As we stepped inside flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia’s gurukul in Mumbai, we saw the maestro conducting a class. He was surrounded by his students. A few minutes later, he was joined by santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Both the legends also performed at a concert organised by Banayan Tree in the city last week. Here, the two talk about Indian classical music, their friendship and the creative differences they have between them.
You both have been performing together for decades. How special is the bond that you both share?
Sharma: It has been a long journey. We must have first performed together in the late ’60s. Our relationship has been a blessing from God, as friendships rarely sustain for such a long period these days.
Chaurasia: Till date, I don’t understand what kind of relationship this is. I miss him when he is not there, when I have a problem, or even when I don’t. I need somebody to be with me, to look after me, and he is that person.
Do you ever have creative differences?
Chaurasia: Of course. When two people share a close bond, differences [between them] are bound to crop up. If we disagree with each other on a topic, we have a discussion on it and come to a conclusion. Music is our life; it is our language and our religion. And, it (music) connects us.
Sharma: I believe the equation between two people is a boring one if they have identical minds. If two musicians have different personalities or traits, it reflects in their music. In such cases, both their relationship and the music that they create is colourful. You can see that in the music we (Chaurasia and Sharma) create. So, I believe having varied opinions is important.
What is your opinion about Bollywood music today?
Chaurasia: The music today is good. I don’t get much time to watch a movie. Whenever I do, I try to understand the thought behind it. I find that the tracks don’t match the storyline of the film. As far as the singers are concerned, they have a relaxed attitude. I’m not sure if they practise enough. Singing has become more like yelling, as if someone is trying to sell something (a product).
Sharma: The trends keep changing. Earlier, movies used to declare golden and silver jubilees. Today, it’s a matter of a week [and the films are out of the theatres]. Like films, singers, too, are fast-paced today. They come (become popular) and disappear instantly. Also, I believe the audience longs for good poetry as well as music. Every day, when I open the newspaper, I read about so many concerts in which singers perform old songs of Madan Mohanji, Naushadji and SD Burmanji. Why is this happening? The answer is simple. It’s because listeners are craving to hear such music.
Why is it that the youth still finds it tough to relate to classical music?
Chaurasia: Today’s education system is such that children are mostly busy with studies. They don’t have time to even listen to music, let alone learning it. I request our government to pay heed to this situation. If we lose touch with our traditions, we’ll lose our charm.
Sharma: In foreign countries, they have the culture [of learning music] in schools. Music is a compulsory subject [abroad].
How different is it to perform in India, as compared to concerts overseas?
Sharma: The main difference is that the audience there (abroad) is disciplined. For example, if the concert is set to commence at 6pm, the audience is seated before that time. Nobody walks in after the concert has started. If people are late, they stand outside the venue. Even if they don’t understand the music, they sit quietly and listen to the performer attentively. Here, people walk in while the concert is on and even greet each other [loudly]. We need to educate listeners about the basics. However, we also have sincere audiences here. About 90% of our listeners here do not understand the intricacies [of classical music], but they love to listen to what we play.