Sitar maestro Pandit Debu Chaudhuri and son Prateek talk about the pull of classical music
When two generations of master sitarists share their passion and concern for Indian classical music, one can’t help but listen with rapt attention.
Stalwart of Senia gharana, Pandit Devabrata Chaudhuri, popular as Debu Chaudhuri, and son Prateek Chaudhuri strike a chord when they talk about the pull of classical music against all odds in pop-driven times where media plays little role to uphold tradition.
The father-son duo was in city for sitar jugalbandi along with Ustad Rafiuddin Sabri on tabla for an event organised by Triveni Sangeet Sabha in collaboration with Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi at Bal Bhawan on Friday evening.
“If classical music excited listeners in the past, it does the same even today,” says Pandit Debu, a recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, who started playing sitar at the age of four. The 78-year-old maestro feels that it’s the enthusiasm among listeners that has waned. “A lot of people worry about western music’s strong influence on the younger generation, but the fact remains that classical music still has rock-solid foundation. People get easily attracted to simpler things; classical music is tough. There isn’t a thing that classical music lacks; it has the power to captivate with mere two instruments, just one raga can make the listener cry, laugh and excited.”
Prateek makes a point here. “Media doesn’t promote Indian classical music to the extent it does western music. How many television channels have dedicated slots to classical music shows or how many regular columns do we see in newspapers on classical music? The scope to find future in classical music is narrowing. How many job openings are available for musicians? Alright, not everyone who studies music can become a musician, but does the corporate sector play any role in creating avenues or patronising classical music? How many genuine organisations do we have to promote the young talent? Government’s role becomes important in such a scenario,” says the younger Chaudhuri.
Pandit Debu observes, “Good classical music concerts with packed halls hardly get media coverage whereas any foreign artiste performing in India gets the media in a tizzy. For that matter, Indian audience too lack discipline; foreign audience are so disciplined that a musician enjoys every bit of performance abroad. They respect you and give you full attention. Their appreciation is quiet. In India, the commercial aspect of an artiste takes over rest of the credentials. People will go and watch any artiste whose name sells. There are plenty of good artistes in India who have not received their due. ”
Lauding Pandit Ravi Shankar’s contribution in popularising Indian instrumental music worldwide, Debu avers, “He was not only a great sitarist, composer and performer but also a great soul. He not only made immense contribution to music in India but also propagated it all over the world. Apart from being talented, he was lucky too. A lot of artistes are born with talent but are not lucky enough.”
On adding contemporary touch to classical music, Prateek, who is also the creator of Soul of India – The Grand Orchestra, says, “I also do fusion, but fusion should not be confusion. When youngsters come to my fusion concerts, they like it without even knowing that classical music is an integral part of it. After listening to the fusions, they come to my classical concerts. Fusion is like a dessert but classical music is the main course.”