s influence…

Hirabai Barodekar was as famous as M.S. Subbulakshmi, and they belonged to the same era. More than a musician, my grandmother was a deeply spiritual person. Mind you, in the 1930s, she encouraged and provided the much-needed stage experience to young women artists and was recognised as a visionary.

You took to the tabla instead of becoming a singer…

I started as a vocalist but underwent a tonsillitis operation when I was 15. My voice was affected. Perforce, I had to take to the tabla. My inspiring moment came when Sri Sathya Sai Baba visited our home in Pune. In the presence of music lovers he rendered a song. He suddenly signalled to me to play the tabla, and later advised me to take to the tabla seriously. My first stage performance was at the age of 9, when I accompanied my grandmother.

Your professional journey so far…

I have been performing professionally for the past 18 years but I’m still a student. I was fortunate to have accompanied stalwarts such as Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Jasraj and Ustad Munavar Ali Khan (the son of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan) and have won their appreciation even when I was quite young.

Love for the mridangam…

I have been fascinated by the mridangam and made some attempts to learn something from the tapes that were available. Noticing this, my guruji spoke to Umayalpuram Sivaraman and I came to Chennai, spent about 15 days with him and learnt from him. Whenever I find the time, I come to Chennai and take lessons from Sivaraman sir. I have been part of many kinds of jugalbandis with percussionist Sivamani and Mandolin U. Shrinivas. I have to mention here that I am a visiting professor at the Sathya Sai Music College in Puttaparthi.

Moments in life that you cherish most…

Ten years ago, in Thiruvananthapuram, a felicitation function was organised for my guru Alla Rakha. The laya ensemble had edakka, thavil, mridangam and the tabla, which was to be played by my guru. In the last minute, he had some health problem and asked me to play. Guruji gave me a quick rehearsal for 15 minutes and I took the stage. It was a two-hour concert that was telecast live and if I was able to play well, it was thanks to the blessings of my guru. Similarly, at a concert in Bangalore, Ustad Zakir Hussain suddenly called out for me from the audience and asked me to play with him.

Innovative methods of playing the tabla…

Tabla is a relatively young instrument, just 400 or 450 years old. Pakhawaj is an ancient instrument which is said to have been played by Lord Ganapathi himself. Understandably, tabla-playing techniques are being explored across the globe. In Brazil and Japan, the approach in producing nadham is quite different. The new techniques must be part of the whole exercise of innovation that is associated with this instrument.

Advice to youngsters of today…

The motto should be: Whatever you pursue, be it music or painting, put your heart and soul in it, dedicate yourself completely and do not distance yourself from the art or tend to keep it away. To master any art, you need patience, hard work and practice (riyaz), and this applies more to music. Do not think in terms of immediate gains. The real winner is one who is ready to invest his time wholeheartedly.


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