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'Don't let the buzz kill the classicism'

Are you positive about the growing number of young sarangi players?
I am very positive about it. The popularity of the instrument is a big change from the time when my father was struggling to establish it. Remember, in those days the sarangi and its players were both social outcasts. There are a lot of young sarangi players now and it is really heartening, but the problem is that few have taken to playing it solo. A lot of them go in for fusion, films and light music.

Do you see that as a problem?

The character of sarangi as a solo classical instrument needs working on. The way the violin is taught and played is now a regulated system, but sarangi has yet to fix its techniques. It is great that it is now the flavour of the season, but if it is finding more audience on non-classical stages then it is a sad reflection of where our traditional music is headed. In the south, for instance, the violin has established a strong place in the vocal concert.

How receptive is the West to classical solo sarangi?

Because my father has been playing extensively in Europe and the West in his early years, I have a ready audience for my solo music. They know what they can expect of me. I have done collaborations with western classical musicians, working on Vivaldi's Four Seasons, for instance, but I don't dabble in any other genre of music.

How do you react to the sarangi music being typecast as sad?

I take strong exception to this widespread notion that sarangi is a mournful instrument. It can produce a very versatile range of sounds. My father played the sarangi for OP Nayyar for films such as Kashmir ki Kali - there is no way that music can be classified as sad. Nayyar's songs were peppy and lively with imaginative use of the sarangi.

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