If everything had gone to plan I would be in Mumbai, India at this very moment. However, due to the volcanic ash cloud, my flight was cancelled so I am still in London! I’m hoping to be able to re-book the trip for later in the year and have some much needed talem (tuition) with my teacher Pandit Arvind Parikh. As I couldn’t get to Indian I thought I’d write a blog on my journey in Indian music for all those that might be interested.
I was first exposed to Indian music around the age of 18 when I discovered some recordings of Pandit Ravi Shankar at my local library. I was intrigued with the sound of the sitar and the form Hindustani (North Indian Classical music) took, although I had no real understanding of it. A year or so later during my first term at Leeds College of Music I was lucky enough to meet Dharambir Singh who was teaching at the college and trying to build a small Indian Music dept. Dharambir Singh is a disciple of Ustad Vilayat Khan and probably the most influencial sitarist and Indian music educator in the UK. I found him a most inspiring teacher and if it was not for Dharambir my time at Leeds College of Music would have largely been a waste of time! While I was at the college I studied with Dharambir often several times a week and attended all the modules of the diploma course in Indian music that he created (although I never actually sat all the exams) as well as playing at various concerts that were organised. Dharambir has since left Leeds and is now doing some very interesting research in Indian music. Please check out his website :
Here’s a clip of Dharambir performing in 2008
Dharambir organised a number of master classes and summer schools with some amazing Indian musicians during my time studying with him. During this time he introduced me to Pandit Arvind Parikh who is the senior-most disciple of Ustad Vilayat Khan. I had received a small amount of talim from Pandit Arvind Parikh while still in Leeds and when I left the college Dharambir suggested that I travelled to Mumbai, India to receive more talim from Arvindji. On reflection this was a very gracious move as the bond between student and teacher is very strong in Indian music and it is not the norm to allow your student to then go and study with someone else!
I first went to Mumbai in January 1999. I travelled alone and to say the least it was an eye opener! Mumbai is a crazy city and words cannot really describe it……..you just have to go and experience it! I went for a month and the talim from Pandit Arvind Parikh was amazing. I would go each night from around 8pm till midnight and there would be anything from 2-6 students each night. Each student would get some one to one talem and some talem would be more group orientated. Just being in that learning environment you pick up so much just from listening to the other students and what’s going on around you. I have since travelled back to Mumbai twice for further talim, once in 2003 and then again in 2006. Arvindji is such a gifted and giving teacher and I always come away feeling inspired and feeling like I’ve learnt just a little bit more than I was expecting! Pandit Arvind Parikh continues to travel the world performing and lecturing on Indian music and the Vilayat Khan style of sitar playing. A few years ago he released a CD Rom covering all the basics of this style. It’s available from the Navras records website.
I am always amazed at Arvindji’s alap, the tone his sitar has, the little nuances in his touch. He has told me that he particularly likes playing alap and I can honestly say it’s a joy to hear him play alap as he creates such beautiful phrases and has such mastery over every aspect of this section of a raga. Here’s a clip of Pandit Arvind Parikh performing in 2007 :
And finally the man that truely dominated, inspired and progressed sitar playing to where it is today: Ustad Vilayat Khan. I had the fortune of seeing Ustad Vilayat Khan play a number of times both in the UK and India. Throughout his life he remained a remarkable player, a true trend setter and an amazing musician. We all owe him a great deal!
Here’s a clip of him playing Raga Rageshree
And another playing Raga Hamir :
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey! If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me.
Until the next time…….