Pawan Naidu talks about his organisation that trains senior citizens in classical music.

Svarpan, a group in New Delhi led by music enthusiast Pawan Naidu, is grooming the younger generation to carry on a classical legacy. Excerpts from an interview:

Tell us something about yourself.

I trained in Indian and western classical music under Guru Ravi Ghosh and the Delhi School of Music. People know me as the first pop singer of Delhi from the early 1970s. Delhi’s first electronic sound design studio and first personality development studio called Media Rush are a my few of my early achievements.

In the 1980s and 1990s I designed music for Holland, Canada, Netherlands and performed shows with retro film songs around the globe, including at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Wembley Stadium, the U.K. I worked with Laxmikant, T-Series, and trained singers like Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Sadhana Sargam, and Vandana Bajpai. I have composed nursery rhymes for Doordarshan. I worked in Mumbai for a long time.

Why did you leave Mumbai and its film music industry?

Filmdom is a restrictive place. While making music, we were asked to bring changes suited to commercial, and at times, even undignified, demands. Music was dependent upon what was in vogue and not on creativity. It started suffocating me.

So, you formed Svarpana.

Svarpan was created to carry on the classical legacy, especially to expose the younger generation to it. My inspiration was Neena Sagar, a senior music enthusiast. She took 15 years in testing people who could form a genuine team but most turned out to be commercially-driven groups. Our association gave birth to Svarpana 13 years ago. Now, it is a group of 10 genuine music devotees. Svarpana does not focus on earning but on creative satisfaction. My house is a virtual studio with all the musical instruments/gadgets in place. We create and rehearse here.

What does Svarpan do?

We do stage shows of old classical film and non-film songs, arrange music, record and compose anew, do sound recording and even customise songs. We also pick famous and non famous poets/ authors in different languages, set their verse to tune. We also write devotional songs and books on our compositions. We create musical performances on verse by the likes of Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhinyanvi, Sarojini Naidu and Mahadevi Verma.

What Is Svarpan’s USP?

We get repeat requests for our shows, like the one on Meena Kumari’s ghazals and her rare letters; a tribute to legendary singer Geeta Dutt through her songs, and old film songs.

Who are your students?

My students belong to all walks of life and mostly are senior citizens. For instance, Dr. Aarti Pathak is a gynaecologist in her 60s; Anjila Googlani is a professor of psychology; Shetal Gupta, a homemaker; Stuti, a professional choreographer and Jyoti, a school teacher. All of them were trained in classical music but couldn’t pursue it for different reasons.

How do you prepare them to “carry on the classical legacy?”

To prepare them for stage, I demand passion, time and commitment. I have a set of personalised/customised courses. I try to bring out what seems missing in their earlier training — tone, emotions, range, gayaki, voice modulation, song presentation and studio training. I believe if singers don’t sing with feeling, the song, however tuneful, falls flat. I insist that they understand the origin of the song before learning its technical nuances. Each singer has a quality of his/her own. I just try to hone that.

I come from a background where stalwarts like Laxmikant-Pyarelal would humbly offer me a seat in their studios even while recording, and Kalyanji (of Kaliyanji-Ananadji fame) would buy tickets of my programme by standing in a queue and bring new talent like Alka Yagnik, Shonali and Sadhna Sargam along to see what’s new on stage; where people like A.R. Rahman would wait for hours to meet me outside Madras Café. I want to pass on such humility to the next generation.

What’s next?

Exposing the youth to the poetic renditions of Jaan Nisar Akhtar, musical theatre on Ismat Chugtai and Manto’s lesser known creations; four women writers from four different places — Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Mahashweta Devi, Amrita Pritam and Shivani — and their psychology through musical renditions.

How do you react when you hear double-entendre songs penned by poets of stature?

I feel broken. I am very angry with Gulzar. Why did he write songs like ‘Bidi Jalai Le’? We don’t expect such things from a poet of his stature. People like Gulzar are milestones. If they follow this route, how can we blame our youngsters?