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A melody for dad

Meet Anoushka Shankar, Amaan & Ayaan Ali Khan, Salil Mohan Bhatt, Rahul Sharma, Wazifuddin Dagar & more who share a special relationship with their legendary fathers.

music Updated: Mar 12, 2003 13:12 IST
Varuni Khosla
Varuni Khosla

They are the generation x musicians who have learnt their art on the knees of their respective dads. Meet Anoushka Shankar, Amaan & Ayaan Ali Khan, Salil Mohan Bhatt, Rahul Sharma, Wazifuddin Dagar and more who share a special relationship with their legendary fathers.

In her glittering spaghetti tops and matching skirt she could be mistaken for a teenybopper who spends a better part of her day listening to music videos, bunking lectures, hanging out with friends and partying.

But hold it. She's no ordinary girl. Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the legendary sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, bears the great responsibility of carrying the baton of musical tradition that her father has passed on to her.

The young lady is already moving in the hallowed circles of artists, and intellectuals. You do occasionally spot her in hep and happening dos in the city- where she becomes the Page 3 shutterbugs' delight thanks to her designer attire.

Yet unlike the chatterati, her life does not revolve around Swarovsky tattoos and cineplexes. Instead, it is marked by a passion for the extraordinary - excellence in sitar and continuing her father's great musical tradition.

There is yet another passion in this 21-year-old's life - her affection for Bapi, as she calls her legendary father. In her recently released book, Bapi - The Love of My Life, a biography on Ravi Shankar, she details many interesting facts of the doyen of music.

"For me Bapi is everything. Musician, rock star, joker, Bharat Ratna. He is my father, friend, guide and guru," says Anoushka.

She has been her father's disciple since she was nine, working first on a "baby" sitar that was built especially for her. At age 13 she made her performing debut in Delhi. That same year, Anoushka entered the recording studio for the first time to play on her father's recording, In Celebration.

Like Anoushka, the new generation of music gharanas is ready to take over the mantle.There's an uncanny sense responsibility to fulfil family hopes and audience expectations.

Amaan and Ayaan, sons of the famous sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, bear the great responsibility of carrying the baton of musical tradition their father has passed on to them.They are being vigorously groomed as the seventh generation of the Bangash dynasty.

The two brothers bear the onus of carrying on the family tradition.Not for them the stolen pleasures of bunking classes and late night do's. Their routine comprises eight hours of daily practice to measure up to the father's sacred lineage.

A hitherto reluctant santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar now finds his 28-year-old son Rahul competing with him string for string. Earlier Rahul just accompanied his father to concerts and was one of the many musicians in the background score. Now he has matured enough and delights audiences with stirring jugalbandi performances with his father.

Or take the case of Wasifuddin Dagar.The young man's emergence as the 20th generation Dhrupad singer was heralded by tragic circumstances.Although he had been giving solo performances, his father, Faizuddin Dagar's death came as the turning point.Just a few days later he was asked to accompany his paternal uncle in his father's place.Wasifuddin now recalls fondly, "that was the most sentimental moment of my life.It was all due to my father's training and blessings."

Salil too thanks his father for what he is today. Son of Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the Grammy award winner of the 1993 album A Meeting by the River. Salil feels being the son of a famous father gives a head start. Mohan Veena a combination of the Hawaiian guitar and the Vichitra Veena catapulted Vishwa Mohan Bhatt from Rajasthan to world fame.

It is now the turn of his son Salil to take over from his father. However, the 29-year-old who was invited along with his father for a performance during Pakistan President Musharraf's India visit is a bit disappointed.

Unfair Comparisons
Says he, "Though people have been praising my efforts they have started comparing me with my father. They come up to say, and me 'you are good but you are still far behind Panditji. You'll have to work very hard to attain his eminence.' That's being very unfair."

Salil who represents the tenth generation of the famous Bhatt lineage admits that he was drawn to the field of music because of his father. "He always encouraged me. He never pressurised me to carry on his tradition.The choice was entirely my own."

Legacy makes a difference, especially in performing arts. Psychologists say that more than the heredity it is the environment that inculcates the urge for music in a young child.When you are constantly exposed to the notes of music in the house, you are bound to be affected.

Amaan says his training started at age four. "But when you are born into a musical family, the initiation starts from childhood.When I was a baby, my parents used to sing to me."

Dagar concurs with him, saying, "In the initial years I was not given training but the essential atmosphere.The value of the musical tradition was inculcated in me.The rest I began to comprehend subconsciously.It became a way of life for me".

Salil Mohan Bhatt agrees. "Since childhood I've been hearing the strains of music in our house. So I got attracted to it. In fact my four-year-old son too can play the Mohan Veena!"

All of them admit their father's name made things simpler for them vis-à-vis other disciples, who have had to struggle more to create an identity for themselves.

The difference starts from training itself. Wasifuddin feels there is bound to be a difference between a son and a disciple. "While all other of my father's disciples travelled long distances to learn music and after the classes would disappear in the traffic, I lived in that atmosphere the whole day and had all the time with my father."

Interestingly, more than the audience, it is the family's applause that these young musicians cherish. Amaan recalls, "In 1996 at my debut solo performance in Mumbai with Ustad Zakir Hussain, I could see tears in my parent's eyes.It was the greatest joy and reward. I knew I had lived up to the expectations of my teacher and father."

Anoushka says that she was lucky to be born into such a family. And candidly admits she has a definite advantage over others. But then, she adds, "I must have been a worthy daughter to share the stage with my father."

Today, in addition to her own concerts, Anoushka continues touring the world with her father's ensemble and has performed in India, Europe, Asia and the United States. She performed with Zubin Mehta in March 1997. Most recently, she became the first woman ever to perform at The Ramakrishna Centre in Kolkatas in February 2000.

Anoushka admits she has been at a great advantage because out of all the three children, Shankar groomed only her to be a true heir of his legacy. "That is because I spent more time with him, and in the process came closest to his persona," she says.

At 82, Ravi Shankar's body is frail. He suffers from ailments and his hearing is partially impaired. But he is content in the fact that he has a worthy successor. "I have to thank my Bapi for everything. He has done so much for me," she says about Ravi Shankar who has frequently been accused of ignoring all his students and promoting her aggressively.

Anoushka admits, "To a certain extent it is true that being the daughter of Ravi Shankar gives you some unfair advantages. I've performed in the best places in the world, had the opportunity of learning from masters like George Harrison, Yehudi Menuhin and Zubin Mehta. It's all because of Bapi. Sometimes the most talented people don't get right breaks as they don't have anyone to back them."

Their devotion to music and to their respective fathers' guidance is unmistakable. Yes, they were initially promoted but today these gen-next musicians can stand tall on their own as extraordinary performers - all thanks to their dads.

First Published: Mar 13, 2003 10:30 IST