Young musicians paid homage to unsung violin maestro Joi Srivastava on his 81st birth anniversary

Disciples and admirers of late Pandit Joi Srivastava, led by his grandson Sharat Chandra Srivastava, got together at New Delhi's Triveni Kala Sangam the other day to pay tribute to the violin maestro on his 81st birth anniversary.

The programme, organised under the banner of Krintan, began with bhajans by Sukriti Sen, followed by a tabla presentation by Tansen Shriwastava and his disciples, with sarangi provided by Ghulam Farid. Ruchira Panda presented Hindustani classical music of the Kotali gharana, accompanied on the harmonium by Anirban Chakrabarty and tabla by Prasun Chatterjee.

Among the highlights of the evening were the tabla solo by Pandit Mukund Narain Bhale, accompanied on the sarangi by Ustad Asif Khan, and a short violin recital by Sharat Chandra Srivastava and disciples, accompanied on the tabla by Gyan Singh and Ravindra Soni. While rushed for time due to opening hiccoughs, they presented two rare bandishes composed by Pandit Joi Srivastava, one in raga Jaijaivanti and the other in Behag.

Pandit Joi Srivastava, recounts his grandson, was born in Allahabad on January 1, 1930. “In 1957 he was invited to Delhi by Pandit Ravi Shankar to join the national orchestra at All India Radio. He started working as a staff artiste.”

Here he came in touch with other great artistes such as Emani Sankara Shastry, the veena vidwan. A musician who combined his experimental brilliance with artistry, he had already met other Carnatic musicians, and “his vision was amazing,” feels Sharat, saying he knew how to blend the flavour of Carnatic music with the Dhrupad genre he had trained in to create and popularise a unique style of violin playing.

Sharat notes that it was an organic blend rather than a fusion of styles, since “the old Dhrupad and the old Carnatic, where there was less of gamak, is identical.”

At 27 when he came to Delhi, says his grandson, Panditji was already a known name, having performed a duet with his guru Alauddin Khan (who also played the violin) at 17, and, also as a teenager, played with legendary percussionists of the likes of Pandit Kanthe Maharaj.

“But you know what happens… when he joined AIR, the artiste in him started dying.” The regular job, the family responsibilities, the lack of opportunity to travel as a concert performer, contributed to his settling down to the relative anonymity of a radio artiste and a teacher, though he retained the respect of his eminent contemporaries like Hari Prasad Chaurasia among others, relates Sharat.

Far from dissatisfied with the turn his life took, he was happy to disseminate musical knowledge to his disciples. After retiring from AIR in 1987, he taught for several years at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. When family members urged him to make a greater name for himself in an age of publicity, he said, “My essence remains with me because I don't know who I am.” Meaning that if he began to rate the worth of the musical knowledge he had within him and expect proportionate returns, he would be lost.

“He gave us very correct thinking as a musician, and very correct knowledge,” says his grandson with feeling.

The evening at Triveni was redolent with the fragrance of guru shishya parampara. Sharat says while this was the first year he organised the tribute on a public scale, he plans to make it a more interactive session next year, “in a community centre or something”, beginning at noon and keeping an open-house mike arrangement for all those who wish to pay their musical homage.

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