Friday Review

Away from the hurly burly

Mukesh Sharma will soon be performing and conducting music workshops in Oslo, Norway, under the aegis of KhansStrings Classical.

Mukesh Sharma will soon be performing and conducting music workshops in Oslo, Norway, under the aegis of KhansStrings Classical.   | Photo Credit: 05dfrMukeshSharma

Mukesh Sharma’s music speaks louder than his words, finds Anjana Rajan

Music is as much the art of the heard as of the unheard. Take the appreciation of a listener. It could well be moulded not by what is being played at the moment, but by associations — like a favourite raga or touching lyrics, for instance. Then again, most music, and Indian music particularly, comes from a tradition of contemplation, where the tuning of the instrument, the alignment of voice to the chosen pitch, also denotes an inner consecration. The tone, and the rhythm too, vibrate within the musician, and the whole concert exercise is aimed at achieving a oneness, an inner and outer equilibrium. So much for heard melodies and those unheard, to paraphrase Keats. Frequently, it is also the case that those born to music make themselves less heard about their accomplishments than others who have chosen to join the publicity bandwagon.

So it would seem, is the case with Mukesh Sharma, sarod exponent, who though among the best sarod artists in the country, keeps a low profile. Sharma, trained under some of the best known artists of India, is not seen often on the celebrated concert circuit. He smiles without bitterness when he says it is nearly impossible to break into certain circles. But he travels often enough abroad, has played with Indian musicians as well as orchestras from other countries and has produced a number of albums.

Introduced to music by his father, sarod exponent Pandit Rasik Behari Lal, and his grandfather Pandit Ram Gopal, under whom he began training at the age of nine in Lucknow, Sharma went on, as a teenager, to advanced instruction under Pandit Suprabhat Paul and Dr. Ramaballabh Mishra.

He was further moulded as an artist by 12 years of training in the guru-shishya parampara under Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, between 1984 and ’96. But even before he came under the tutelage of the ustad, he had been taken under wing by another great performer. The multifaceted Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj is acknowledged for his knowledge of music, skill with a number of instruments and a holistic friendship with the arts that enriches his associate artists. Between 1980 and ’95, Sharma was also a disciple of Maharaj within the ambit of the guru-shishya parampara.

But, for all his exposure to the flamboyance of the performing world, Sharma took up a job in a New Delhi public school. Of course it was not just any school, but Modern School, Barakhamba Road, renowned through the decades for the value it places on the arts.

There, as a teacher for nearly 20 years, Sharma produced a number of musical productions featuring the students.

It’s not easy though, to get Sharma talking of his accomplishments. This September he toured China with the Melody World Orchestra, the Nanjing Chinese Orchestra and the Nanjing Chamber Orchestra. “I have played with orchestras in other countries too,” he adds. “In France, in Nigeria.”

While at home in collaborations with genres other than Hindustani music, he retains an immersed classicism that has been noted by critics.

“I’ve played for Muzaffar Ali’s film ‘Raqs’ in which Birju Maharaj did the choreography,” he remarks. “It was based on the poetry of Wajid Ali Shah.”

Perhaps at the other end of the spectrum is his playing for the Hindi film song “Mitwa” from the Shah Rukh Khan starrer “Kal Ho Na Ho.”

Perhaps it is his varied exposure since childhood that lends an easy playfulness of laya and a touchingly sweet melody to his playing.

While he teaches under the banner of Commune Globus Art Foundation, an organisation he registered in 2000, Sharma admits India is not the easiest place for a classical artist to make ends meet relying on his art. “India mein survive karna mushkil hai,” he says simply. At the Foundation he teaches the violin, the rabab, the sitar and the sarod.

“There are some 15 to 20 children and adults. We get a lot of students from Europe. In fact, I have more European than Indian students,” he says.

That statistic doesn’t come as a surprise in today’s India.

But then, gain comes to those who seek.

Speaking of seekers, Sharma is off on December 9 for a month long visit to Oslo, Norway, where KhansStrings Classical is organising a series of concerts and workshops involving students from many parts. “It is on the theme of peace and harmony,” says Sharma.

With such resonance, could one expect any less?

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Printable version | May 24, 2020 10:44:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/interview-with-sarod-player-mukesh-sharma/article6661905.ece

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