Making of a maestro

DEFT STROKES Pandit Brij Narayan   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

Fascinated by the sound of sarod, Pandit Brij Narayan, the eldest son and disciple of the world renowned sarangi maestro Pandit Ram Narayan, opted to choose sarod as his instrument. He was in the Capital recently to receive the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and later to perform for the annual Sangeet Sammelan of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

The popular sarodia who has a distinct flavour of his own, disclosed its secret . Being groomed under the ace sarangi maestro, he has incorporated a bow-like quality to his spectrum that makes his sarod sound so different.

Excerpts from an interview:

Please share some details about your childhood and training.

I was born in Udaipur into a family of traditional musicians. My grandfather Nathuji Biyavat was a dilruba player. My father Pandit Ram Narayan, whose name became synonymous with the sarangi, is solely responsible for giving sarangi the status of a solo concert instrument on an international level. Similarly, my uncle Pandit Chatur Lal was one of the greatest tabla players of the country.

My musical training began at an early age with elders of my family and under the tutelage of my father, whose musicality and the adaptability to various gharanas, gained by accompanying some of the greatest vocalists of his time, helped me with a deep insight into the theory of traditional performance methods.

Why did you take up sarod and not sarangi?

I was fascinated by the tonal quality of sarod and thought it would suit the contemporary trend and would adapt it more easily. In fact, I developed a passion for this instrument after listening to the sarod of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, from whom I was fortunate enough to learn also later. I employed the sarangi technique taught by my father, for playing sarod to enhance the depth of music and its flow. Thus even after choosing sarod, I was always rooted in my own tradition.

Most of your compositions have a remarkable blend of melody and rhythm with a traditional touch. What is the secret behind it?

All these compositions that I have adopted on sarod are mostly taught to me by my grandfather. Udaipur is also known for the Dagar gharana of dhrupad, which was patronised by the Maharana of Udaipur. My grandfather had taken these compositions from a fellow musician who was the disciple of Ustad Allah Bande Khan of the Dagar gharana. He taught me many of these compositions and also some special ragas when I was quite young. These were compositions of different sort and specific flavour. Look at this one in Rupak tala of seven beats cycle. You would notice that this composition starts from the sixth beat. (he hums and shows) how its specific gait descends from ‘Tar Rishabh’ and depicts the pathos of this ‘Sandhiprakash raga’ sung or played at the time of dusk.

The influence of your father’s sarangi style is evident in your playing, especially in the method of development of the raga. Who were the others who influenced your music?

My real Guru was my mother who cultivated the musical sanskar in me from the time I was an infant. I still remember her melodious singing. Music always pervaded the atmosphere at home. The compositions of my grandfather, the tabla riyaaz (practice) of my uncle Pandit Chatur Lal, who gave me the initial introduction to tala and laya, the rhythmic inputs and of course the towering presence of my father Pandit Ram Narayan and his extensive experience influenced my music. I must acknowledge the tremendous influence of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and the elements of his style also. He was the one who for the first time introduced sarod to the West when he performed with Pandit Chatur Lal way back in 1956. They both were introduced there by the legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

When did you realise the greatness of your Guru and father Pandit Ram Narayan, or say, got aware of who he really was?

It was in 1971. I would like to share a story that I remember vividly. My father used to scold me all the time for my minutest mistakes like “what was the need for such a long alaap? Why the taans were not crystal clear and so on.” There was this American lady Madam Nadia Gulera, owner of a recording company that had earlier recorded the likes of Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and my father. She once heard my sarod and asked, “Would you like to do a recording with us?” Mr. Martin, her assistant and our family friend advised me to accept the offer and told me what an important and rare opportunity it was! After confirming my willingness, she scheduled my recording at 8.30 a.m., the next morning. My father gave me the regular dose of scolding till 3 a.m. the night before and went to sleep asking me to reach the recording studio on time.

When I reached the studio for recording at the scheduled time and started tuning my instrument, I was quite nervous. To my utter surprise, I found my father already there. The tanpura available was not of my pitch. With his intuitive pitch-perfect command, my father tuned it in such a way that it sounded just perfect for my pitch. When the recording started I saw him standing in the recording booth behind the glass wall. That day he literally conducted my whole performance, indicating by hand gestures, now go up, or come down. Now play the ‘Sapat Taan’, etc…. The recording went very well but I had tears of joy in my eyes. This was for the first time I realised the greatness of my father to the extent of conducting an instrument he had never played himself. I can never forget the day also because this was my first recording being released in Paris, under the series ‘Traditional Music of the World’. Pandit Suresh Talwalkar was on tabla and I had played Shuddh Todi on one side and Kaunsi Kanhara on the other.

I have cut several albums and long playing records after that, but this recording is etched in my memory for ever because that was the day when I, for the first time, realised the greatness of my father and started listening to him and understanding his teaching seriously. I started understanding music all over again under his supervision that gave me deeper insight into it. His profundity has helped me carve a niche for myself.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 8:45:36 PM |

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