Raghu Rai captures music on his camera. His thirst for music is quenched in some measure by freezing the legendary music masters of India, with their mood and energy intact.

The engineer-turned-photographer who always wanted to be a musician, finds his thirst for music quenched in some measure by freezing the legendary music masters of India, with their mood and energy intact.

Hariprasad Chaurasia recently released a book on Raghu Rai's photo series, “India's Great Masters: A Photographic Journey into the Heart of Classical Music.” The photographer has showcased 13 music masters — Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain, Vilayat Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Kumar Gandharva, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Mallikarjun Mansur, S. Balchander, Alla Rakha, Bismillah Khan, Kishori Amonkar, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Bhimsen Joshi. Citing the reason behind the selection, Raghu Rai says, “These are only a few who played not for entertainment but to dispense the aishvarya ras amongst the audience. Their music takes you to such spiritual heights, which otherwise is impossible to attain.” Charting the uniqueness of selected musicians for the book, Raghu says, “Those profiled in this book are not just good musicians, they bear exceptional traits. They may belong personally to any particular gharana but that didn't restrain them to part with their individuality. These people have taken music to greater altitudes.” Perturbed by the question of planning any sequel to the catalogue, Rai says, “The next generation may be earning big name, fame and money, but they are just reproducing the already done. There is no progression. The tapasya which these masters have poured in is simply amiss.”

The photographer, who has spent over four decades shooting unknown Indians with his camera besides capturing personalities like Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa, is all the more excited to talk about his experience with musicians. He says, “They were looking for the divine shower, and I was busy trying to picture their soul through my lens, and the results find place in this book.” Rai made each one of them play, and some continued for hours, diving deep in their own world of ragas. Ask him if he's satisfied with the outcome, and pat comes the reply: “The captures bear the same energy which dispels when the masters play. In perfect sync is Ashok's crisp narration on the hidden aspects of their lives.” The noted writer and music expert Ashok Vajpeyee, chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi, has done the text for the photographer's book. His profiling of these maestros gives an exquisite snapshot of their uniqueness and greatness. “The passion for music was always there within,” tells Rai. “I always wanted to be a musician, but in a middle-class family, which I belonged to, it was a distant dream to follow. Quite contrarily, I grew up to be an engineer by profession. And photography just happened by accident. Music remained only to be missed.” The photographer tells that even his first salary was spent on nothing else but a record player.

Tapasya