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It is rarely that a guru agrees to a jugalbandi with a disciple. Hardly surprising then that young percussionists Aditya Kalyanpur and Navin Sharma are ecstatic at being able to share creative space on a concert stage with their master, tabla wizard Ustad Zakir Hussain, in Delhi on January 13 as part of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA)'s Aadi Anant series. In a rare interview, Hussain tells TOI-Crest that there is no alternative to the guru-shishya tradition
In this time and age how feasible is the guru-shishya tradition? Has it been able to evolve with the times?
In all creative arts, it is important that the guru is able to pass on the knowledge to the student in person. The initial training maybe in a class-like setting but once the student is close to becoming a professional musician, he/she must be taught one on one. This practice is not only followed in India but also in the western classical system, and even in the visual arts. It is very necessary that this system survives. In my opinion, the guru-shishya system is the only way to create professional artistes of merit.
You are doing a concert series with your disciples? What are the pupil-teacher dynamics of on stage?
The shishya first appears on stage with the guru as an apprentice offering back-up support as and when the guru requires it. I am taking this a step further by allowing the guru to interact with the student as an equal and a collaborator, with both of them contributing equally to the music being performed. When I played duets with my father/guru, he was very clear about our respective roles - no quarter was given, the stage was a place where you showed your worth and if you could not keep up, then you just sat quiet and listened, thus going back to being an apprentice. In Indian music, showcasing fresh talent means displaying their spontaneous creativity and command over improvisational skills which means you don't pre-plan.
Who would you define as a good 'shishya' ?
A good shishya is one who will inspire the guru to transmit the knowledge, instilling in the guru the confidence that the student is worthy of receiving the teachings.
At this stage of your career, what does the tabla mean to you?
One does not choose art or the instrument, it chooses you. Thus the relationship is defined by the way the instrument decides to project your interpretation of the art. With me, it has been a friend, a brother, a mentor and much more.
How has the use of digital and internet media changed the manner in which classical music is imparted and shared today? You are among the few senior Indian musicians to allow a webcast of your concert.
Digital media has helped broaden the fan base of classical music. Suddenly, it has become possible for anyone anywhere to access information about this art form and be aware of the achievements of the greats, the keepers of this culture. Indian classical music is not a stranger to people in other cultures;nor is it an acquired taste anymore. It is now a well-known and much-loved art all over the planet. I hope more artistes will get the chance to webcast their shows.
Do you believe that the young have avenues to showcase their talent?
I am grateful that the NCPA has initiated the Aadi-Anant series because it is a great way to showcase the emerging future of Hindustani music. I am happy that young artistes like Navin, Aditya, Ravi, Sabir and Sraboni get a chance to show their talent on a big stage. There are many young musicians deserving of such help and I hope that this kind of presentation will continue for a long time.
Zakir Hussain and his disciples will perform on January 13, at Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi, 7 pm.
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