How Pt. Arvind Parikh has kept Vilayat Khan’s style alive

Pt. Arvind Parikh, who turns 95, has been training students from across the globe to preserve the Etawa Imdadkhani style

October 13, 2022 06:24 pm | Updated October 14, 2022 01:03 pm IST

Pt. Arvind Parikh.

Pt. Arvind Parikh. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A distinguished sitarist, an erudite musicologist, and a dedicated guru, Pt. Arvind Parikh, who turns 95 on October 19, has been carrying forward the legacy of his guru Ustad Vilayat Khan. Decorated with the Padma Bhushan, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and its prestigious ‘Akademi-Ratna’ as a Fellow of the SNA for his contribution to the world of Hindustani music, he is equally respected in the business world as the pioneer and doyen of India’s logistic industry.

Born in Ahmedabad into a business family with cultural inclinations, Pt. Arvind Parikh learnt to play many instruments until inspired by Ustad Vilayat Khan, whom he first listened to on radio, decided to learn the sitar from the Ustad, maestro of the Etawa Imdadkhani gharana. The senior-most gandabandh shagird (a ceremonially initiated disciple with the tying of the sacred thread) of Ustad Vilayat Khan; he spent six decades with his guru, assimilating deep insights and an analytical perspective of the Vilayatkhani baaj, the distinctive style of his guru. No wonder, he is hailed as the torchbearer of this famed gharana, carrying forward the tradition with a missionary zeal.

Pt. Arvind Parikh with his guru.

Pt. Arvind Parikh with his guru. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

Pt. Arvind Parikh is a source of strength and hope in the present scenario where a lingering fear pervades Hindustani music that unless someone takes care to revive its hoary values, this art may cease to exist the way it did. Arvind Bhai, as he is fondly referred to, lives by these values and tries to inculcate them in his disciples.

He has been teaching students (including this writer) from India and abroad for several decades. He straddled the two worlds of music and business with utmost ease. Today, he trains more than 50 students in sitar, surbahar, shehnai, violin, santoor, rudra veena, and vocal music.

As the chairman of the ITC-SRA western region, Pt. Arvind Parikh has organised many enriching national and international seminars on different aspects of music, musicians, musical instruments and instrument makers, including the one that he conducted from 1991 to 2019 at National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai, in association with Music Forum and the Musicological Society of India. He curated and hosted monthly baithaks at his residence that featured eminent musicians from different lineages. Originally organised as a private soiree for the benefit of his disciples, these enriching conversations-cum-demonstrations became so popular that the Baithak series is now available on YouTube.

Sharing knowledge is his passion, and he has been invited by many musical institutions and universities. One of his PowerPoint presentations, The Glorious Tradition of Etawa Imdadkhani Gharana, is also available as a book authored by him. No wonder, he is called the ‘Single-professor university’. He has recorded hundreds of traditional compositions of his gharana for the archives of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and AIR for the benefit of students, research scholars, and music lovers. A big repository of this treasure has also been recorded for his disciples and uploaded on their mobile phones for ready reference. In recent years, he has adapted to online teaching methods.

Pt. Arvind Parikh has crafted a unique pedagogy to pass on the legacy to his students with a resolve to perpetuate the gharana tradition. There are also special Talim sessions for his disciples who have not taken to a performing career but do need the musical knowledge. And he does all this for free. The annual Guru Purnima festival organised in different cities where his students reside is an occasion for him to evaluate their progress. He invites eminent musicians to witness their performance. After listening to each and every student, he sends his feedback.

His Raag-Vidya series of video recordings are a valuable guide about the grammar and aesthetics of a raag. In each video, the raag-vistar logic is meticulously explained by him. Then there is a series about the varieties of a single raag like ‘Malhar ke Prakaar’, Todi ke Prakar, Sarang ke Prakar etc. ‘Sitar-Guru’ (CD-ROM) published by Navaras Records, U.K., was the first user-friendly audio-visual interactive application conceptualised by him to illustrate various aspects of sitar training and performance. The pedagogy also includes the instructor’s handbook/trainer’s manual, innovations in palta, etc. Then there is a DVD on the intricacies of sitar. Even on WhatsApp, there are facilities like ‘Musical Queries’, where students raise their music-related questions that he answers and explains in the Talim sessions.

An ideal guru, Pt. Arvind Parikh expects nothing but commitment to the art from his disciples as his guru-dakshina.

The Delhi-based reviewer writes on Hindustani music.

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