Sarod artiste Pandit Partho Sarothy recollects memories of his cherished concerts and his time with guru Pandit Ravi Shankar

For Pandit Partho Sarothy, music is passion, recital is meditation and swaras are pleasant feelings. The renowned sarod musician is in Kerala touring several districts for concerts and lecture-demonstrations. In Kochi, accompanied by Ustad Ashis Paul on tabla, Partho proved his prowess at the concert organised jointly by BEAME, Ernakulam Karayogam and Kerala Gharana at TDM Hall.

Partho played two compositions, both strictly adhering to the traditions of Indian classical music. He introduced them with a short explanation of their features. He set the tone of the concert with an elaborate and melodious alapana in the familiar raag Bhimplasi.

After moderately lengthy jod and jhala sessions of the alapana, Partho played a melodious gat, his own composition. While effortlessly moving his fingers on the fretless fingerboard of the sarod, Partho also observed the reactions of the listeners.

His spontaneous improvisations made in response to the listeners’ mood were memorable. Although, before the first piece, he announced that the rendition would be set in Roopak taal (seven beats), he later shifted to Teen taal (six beats) — a typical improvisation in response to an attentive audience.

Partho’s personal composition was set to the more Hindustani raga, Mishru Piloo. The piece was in Dadra style, set to six beats. The rapport between Ashis’ tabla and Partho’s sarod was immense, with Ashis aptly supporting Partho.

Partho was inducted to the sarod when he was eight years old. He once pointed to the instrument kept atop a wooden showcase at his home, and asked his father what that was. “That’s a sarod. Would you like to learn it?” his father asked. “I’ve been learning since then,” says Partho, “Even now, I am a good student of music, nothing more.”

Incidentally, Partho’s father Sudhamoy Chowdhury was a First Division football player and knew more of football than music. Yet, Partho picked up the basics of music from his father, who was a disciple of renowned sarod player Radhika Mohan Moitra.

Learning from the best

Later, Partho came under the tutelage of Dhayesh Khan, son of legendary sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. The turning point in his career came when he won the National competition for instrumental music conducted by All India Radio in 1976. With that, he became the disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. From 1980 onward, he stayed with him, and toured with him for many concerts across the world and in India.

“I had many unforgettable experiences with Guruji. Though Panditji was a strict disciplinarian at home and in class, he was always jovial outside. He used be friendly and playful. He used to share jokes with us,” says Partho.

He also remembers an incident when Ravi visited his home. “My wife had prepared 18 dishes, but Panditji ate very little and he was very strict about his diet. Yet, he didn’t want to disappoint us; so he surprised us and tasted all 18 dishes.”

Partho still cherishes the memory of his first visit to Kerala, when he accompanied Panditji to Kerala Kalamandalam for a concert during their Golden Jubilee Celebrations. “Pandit Kumar Bose was on tabla for that concert and there was a huge gathering at the Kalamandalam campus,” remembers Partho.

Another event which Partho Sarothy holds close to his heart is his sarod recital at ex-Beatle George Harrison’s bungalow, a few months after his death. Panditji asked Partho to play the sarod in front of a gathering of renowned personalities.

After the recital, Paul McCartney and Michael Schumacher came over to Partho and applauded him for his music.