Panditji was a man of action
Panditji Was a Man of Action. Prof Stephen Slawek says, “My journey in music started in the year 1969 when I learnt Sitar at the Banaras Hindu...
Recollects Stephen Slawek, Professor of Music at The University of Texas at Austin and disciple of Bharat Ratna Pandit Ravi Shankar
Prof Stephen Slawek says, “My journey in music started in the year 1969 when I learnt Sitar at the Banaras Hindu University from Dr Lalmani Misra. I did my post graduation course in music and it was a different experience. I was learning Sitar from a teacher who was actually a Vichitra Veena player. It was a sudden chance meeting with Sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar that took off my advanced training under him. It was not easy to learn under Panditji. Since I had learnt from a teacher playing Vichitra Veena, the technique for playing Sitar was much different and Panditji suggested that I get started again from the beginning. It was not easy to unlearn and to start off from the basic techniques of playing ‘Jhala’. Panditji always devoted maximum time of his stay abroad in guiding and teaching interested students about the detailed nuances of a Raga and the techniques of playing the Sitar and other musical instruments. I also spent a lot of time at Panditji’s house in Banaras where many musicians used to assemble and practice for hours. Panditji was a man of action. Each action of his was something to think about.
Whether it was the attire for the concert or the stage entry or the few words spoken before or after the concert, it had a distinct stamp of detailing and optimum value. I still recall an incident when a television crew from abroad had come to New Delhi to interview him and shoot the process of Guru Shishya parampara form of teaching. Panditji asked us to come for class as usual and gave a slight hint about the interview. I dressed up in traditional Indian ‘Kurta Pyjama’ and arrived to surprisingly see other students in modern jeans and shirts. Panditji started the lessons and the documentary crew started to shoot the teaching session. Suddenly I found Panditji asking us to wind up the class. He knew that all of us had skipped the customary blessings that we take by bowing to his feet. He rescheduled the whole interview to the next day and everyone understood what went wrong. The next day all students came in the traditional Indian dress and the documentary was successfully completed. Later Panditji called me aside and said “You are more ‘Indian’ than any of my ‘Indian students’ ”. I learnt many Ragas from him and he was ever willing to pass on the priceless treasure that he had acquired from his Gurus. I am really fortunate to have the blessings of Great Guru’s in my life.”
“Today, there are many changes happening in the field of Hindustani music. There is a big element of ‘fusion/ confusion’ that is creeping into the traditional format of music. I have done extensive research in the area and soon my paper presentation on this subject will be published for the benefit of all. A few years back, I visited Banaras Hindu University and found it a dull place for music. The vibrant university has less of music and more elements of other considerations on its campus. Time has come when we find audience busy in chatting away or getting distracted with messages and calls on the mobile. No one is in a position to stop thinking about their mobile phones even for sixty minutes. Technology is definitely taking a toll on the traditional music scene. The sound system requirements are also becoming very sophisticated. Very few musicians are interested in research work and documentation of the vast musical heritage of Hindustani music,” he concludes.