Renowned Santoor-player Bhajan Sopori on Friday said he will not perform at a festival at Bharat Bhawan in Bhopal from July 15 to 17, and charged the programme organisers with favouring a particular artiste.
What angered Sopori was Bharat Bhawan’s decision to conduct five recitals by legendary Shivkumar Sharma and his disciples at the festival where nine performances will be held, said officials.
Sopori said, “The festival is meant to celebrate Santoor-playing and not an artiste. The schedule, I got, had five events focusing on one artiste. I don’t have any issue with the artiste, but the organisers should have intelligently categorised the performances.”
Sopori added, “I have taken the Santoor to international platforms, and made it popular in foreign countries. I was asked to give a small performance like a beginner. I was disappointed and hurt, so said ‘no’ to the event.”
However, principal secretary of the culture department Manoj Shrivastav told HT, “Bhajan Sopori is an artiste of national and international repute, and we have great respect for him. We invited him considering him as one of the important exponents of santoor, but he had some issues with other participating artistes.”
Sopori said, “The Sopor Gharana has given many musicians to the country. The 300-year-old musical legacy of ‘Baaz’ style of Santoor- playing is known worldwide. My son is a well-known musician and so is my disciple Varsha Agarwal who hails from Ujjain in MP. She, too, has not been invited to perform at Bharat Bhawan, although she is the first woman Santoor-player in the country, who has performed at many international programmes.”
He said, “Many musical events are held at Bharat Bhawan, but they keep repeating the artistes. This is nothing but taking the audiences, who want to see different performers, for granted.”
“As Kashmir is getting much attention, sidelining a Gharana dedicated to Santoor at a festival like this is simply hurting the sentiments of the Kashmiris,” he added.
However, Manoj Shrivastava said, “We have already clarified that inviting one artiste to an event doesn’t mean demeaning the others. He decided to stay away from the festival, but the event has to happen, and so it is.”
Sharma’s disciples will perform at the inaugural show which the master himself will conclude.