Music

Tunes unheard…

Sitarist Shubhendra Rao

Sitarist Shubhendra Rao   | Photo Credit: mail

Pandit Mukesh Sharma talks to Anjana Rajan about the special music of his father sarod exponent, Pandit Rasik Behari Lal.

The absence of any chronological predictability shrouds the undeniable fact of our mortality in a haze of mystery. No matter the technical strides made by human beings, the tragedy of an untimely demise is no less today than, say, two centuries ago. The difference, though, is that now we have the means to keep recordings and photographs of those who leave this world. In the case of sarod maestro Mukesh Sharma, it is technology that helped him gain the benefit of the unique musicality of his father, Pandit Rasik Behari Lal, even though death took him away just months before the birth of his son.

Pandit Rasik Behari was employed at All India Radio, Lucknow, and was renowned for his brilliant playing. “His versatile and aesthetic perception of the sarod enabled him to touch most profound depths of this instrument,” says Sharma.

Along with soulful rendering of the raga, purity of style, imagination and a technique that blended the elements of the gayaki ang (a style approximating to vocal rendering) and layakari (instrumental rhythmic patterns), he pioneered a difficult technique of playing two octaves together, says Sharma, who is in possession of a number of concert recordings of his father. “During the 1940s and ’50s, he played in a manner no one else was playing,” he notes. “His recordings are still regularly broadcast over the radio.”

In the coming week, Sharma, a well travelled instrumentalist himself, is presenting a musical evening under the aegis of his organisation, the CommuneGlobus Art Foundation, in memory of his father. Named “Parampara”, the event features a duet by Shubhendra Rao (sitar) and Saskia Rao De Haas (cello) and a sarod recital by Pandit Brij Narayan. Tabla accompaniment will be by Shailendra Mishra and Gyan Singh. To be inaugurated by eminent vocalist Pandit Tejpal Singh, the event also includes an art exhibition by Bhaswati Boruah, Turaeva Shahlohon Tina, Renu Gupta and Mukesh Jwala.

Sharma himself will not be performing. Trained under his grandfather Pandit Ram Gopal, and later under Pandit Suprabhat Paul and Dr. Ramaballabh Mishra, he is best known as a disciple of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, with whom he studied in the guru-shishya tradition for 12 years, as well as of Kathak maestro Birju Maharaj. As Sharma describes the atmosphere in which his father was nurtured, one gets a sense of the great artistic crucible that was the Lucknow of those days and of the weighty lineage he has inherited through history and his genes.

Pandit Rasik Behari, born on October 12, 1929, was the son of Pandit Ram Gopal, an eminent sitar exponent of Lucknow and a professor at the famous Bhatkhande Music College. A disciple of the great sarod maestro Ustad Sakhawat Hussain Khan Saheb of the Shahjahanpur gharana, Rasik Behari had his initial training under great maestros in varied fields. These included Pandit Ratan Jayankar, renowned vocalist, Pandit Sakha Ram the famous pakhawaj exponent and Pandit Shambhu Maharaj the great Kathak maestro.

“Great artists were living in Lucknow at that time,” recounts Sharma. “My father worked with Pandit Ravi Shankar ji who was a producer at AIR and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Saheb who was a staff artist.” He adds that iconic violinist Pandit V.G. Jog, who was teaching at Bhatkhande, and Pandit Gajanan Rao Joshi from AIR were also part of his father’s circle, as were Pandit Birju Maharaj, then a young man receiving his training from his uncles, and the celebrated Begum Akhtar, ‘Malika-e-Ghazal’.

“There was also Pandit Dhruv Tara Joshi, who helped train Ustad Vilayat Khan sahib after the death of Ustad Enayat Khan when Vilayat Khan sahib was very young,” adds Sharma.

On December 4, 1960, sarod maestro Pandit Rasik Behari Lal succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 31. (The programme takes place on March 31, LTG auditorium, Copernicus Marg, Mandi House, New Delhi, 6.30 p.m.)

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 7:03:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/tunes-unheard/article7035584.ece

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